The A-Team: my web design weapons of choice

If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… The A-Team

As a web designer I rely on a range of software for completing my daily tasks. Here I outline my Soldiers of Fortune to show how I get from ideas to paper to pixel.

Pen and paper

I love it when a plan comes together and what plans are complete without pen and paper? When working on or for the web – whether it is a design or some head-frying PHP or javascript – I will always have a pad of paper poised for doodles, calculations, inspiration and distractions.

Col. John “Hannibal” Smith: notepad++

The brains of my A Team is provided by that George Peppard of
text editors, notepad++. At the end of the day whether it is back-end, front-end or those fuzzy bits in the middle I spend most of my time in this text editor.

I have never been overly keen on those tools that do too much of the work for you. I have always found comfort in basic text editors
as they help you to understand how the codes you are working with function. How many web design jobs have I seen advertised that say Dreamweaver is required? Dreamweaver is not a technology, it is a tool, and a job should always be about the skills and not the tools. It also signals my desire – as seen throughout my arsenal – to work as much as possible with open source software.

Lt. Templeton “Faceman” Peck: inkscape

I need a man I can rely on, a man who I can depend on to get what I want, when I want and look good doing it. For that I am increasingly using inkscape. There’s so much satifaction and control in working with vector graphics and this software has become an invaluable tool in all my design work, whether it is working up logos, icons or whole web sites. I’m preparing an article on using inkscape for working up web designs but in the meantime suffice to say that my dream job would probably entail playing with inkscape all day long.

Capt. H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock: the gimp

For moments of lunacy when I can’t get the job I need doing in Inkscape I stray into photo editing and to achieve this I bring out the GIMP. It sure takes some getting used to at first but once you get used to it Inkscape is a very rewarding and powerful piece of software. The interface has improved with each new version and the close parallels between Inkscape and the Gimp make these two perfect companions for all your graphical needs.

Bosco B.A.(Bad Attitude) Baracus: Windows

The muscle of my outfit is provided by Windows. I have never felt geeky enough for *Nix and just not stylish or rich enough for Macs. I have never really got Macs and though I appreciate the sheer quality of their design I have often felt they were a case of style over substance. It may not be getting on no airplane anytime soon but it admirably does everything I want/need it to do. Pity the fool, sucker!

Notable accomplices

So, that’s the stars of the show but what A Team would be complete without an ensemble cast of tenuous accomplices hand-picked from wikipedia.

Colonel Morrison: freeagent central

Behind every operation is a man who pulls the strings. Some poor person that has to wade through the paper and the figures to ensure a smooth operation. I simply do not have a head for figures. I never have and never will. Since starting freelance work to top up the coffers I have struggled with the essential but essentially dull task of accounting and was king of procrastination when it came to my tax returns.

Three cheers then for freeagent central which came to me in my hour of need. It takes care of almost all my accounting needs and is well worth the subscription cost for the piece of mind that it provides.

Frankie “Dishpan Man” Santana: jquery

The A Teams special effects expert. Until reading dom scripting – the excellent book by jeremy keith – I had a complete phobia of javascript. Whilst Jeremy’s book helped get my head round many of the problems I was having with client-sided scripting I still felt there was something missing. I tried a number of javascript frameworks and libraries but it wasn’t until stumbling upon jquery that I found something that made javascript completely click for me.

The A-Team van: 1&1

The backbone of successful web development has to be a reliable web host, a vehicle for all our hard efforts that has to be rugged and reliable (red stripe optional). I have had really bad issues in the past with cheaper service providers where flexibility and reliability have been sacrificed to save a few pounds a month. It may not be as cheap as some others on the market but I have had nothing but good experiences since i moved over to 1&1 for all my hosting needs.


Lol Cole! niiice post! I gotta admit I thought like you regarding Mac’s – that is before I got one, trust me on this they p*ss over windows for the pure joy of use. I still have an xp box but I can’t remember the last time I switched it on in anger.

as for javascript, tried Yahoo UI? it is a big beast that is well supported and documented. go have a look!

Hope yer well dude, gt in touch!