When it comes to productivity tools, as creative businesses, designers, and developers, we're truly spoilt for choice these days. That said, the biggest mistake you can make is trying to figure out how to use everything that's out there. It's not possible, and it's certainly not practical.
Sure, you should always have more than one tool in your marketing toolbox, but using too many can cause more problems rather than solve them.
Finding the right tools for the job doesn't have to be time-consuming nor a chore. I mean, of course, you first have to use the tools to figure whether it's something you're going to use long term or not.
So, to get you started, below I've outlined a list of 30+ of the most awesome-worthy, must-use productivity and creativity tools for designers, developers, and creative businesses.
Again, you don't need to go out and grab all of these, just pick a few to trial for a few weeks to see how you get on.
Let's get started!
Website & Graphic Design Tools & Apps
Let's start with some awesome graphic design tools and apps.
Moqups is a streamlined web application that will help you create and collaborate in real-time on wireframes, mockups, diagrams, and prototypes for your client projects.
The features include stencils, icon sets, images, fonts, object editing, page management, and more.
Signing up is completely free and prices start from just 13 Euros per month if you're a freelancer. If you manage a creative team then it's 20 Euros per month.
JustInMind is an all-in-one web and mobile apps prototyping tool. You can take your designs from the wireframe state to a full-blown interactive prototype.
Features include responsive prototyping via a beautiful, easy-to-use interface, free UI kits, export to HTML, collaboration, and more.
Cost-wise, plans start from just $19 per month (billed annually) for the Pro Plan and $39 per month for the Enterprise Plan.
Affinity Designer is a full-blown professional graphic design application for macOS, iOS, and Windows.
There are way too many features to mention here, however, this application is perfect for any freelance graphic designers, as well as web designers creating customized graphic elements for web design projects.
I've been using Affinity Designer since around 2014. It is one of the most-used productivity applications in my toolbox. Check out my videos on YouTube to see how I use Affinity Designer in my creative projects.
Affinity Photo is a professional raster graphics/photo editing application for macOS, iOS, and Windows.
Like Affinity Designer, there are too many features in this application to mention here, however, if you've ever used something similar like PhotoShop, then you should more or less know what to expect, plus more. Affinity Photo costs a fraction of the price of PhotoShop.
PhotoScape is actually one of the tools I use almost every day in my business. It's one of those tools you can use for quick projects such as creating featured blog post images, custom graphics, and visuals for content marketing, etc..
PhotoScape is a no-gimmick photo and graphics editing program that's available for Mac and Windows. It comes complete with tons of filters, film effects, light effects, stickers, and more.
The program is free to download and use; however, there's the option to go pro, which will open up more tools and features. I've been using the free version for the last six years, and for me, that has worked out just fine.
Website Development Tools & Resources (WordPress)
Let's take a look at some useful web development tools and apps next.
If you're like me, a developer working with WordPress, you may already know all about the WordPress development environment tool called LocalWP.
One of the things I enjoy doing as a freelance web designer is developing test sites locally on my Mac. Whether I'm creating sites for myself or for my clients. I usually then take sections of pages that I've been working on to my staging site, though, with Local Pro, you can manage staging sites within your local environment.
Great tool and a simply must-have for WordPress devs!
There are so many code editors out there to choose from these days. A few of my personal favorites include Visual Studio, Atom, and Brackets.
Since I write most of my CSS is Sass, these days, I use Brackets more than any other application. I like the fact that it's super easy to set up, it's lightweight and totally customizable. I also love the Live Preview feature this editor comes with.
Brackets is a modern open-source editor that's completely free to download and use.
Google Developers Console is used by developers to view and manage traffic data, authentication, and billing info for Google APIs.
The library consists of hundreds of APIs, resources, documentation, and services for various applications. The service is free to use but you'll need a Gmail email address to get started.
If you are using Chrome as your primary web browser when developing and testing websites, you must know about Google's Developer Tools. This tool is 100% free and accessible within a few clicks.
To access this, you right-click on your mouse to open up the pop-up menu. From there, you can access the Inspect option.
Once you have selected the Inspect option, the site you are visiting will reload with a code inspection console. From here, you can access everything there is to know about the site's structure.
The most common use for web developers is the elements tab in the left column, and the styles tab in the right column. See the image above.
If you are new to the DevTools, take some time to navigate around the options to learn more about them. There's an excellent video tutorial here on YouTube. I recommend you check it out too. It'll give you a crash course into using Google Chrome Developer Tools
10. Oxygen Website Builder (WordPress)
There are countless DIY, drag-and-drop, visual website builder tools available these days. Some good and some bad. Among the 'good list' is Oxygen's Website Builder plugin for WordPress, which in my opinion, is the most complete and flexible WordPress WordPress theme builder available.
Oxygen Builder gives you complete control over every aspect of your WordPress website design.
Oxygen Builder is not for everyone and the reason I say this is because it's not the most user-friendly theme builder plugin out there. For web designers and developers, however, it's a dream come true of a tool. If you're savvy with WordPress, HTML, and CSS, you could also benefit from utilizing this plugin.
Just so you know, this website was built using Oxygen Builder!
If you're using Oxygen to build out your website or blog, don't forget to check out my YouTube channel for in-depth tutorials and guides.
12. CSS Hero (Affiliate link)
CSSHero is a relatively new plugin for WordPress that will give you the tools and power to customize any WordPress theme's CSS without having to go rooting deep into your theme's files.
The plugin works with most WordPress themes including StudioPress and Oxygen Builder. It includes a beautiful UI for visual customization and a useful code inspector tool.
As a web developer working mainly with WordPress, no toolbox is complete without the All-in-One WP Migration plugin. I tend to start most of my website projects on my local server. Then I use the migration plugin to export all of the files so that it can be imported into the live site.
This tool can be quite complex, but once you have used it a few times, you'll find it incredibly valuable.
Pexels.com is amongst a few of my top recommended sites for finding high-quality stock photos. If you plan on using any free stock photos on your website or creative marketing projects, make sure to add a little of your customizations.
15. Google Fonts
Looking for some inspiring new fonts for your next web design or graphic design marketing project? Google Fonts not only has a wide range of fonts to choose from, but these fonts are also optimized for readability and fast loading.
I use mainly Google Fonts in all my projects. Finding a font is quick and simple to implement into custom stylesheets.
16. Ion Icons
If you're looking for some fine quality open-sourced, MIT licensed icons to use in your web, iOS, Android, and desktop app projects, Ion Icons is the site for you.
There are some truly beautiful icons to browse, from outlined icons to filled, and more.
17. UI Gradients
UI Gradients is another one of my favorite resource sites. If you're looking for the perfect gradient for your website or app design project, check out this site. One of my favorite gradients is Yoda! Look it up.
Don't disregard gradients, people love them.
18. Flat UI Colors
This site is quite popular and you may have already visited it. Flat colors have been the thing for a good few years now. Though not as popular as it used to be.
Want to add some amazing animations to your gradient backgrounds? Check out CSS Gradient Animator! You'll love using this tool.
You can add your own name or class, select a few colors, and the tool will generate the code you need to embed into your stylesheet. Use it to add some custom animated gradients to the body or element background.
Compressing all your CSS code is one way to make your website faster. This tool will help you to customize the level of code compression you require, minify your CSS so that you can upload it to your site. CSS Compressor is completely free to use. Give it a whirl and see how you get on!
When it comes to reducing the file size and compressing images, no tool does it better than Tiny!
I've used this tool for over five years now and love it. You can use it to compress PNG and JPEG images before adding them to your site. By doing so, you'll help to make your site faster as the images will load quicker.
GTMetrix is popular website health, performance, page speed monitoring tool. Running your site through GTMetrix will provide you with a host of information, including overall page speed score, and tips on where to make further improvements.
No website project is complete without testing and passing mobile usability. This tool is not only free, but it will give you direct pointers on where to make improvements after testing your page for mobile usability as well as mobile page loading speed.
In addition to testing the URL of a page, you can also paste and test your code!
Project Management & Client Collaboration Tools
I would be very surprised if you haven't heard of Monday.com as their ads seem to be everywhere these days.
I used Monday.com for a year or so before giving up on it due to the extortionate pricing. It's geared more towards teams than it is for solopreneurs or freelancers.
Needless to say, Monday.com is one of the best team collaboration, remote working project management tools out there. There are others like Asana and nTask which I've also used and are great too.
Slack is one of my favorite tools and I use this one almost every day in my business as a freelance designer.
These days, I rely on Slack more than I do my primary email platforms. It's also one of the most widely used business communication platforms out there.
What makes Slack truly unique is that it integrates well with plenty of third-party applications. Slack is free for the most part, but they also offer premium plans which are very affordable.
Now, I know you've heard of Evernote, it's been around a good few years now. Evernote has evolved to become much more than a note-taking app. I use it for almost everything from creating to-do lists, researching topic ideas and dropping in notes, links, images for my blog posts, writing my podcast scripts, and more.
The thing I love the most about Evernote is that, as a premium user, I can sync it with all my other devices so I can take all of my notes and work on the go. I got to also say I love the new editor too.
Skype is an essential video communication application/software for freelancers and anyone working remotely. Skype has been around for donkey's years and provides affordable solutions for businesses.
There are other alternatives, but Skype remains to be the most cost-effective.
Zoom has taken off over the recent months growing from 10 million to 300 million users. Zoom shares the same purpose, features, and functions as Skype and is an excellent alternative for business communication. That said, there is a significant price difference.
Another alternative to both Zoom and Skype is Microsoft Teams! I've been very impressed by this tool during the Coronavirus lockdown as my wife, and I have been using to work from home quite a bit.
Selling & Financial Tools For Freelancers
29. Wave App
The Wave App is a fantastic award-winning financial software for entrepreneurs and freelancers. You can use it to create and send invoices in a variety of currencies (free), track profits and losses (free), and even accept credit and debit card payments (pay-per-use).
I've been using Wave in my own business now for the past few years and I love it.
I don't need to explain to you what PayPal is. Though because PayPal has been around for as long as we all know, it's one of the most trusted platforms for sending and accepting payments online.
The perfect tool if you're setting up a WooCommerce website for selling digital or physical goods and want to accept online payments via credit card.
32. Payhip (Affiliate link)
I discovered Payhip back in 2017 and I've been in love with this platform ever since. If you're looking for an easy way to host and sell your digital products, such as eBooks, courses, etc. Payhip is a simple-to-use and affordable solution.
I use Payhip to host and sell several eBooks and I've had some great success over the years.
You can check out my full review and video tutorial of Payhip here over on my main blog.
33. Selz (Affiliate link)
Last but not least, we get to Selz. Selz is a similar platform to Payhip, in which it can be used to host and sell digital and physical good. Selz, however, provide an array of advanced tools and features for sellers.
Prices start from $23 per month, paid annually, with an additional 2% transaction fee. So, it's not the cheapest around. But, if you're not wanting to go through the process of setting up WooCommerce on your site, then Selz could be a great alternative.
It's a wrap!
So there you have it, a complete list of some of the best productivity, creativity, and management tools for creative people, designers, developers, and freelancers!
If you can think of a tool or app that I haven't yet discovered, let me know about it. I'll check it out, and if I think it's worth a mention here, I'll be sure to add it. Enjoy.