While cloud technologies and applications have been around since the dawn of the Internet, they’ve caught on in a major way during the past two years. Cloud-based storage, computing and collaboration applications make everyday life far easier and more convenient for the average Web user.
Web designers in particular have benefited greatly from the rise of cloud applications for designing, modifying and debugging layouts. Cloud applications are a must when it comes to improving efficiency and productivity for web workers in a variety of industry sectors. Here are 10 superb cloud services that every web designer can use to make the work day go more smoothly.
Swapping files with fellow designers has never been easier thanks to Dropbox, the beloved cloud storage service that’s the undisputed king of filelockers. Dropbox gives users 2 GB of storage to start with, though you can gain an additional 500 MB of space for every person you refer up to 16 GB.
Dropbox is one of those apps that just about anybody can make use of, but it’s particularly valuable to teams of web designers collaborating on a project. It even features a basic form of version control whereby users can recover older versions of files from the past 30 days.
Creating layouts that render properly across a wide variety of screens is frustrating, which is why grid-based web design has become such a big draw among designers. Frameworks like 960.gs, Blueprint and BlueTrip make laying out a gorgeous design quick and easy for designers who need to prototype fast.
GridFox is a free extension for the Firefox browser that superimposes a semi-transparent grid over any web page with the click of a mouse button. It also allows users to make modifications to grids and save them to the cloud for later usage in other layouts and designs.
Aside from typography, color palettes are arguably the most important aspect of web design. The Adobe Kuler application allows designers to create various palettes consisting of up to 5 shades and hues for creating a theme on any website. It’s compatible with practically every program that falls under the umbrella of CS5.
You can export color palettes created in Kuler to Fireworks, InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop. Users can also import photos and use Kuler to whip up a palette based on the dominant colors found in any image. If you spend a lot of time working with CS5 tools, Kuler is a must.
Much like a cloud-based version of Photoshop, Pixlr is a lightweight image editor that runs in your browser window. Pixlr boasts all the basic capabilities you’d expect from any editing suite, including the ability to crop, paint, magnify and draw. Pixlr is available as a browser-based web application and also as a mobile application for iOS and Android.
You can even filter images and apply various retro vintage effects as you would with Hipstamatic and Instagram. While import and export capabilities are a touch limited, it still provides a handy way to edit and modify images on the fly without using a more resource-intensive desktop program.
The ultimate digital scrapbook, Evernote allows you to save resources you stumble across while browsing online. This comes in handy when you’re doing research on a particular web design technique or just looking for inspiration. Evernote can save entire websites, pictures, video files or just screenshots of interesting pages.
Free users are limited to about 60 MB per month worth of storage, though paid accounts offer up to 1 GB of cloud space per month. Evernote makes the bookmarks bar of your browser practically irrelevant, and it’s a good investment if you need an easy way to organize your research.
While it’s more commonly associated with hardcore back-end coding, GitHub is also well-suited to the needs of designers. Independent web design professionals can upload CSS resets, front-end frameworks, icon sets and a whole lot more. If you’re looking for a proven markup tool or framework to make the design process easier, you can probably find it on GitHub.
It hosts such groundbreaking tools as Bootstrap from Twitter, the Gridless responsive design framework and the Skeleton grid layout engine. For millions of web designers and developers around the world, GitHub is an absolute godsend.
The key to many a stellar design is unique, eye-catching typography. Choosing a font is a delicate process, as even the most subtle of changes can have a big impact on the overall look and feel of a web design. Typetester gives designers a browser-based tool for comparing three different fonts simultaneously side by side to see which one works best.
Users can vary the font size, family and spacing as well as the color of the text for good measure. Typetester is 100% free to use and doesn’t require the installation of any software as it runs entirely in your web browser.
CSSDesk – Online CSS Sandbox
While CSS has vastly expanded what’s possible when it comes to crafting stunning web designs without the use of Flash and bloated image files, it’s gotten far more complicated as of late. Crafting CSS markup that’s supported across all of the major desktop and mobile browsers is always a pain, which is why CSSDesk is such a handy tool.
Using its simple yet full-featured UI, you can specify elements like boxes with rounded corners that you may need for a design and CSSDesk will spit out the appropriate markup.
There’s no shortage of cloud-based tools available online for web designers crafting the next generation of websites and applications. Whether you need a browser-based image editor, a coding IDE or a digital organizer to keep your ideas straight, there’s a cloud application out there that will get the job done.
The exciting thing about designing for the web in the cloud is that we’ve just barely scratched the surface of what’s possible with cloud-based tools. Over the next few years, you can expect to see many more innovative cloud applications that will fundamentally change how web designers build their projects.