Tag Archives: cool websites

Doodling with website design

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Free website design tools and resources

MANY people maintain the belief that nothing is free in today’s world. While this may be true in the physical world, there is plenty of free stuff on the web (if you know where to look). This is particularly true with regard to creating and developing your very own website.

web wrenchSeveral web developers simply coin it by creating sites for individuals who don’t know any better. Granted there are several brilliant website designers who deserve to be paid well for their expertise. However, there are others who will charge a hand and a foot to create something that you could quite easily create yourself for free.

Blogging is the most free form of beginning a journey in website design and development. One is able to choose a ready-made design from a large library of templates, publish posts to your heart’s content and make use of a variety of free-to-use tools. Taking things to the next level, however, is a different story and often involves having to spend something.

There are several website builders that label themselves as “free” yet there is always a catch. Basically the beginning stages are free, but the hidden agenda becomes apparent once you become excited about website building and want to take things a little further.

Nevertheless, I have come across two website-building sites that I would like to share with anyone interested in self-taught web design. After all, teaching oneself a new skill, whatever that may be, should always result in the warm and fuzzy feelings of self-satisfaction.

Doodlekit - free, online website builder

Doodlekit - free, online website builder

DOODLEKIT
Doodlekit is a fully hosted free website builder and content management system that claims to be the quickest and most advanced website tool available. That is a mighty claim which is surely shared with several other website builders.

However, I would agree that Doodlekit is at least easy to use. First-timers may not be able to design a website “within minutes” yet can at least doodle with designing for as long as they please without any charge.

What’s also great is that the site doesn’t require the installation of any software – all aspects of it are done online via the Doodlekit website.

There are some great-looking examples of what some users have created using Doodlekit, such as www.ama-dojo.com

350pages

350 pages - the quick & easy website builder

350 PAGES
350 pages markets itself as the “quick and easy website builder” that is “fun and flexible”. They’re also convinced that us ‘ordinary’ folk can produce a professional-looking website in minutes, if not “seconds!”.

The site does have some great features though, despite being a little over-appealing (a typical tactic used to rope one in). It is a bit more professional than Doodlekit in the sense that it allows one to fully customise each heading, button bar, logo, divider, image and photo gallery, and even goes as far as allowing the customisation of fonts, styles and colours. Such stylistic changes are often deep in the realm of professional web design.

“If you want to build a web page, but are perhaps clueless when it comes to web design, you might benefit from paying a visit to 350 pages” – 350 pages user

What’s also great about both these design tools/websites above is they don’t require you to do any coding whatsoever. Specifically with 350 pages, layout is as simple as dragging and dropping content using your mouse.

It may be a sad reality for web developers who slogged away for years learning HTML, but a warm welcome to those who don’t know an “<a href>” from an “<align-left>” code.

A particularly pleasant feature of 350 pages is that it offers a library of video tutorials to get you started. The only catch (as the title suggests) is that you can only design up to 350 pages for free before having to pay anything.

Yet this isn’t really a catch, because if you get as far as 350 pages you should have built up enough confidence and web design skills to take things into your own hands. I wish you many hours of happy doodling.

** More online tips & tricks **

Top 9 stops on the web

There’s been a lot of talk on the interweb about elitism and how a few have come to dominate the web space and dictate what counts as interesting or useful or not. To this end, less ‘web-optimization-orientated’ individuals who are trying to compete in the cyber-games are often shot down for offering old news or something that ‘everyone’ has already seen or heard of.

Well I take a more humble approach. I specifically write my blog with the ‘un-savvy’ reader in mind. I try to offer well-informed readers something interesting and new but write in a way that any newbies would be able to appreciate and understand. It’s all about sharing knowledge and appreciating people’s efforts for trying.

So with that out of the way here are my top nine things to do on the web! Whether they be new or old to you, I’m sure you’ll at least find something to amuse or entertain yourself with. (In alphabetical order they are):

1. Abandon Games
As an avid gamer (and history lover) I’m a firm believer of being familiar with the past in order to fully appreciate the present. Abandongames.com offers a collection of golden oldies that are no longer sold on the shelves. I like to refer to these as the kind of Games Grandpa Used to Play and are available for free download. You can read reviews of some of my top ones here. Ahhh the nostalgia…

Two other great games (which you can play for free online and kill some time) are table tennis and what I simply call the bunny game. The latter really does wonders for one’s peace of mind with some good soothing music and an indestructible fluffy bunny rabbit.

2. Blogs (Afrigator, Regator, Amatomu & Technorati)
With a multitude of blogs available on the web it becomes tedious trying to find interesting and exciting ones to read. There are several blog aggregators around that try and simplify this process by providing categories and lists of top blogs, top posts, or popular reads by calculating their popularity based on the amount of traffic they receive.

Amatomu attempts to provide the above by tracking South African blogs, Afrigator: African blogs, and Technorati: blogs from around the world. Regator attempts to take this a step further by cordially inviting blogs that are nominated as being the best on the web to feature on their site. It all depends on what you’re interested in, but here’s a list of 15 well-written blogs to get you started.

3. Digital Blasphemy
The ultimate place to go for artsy wallpapers, digitalblasphemy.com offers original hi-res 3D-rendered desktop wallpapers, as well as links to some of the best computer art sites on the web. Created by Ryan Bliss – a self-taught 3D artist, digital blasphemy has a free gallery for non-members to download some incredible digital artwork with no strings attached. You can read more about it here. Digital Bliss! 😀

4. Muti
Muti.co.za has got to be the top place to go if you’re looking for something new and interesting on the web without having to do any browsing. Dominated by a few web-savvy users, muti allows registered users to post links to anything they have found interesting/ inspiring/ controversial on the web and comment on each others posts. Things are made even simpler by letting users vote for posts – thus making it easier for visitors to get an idea of what is generally thought to be worth reading/viewing on the web. Often generates some stimulating conversation too.

5. Peegly
A good way to vent your anger or simply get something off your chest: peegly.com is an entirely anonymous service that requires no registration and lets you speak your mind or share a story relating to love, fear, sins, hatred or anything really. Readers can then vote and comment on the sentiments of others or just read a few to perhaps realise that your life isn’t that crappy after all. A good opportunity to play Dr Ruth and help out a few complete strangers.

6. Questionable Content
Web comics can be a great stress reliever and very therapeutic when having a rough day at the office. There are some really great ones available, but my favourite of them all has to be questionablecontent.net. It follows the life of an emo, indie lad named Martin and his anthro PC Pintsize, and makes use of clever humour and really talented drawings. A good story about nice guys getting ahead in life. Takes a little while to develop.

Another site (which has sadly gone dormant) but has a collection of brilliant comics with intellectual humour is the Perry Bible Fellowship. Highly recommended for a good, full-hearted laugh.

7. The video-web: local is lekker
YouTube may dominate the market when it comes to web-videos, but myvideo.co.za offers a great range of content for video fans. It is basically the South African equivalent of YouTube but with far less traffic and content to sift through, making it more user-friendly in my opinion. The majority of the videos available are proudly South African and it’s great to see how much talent South African video-makers have in this department.

8. Ultimate Guitar
For guitarists (amateur and professional); ultimate-guitar.com offers guitar chords and tablature for just about any song you can think of that’s played with six strings. Maintained by guitarists who have figured out the tunes of their favourite jams, users are able to vote for their top versions of different songs (as there is always more than one way to play a song), and download the tabs of the ones they wish to learn.

9. Zoopy
Your ultimate social media site: zoopy.com is rapidly growing in popularity and offers blog posts, videos, podcasts and an array of photographs. Users get a chance to vote for content they enjoy, post comments, and share their collections with others. It has a great local flavour and has recently optimized its data handling – making uploading and viewing content faster than ever before. A great example of the awesomeness that is South African social media.

PS: I was going to create a top 10 list but found that I couldn’t actually think of a 10th site I visit often (besides the obvious – e.g. facebook, gmail etc). I’m hoping this will encourage the web gurus out there to create their own lists. Otherwise please add links to any great sites you can think of below and lets all share in the wonders of the www!

Related posts:
Digital Blasphemy
Games Grandpa Used to Play
The video-web: local is lekker