Tightwad Marketing

Reviews of free and cheap website development sources

© John Kuraoka, a project of www.kuraoka.com


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My reviews are independent and unaffiliated. I make no money off these links. In most cases, I have used the services of the companies reviewed, or I have first-hand reports from people I trust. When you click on each link, a new window will open. You can close the new window to get back here.

Quick finder:
Free website-building help (including HTML, JavaScript, and perl-cgi)
Free and cheap website templates
Free and royalty-free images and music
Free and cheap website editing and uploading tools

Free website-building help (alphabetically)
Dynamic Drive: A vast, searchable resource with lots of free DHTML scripts that you can cut-and-paste into your website code. As you customize the scripts to meet your needs, though, do be sure not to mess with the copyrights notices embedded within the scripts. The website seems to be based in Westchester, California.
The JavaScript Source: This website has lots of free scripts that you can cut-and-paste into your HTML. Be aware that many of the effects are very annoying. However, many of the utility scripts (password protection, spam-bot blocker) are truly worthwhile. I wish I had known about this website earlier. It is based in Darien, Connecticut.
How to Make a Website: A very up-to-date site offering well-written, step-by-step tutorials on creating websites with WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and HTML5. It is especially strong in WordPress. It was developed by Robert Mening, an experienced web developer, and is run out of Malmo, Sweden.
HTML.com: Quick tutorials, indexed by tag/topic, plus a drop-down, alphabetized menu of individual tags to explore. The site is now based in London, UK.
The Perl Archive: The largest collection of perl-cgi programs, including chatrooms, games, guestbooks, more-sophisticated password protection, and more. Some are free. No programming skill is needed, but you do need a better-than-average ability to follow directions and the ability to upload cgi files to your website host server. It is based in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Website Design Tutorial by Create A Free Website: A free online tutorial that walks you through the steps necessary to research and create a functional website. There’s also an excellent free HTML tutorial. The company is based in Somerset, Kentucky.
W3Schools: A ton of free educational tutorials, including a complete online “Web Builder School.” Other free tutorials cover HTML, CSS, JavaScript, DHTML, XML, XHTML, WAP, ASP, and SQL. In addition to top-notch, easy-to-understand lessons, the tutorials contain working examples and source code you can cut-and-paste. The parent, Refsnes Data, is based in Norway.
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Free and cheap website templates (alphabetically)
Free HTML5 Templates: Over 30 free HTML5 templates available free for commercial use with a linked attribution required. The link can be removed with the payment of a £15 fee via PayPal. Free HTML5 Templates is based in the UK.
Free Liquid Templates: About 60 totally free HTML5 templates, many of which are responsive and mobile-friendly, categorized by column layout. No link back required. The designs are quite plain. However, they are very easy to modify and the site has an excellent, if hard-to-read, HTML5 modification tutorial that includes responsive CSS. FreeLiquidTemplates.com is connected with Create A free Website, above, and is based in Somerset, Kentucky.
Templated: Over 800 CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) and HTML5 templates are here, most very nice. Be aware as you browse that there are also premium-priced templates in the lower section of each page. The free templates can be used for commercial websites, and require attribution and a backlink only. You can contact the site owners about removing that credit if need be. You download the templates directly from the website as a ZIP file. Site ownership is "private," but the server is based out of Dallas, Texas.
Open Source Web Design: This re-launched site offers more than 2,000 free website templates. In most cases, link-backs to the designer are required, and I’ve noticed some designers requiring fees for “commercial use” so read the license for your chosen template carefully. Templates are downloaded as zipped files, and most have lots of text prompts to walk you through the code. Open Source Web Design is a worldwide community of web designers, but the site itself is based in Dunmore, Pennsylvania.
Open Web Design: This group branched off from the Open Source Web Design site, and seems to be more active now. It offers more than 4,000 free website templates, most under a Creative Commons license so a linked attribution is generally required. Templates are downloaded as zipped files, and most have lots of text prompts to walk you through the code. Some designers place additional terms on the use of their designs, so read your chosen template’s text file carefully after you’ve downloaded and unzipped it. Some of the templates can also be found on the OSWD website, although the two communities seem to be diverging. Open Web Design is a worldwide community of web designers, but the site itself appears to be based in Australia.
Steve’s Templates: The free website design templates require a link back on your website’s main page. Premium templates are available starting at $14, with the majority in the $25-$80 range. Steve’s Templates seems to be part of a hosting company based in New Market, Maryland.
Tightwad Marketing: That’s right, this very website has a free website design template as part of the article Write your website content in 60 minutes. It’s a six-page website template with content prompts and six background color variations. The design is rudimentary, but fast-loading and expandable. It’s yours to use on your business website, free, with no link back required.
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Free and royalty-free images and music (alphabetically)
Free and royalty-free are two different things. Free means free. Royalty-free means you pay once to purchase the right to use the photo, but pay no additional royalties over time. Royalty-free images can cost anywhere from nothing to hundreds of dollars. In all cases, copyright remains with the original artist. So, while you may use the image, you do not own the image. You can’t, for example, resell the image or present it as your own. Another important note: there are lots of websites offering “free images.” Almost none, however, offer those free images for commercial (i.e. business) use. In many cases, there are no model, trademark, or location releases provided. Here are my bookmarks for free or cheap images for commercial use.
Foto Search Stock Photography: This aggregator of 140 publishers of stock photography claims to search more than 6.5 million images, including photos, illustrations, and video. None of the images are free, but prices from some royalty-free publishers seem to start around $49 for low-res images suitable for the web, and $99 for high-res images suitable for printing. Most images seem to be $99 and up though. Select "royalty free," search for your topic, then sort by price to find the cheapest images. No credit or link seems to be required; however, the license specifically prohibits the use of images of people for a wide array of topics, including most social, medical, and political issues. Foto Search is based in Waukesha, Wisconsin, but the photos are sourced internationally.
FreeImages.co.uk: This UK-based website has a library of more than 13,000 professionally shot images for free commercial use. A photo credit or linked attribution is required. A good search tool makes this site easy to use, and the image quality is exceptional. The files are huge, because they are uncompressed and high-resolution. This site is designed around the needs of professional designers, and it shows. However, downloads can take 2-10 minutes per image. If you register your email address, you get access to some members-only galleries.
FreePlayMusic.com: Top-quality music, most available in lengths from 10 seconds to more than 2 minutes, all searchable and previewable. The music is free for personal use; most commercial uses require a license and payment of a fee based on usage type and duration. Don’t bother purchasing the CDs, since the purchase price does not include commercial use fees, and you’ll find the most-updated selection of music on the website.
FreeStockPhotos.com: Ignore the links on the right and look under "Categories" towards the left for a small but high-quality selection of photos, mostly focused on the natural sciences: animals, minerals, plants, and scenery. The quality is good, and the photos are well-categorized, but there’s no search tool. A credit or link is required if you use the photos, but no registration is necessary.
iStockPhotos.com: This website contains more than 7 million files, including photos, illustrations, and digital animations, most royalty-free for commercial use. Images and files are well-categorized, and the search tool is good. Image quality has improved dramatically over the past couple years. However, since many of the artists are amateurs, model, property, and trademark releases may be lacking. Also, some images are marked for personal use only; it’s up to you to check. The license fee ranges based on the image size you require: photos sized for typical web use cost as little as $1-$5 (U.S.), and high-resolution images suitable for high-quality large-format reproduction cost $20-$24. Registration (with a full name, address, phone number, and email) is required, but free.
PD Photo - Public Domain Photos: This San Diego-based website has more than 2,700 well-categorized, professional-quality photos, almost all in the public domain. Easy to search, easy to download, easy to use with no credit or link necessary (although it’s still only fair to credit the source).
PhotoEverywhere.co.uk: This UK-based website claims to have over 3,000 travel-related photos, including places, landmarks, and buildings, all available for free commercial use with attribution. As expected, there are more photos of UK and European locales than US or Asia, but it's worth a look. Photo quality varies from the ordinary record shot to well-composed and executed record shots; only a few photos have artistic merit beyond the places themselves. On the plus side, downloading is point-and-right-click easy, and no registration is required. Online use requires a text link, print use requires a photo credit. Unfortunately, no model or property releases are provided.
The Free Graphics Store: This Australian website started a comeback in 2009 and not much has happened since. But, the archive is packed with 1,275 spot photos appropriate for web use, clip art images, graphics, buttons, bullets, and backgrounds. Among the backgrounds, I especially like the strips, pales, and see-thrus. The images are categorized, but not readily searchable, so it may take some time to find what you’re looking for. However, everything is totally free for the taking, with no credit or link required.
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Free and cheap website editing and uploading tools
1st Page 2000 by Evrsoft, based in Queensland, Australia. This trialware HTML editor is comprehensive and powerful, but you'll need to purchase it to unlock all the features and disable the nag screen. It includes a large library of pre-made templates and scripts. Product and technical support is provided by an online user forum.
FTP Commander: FTP Commander is a stripped-down, easy-to-use FTP program from Internet-Soft, based in Moscow, Russia. It is freeware. The manual that comes with it has little depth, but it’s probably all you need.
HTML-Kit: click on the "get previous version (free)" button for a reliable HTML editor that includes an easy-to-use FTP program. It’s my current tool of choice - this website, although not originally built with it, was maintained and updated with it for years. It’s not a drag-and-drop wysiwyg editor, but it’s still easy to use. It is supported by extensive online documentation, including tutorials and how-to articles, plus searchable newsgroups. HTML-Kit is freeware, available from Chami.com, based in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. It can also be downloaded through CNET.
SmartFTP: SmartFTP is a reliable FTP program. SmartFTP is based in Switzerland; it is freeware for personal, educational, and non-commercial use. Commercial users pay a one-time license fee of $29.95 for the first user; there’s a sliding scale for multiple user licenses, site licenses, and corporate licenses. I have and use Version 1.0 Build 966. It works well, and the online troubleshooting FAQ is truly comprehensive.
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