Web development is an increasingly important part of thousands of businesses around the world, as digital transformation continues to disrupt industries and offer opportunities to new entrants to challenge incumbents. Luckily, a vast number of free or low-cost tools are now available to web developers and businesses looking to enhance their online presence.
Some of these tools require technical expertise to use, while others are completely intuitive even for non-technical users. In many ways, open-source tools and development environments have democratized technology and evened the playing field for businesses online. However, in order for companies to take advantage of this opportunity, they must do their due diligence to uncover the most cost-effective web development tools on the market.
Since web development is so important for businesses small and large, let’s explore some of the best free and cheap resources available today to supercharge your development efforts.
Perhaps the most valuable and widely used free web development tool on the market today is WordPress. WordPress is an open-source Content Management System (CMS) that allows developers to build websites and publish online content. Founded by entrepreneur and internet pioneer Matt Mullenweg, WordPress now runs 455 million websites and is the most popular content management system on the world.
It’s important to note that we are referring here to WordPress.org, which is the original open-source WordPress platform. This is distinct from WordPress.com, which is WordPress’s commercial web building offshoot. That’s often a point of confusion for developers new to WordPress.
WordPress’s open-source CMS can be used alongside domain registrars and web hosts to quickly and efficiently build websites with a huge variety of different features. That’s because WordPress is not just a CMS but also a web development ecosystem with thousands of plugins. Plugins are simply prebuilt codebases that can seamlessly be integrated into a website to introduce new functionalities.
Many WordPress plugins are free, and others are extremely inexpensive. These plugins can save developers countless hours because they can introduce new features to a site without requiring a developer to write large amounts of customized code. WordPress also allows developers to put together a site that gives non-technical users the chance to publish content easily and offers publishers an alternative to building their own CMS.
Codecademy is a digital learning platform built to teach web development and coding skills. It is beloved by students but even seasoned web developers will benefit from brushing up on their coding skills, particularly in programming languages they have not used for a while.
Aside from learning new programming languages, Codecademy can also teach developers how to use new development frameworks and programming patterns. These frameworks are increasingly useful for building applications, websites, and software products.
Also offered in Codecademy’s curriculum are courses on algorithmic scripting, data structures, and back-end systems engineering. These courses can be taken as part of career development programs that offer developers certificates that they can add to their resumes. Many Codecademy courses are completely free and developers can choose to pay a small fee if they wish to receive a certificate.
React and React Native
React Native is a modified version of the same programming logic but is specifically tailored to developers building mobile applications. React Native has the ability to run native code on a user’s smartphone, improving apps’ performance on mobile devices. Moreover, React Native is considered a cross-compatible framework, meaning that it can be used to build both Android and iOS applications.
Node Package Manager (NPM) and Node.js
Developers must read the NPM documentation to learn how to access this free, powerful library. However, once they do so, it can save them countless hours of programming from scratch.
Aptana or Other Integrated Development Environments (IDEs)
Aptana is an open-source, free Integrated Development Environment, or IDE, that allows developers to easily write, organize, and debug their code.
It offers an autocomplete feature that uses past code the developer has written to autocomplete new code upon the developer’s approval. It’s tough to overstate just how much time this saves developers since many code snippets are repeated throughout the development of an application.
In addition, Aptana also offers a debugging feature that is designed to detect errors in the code’s syntax early which can save developers countless hours of looking for the bug later.
Like many IDEs, Aptana also offers a visual interface through which developers can see and open all the different files associated with a given project which saves them from wasting time accessing them through the command prompt.
There are many great IDEs on the market including Visual Studio and Sublimetext, but for those who love free and open-source tools, Aptana is likely the best choice.
In conclusion, these are just a few of the thousands of free or low-cost web development tools on the market today. Perhaps even more important than finding the perfect tool is finding or becoming the right developer who can make the most of those tools. Bear that in mind when striving towards your development goals, and hopefully, the resources mentioned above will help you along the way.
Footer: Pranjal Bora works as Web Development Lead at Digital Authority Partners, a full-service digital marketing agency.