Affordable Web Design for Small to Mid-Sized Businesses


We work with many new businesses and we understand how tough it can be to get started. We've compiled some resources and links to open source software to help you get your business started on a budget.

Web Site Tools - some common reference tools used for building web sites
Useful Small Business Tools - cheap or free office productivity tools

Useful Small Business Tools

Get Firefox and Thunderbird
Firefox is a web browser like Microsoft Internet Explorer. We recommend Firefox for several reasons:
  1. It's free!
  2. There are tons of free extensions to help make your browsing experience better.
  3. It's more secure than Internet Explorer, which means you spend less time worrying about viruses, phish sites, and the like.
  4. Firefox follows the rules about how web sites are supposed to be displayed. IE 7 (Internet Explorer) is better about following the rules, but it's still far from perfect.
Thunderbird is an email client like Microsoft Outlook. Thunderbird:
  • Is free! No expensive updates to maintain, no programs that don't play nice on each new version
  • Has tons of free extensions, like the Skype Toolbar
  • Doesn't crash all the time like Outlook
The downside? Thunderbird doesn't currently have a mature integrated calender. But, Mozilla and Sun are working on that! As of May 2007, they are releasing the .5 version of Lightning, the integrated calendar extension, or you can use Sunbird if you prefer a stand alone calendar. The great thing is that as this extension matures, it will probably have better features than will be able to send and receive meeting invitations to Outlook users, and you can accept and view multiple calendars in different formats. For instance, it will integrate with Google calendar. Or you can run a calendar application on your web site for free - without having to invest in an expensive Microsoft Exchange server.
Get Lightning - Integrated Thunderbird Calendar
Get Sunbird - Stand Alone Calendar

One of the challenges many small businesses face is setting up their phone system. PBX is difficult and expensive, more suited to mid-sized businesses. Skype has tools to make communicating easy and inexpensive! Skype is a VOIP system (Voice Over IP). It works much like a chat program similar to Yahoo Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, or Windows Messenger. You can chat with clients (and put an online support button right on your site!), or using a headset with your computer, you can talk to them just like on your phone! In fact, there are Skype-compatible phones available now at all the major retailers (Best Buy, Circuit City, Staples) that work just like your regular home phone.

Now, the great part...using a service like Zaplee Call Center, you can route calls to multiple extensions.

So how much does it cost? Talking on Skype to other Skype users is totally free. If you want your clients to call you on a regular landline, then you need a SkypeIn line that will have a regular phone number. As of April 2007, a SkypeIn number is around $30 - for unlimited inbound calls, for an entire YEAR! With SkypeOut, you can also call out to regular landlines as well. The total for both runs around $60/yr, per line. That's the cheapest we've found anywhere, and we've done a lot of research!

Open Office Productivity Suite
Again, it's FREE! Open Office has most of the features you'd expect with Microsoft Office, but without the hefty price tag. Included are alternatives to Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.

You know while you're working hard to build your business, you need some tunes to listen to! Winamp is free (though there is a pro version available for around $20), and is a great alternative to RealPlayer or Windows Media Player. With the "FoxyTunes" extension available from Firefox, you can play your tunes without ever leaving your browser!

Web Site Design & Development Tools

HTML Color Codes
HTML colors are determined by a 6 digit combination of numbers and letters called "Hexadecimal notation". This site displays colors on the screen with the hex code next to them. This is a handy resource for choosing colors for a web page.
Color Shading Chart     Tips on How to Create Color Schemes

PHP Reference Site
This is the official site outlining upgrades, syntax, and known issues with the PHP programming language. Also included are links to discussion boards and tutorials on how to use PHP.

MySQL Reference Site
MySQL is an open source database designed for web site use. Open Source means that the software is free under certain conditions of use. PHP has been designed specifically to work with MySQL, including built-in features to make accessing data faster and easier. Many web hosting services support PHP/MySQL as a package because they are more cost-effective than alternative programs. This site explains how to construct proper queries (questions you ask the database) and how to use MySQL's features.

Hosting Services
We offer hosting on our dedicated servers in a large datacenter located in New Jersey. When looking at web hosts, it is important to consider uptime as well as features. Our uptime is currently 99.9%.

We offer several software packages as one-click installs.

If you're just looking for a cheap web host for a personal site or a blog, we recommend Dreamhost. They have tons of features (like one-click installs for ecommerce shopping carts, photo albums, calendars, blogs, and more!) for a really great price. We do not recommend them for mission-critical business sites because they have been known to occassionally have major issues with network reliability. If you need rock solid hosting, contact us for dedicated hosting.

Crimson Editor
No, this isn't our program. It's a free text editor with syntax highlighting that is small enough to fit on a key drive. I used this program in college on a floppy disk to code html because we couldn't install programs on the college computers. Highlighting is available for HTML, CSS, PHP, Java, ASP, and just about anything else you could ask for.

CuteFTP and CuteHTML
CuteFTP Pro is what we use every day to load files onto web sites. You can have multiple sites open at the same time and this program is super easy to use. There's a 30 day free trial, after that it's around $70 - but we think it's well worth the investment.

CuteHTML is a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) HTML editor similar to Dreamweaver or Microsoft Frontpage. We recommend CuteHTML because it's got decent CSS support and it's a lot less expensive than Dreamweaver ($70 for CuteHTML vs $150 for Dreamweaver). We DO NOT recommend Frontpage. If you are using Frontpage, please uninstall it from your system NOW! Frontpage is no longer supported by Microsoft and creates bloated, non-standards-compliant code.

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