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Free Tools for Site Designs, Logos, and Prototypes

A while back, a friend of mine and I had an idea for a new e-commerce web site we were thinking of launching. We eventually shelved the idea after digging up a couple of sites that were too close in spirit to the same idea, but one of the things I remember we worked hard on was mocking up a good looking design for the site, complete with a slick logo. This can be more dificult than it seems at first, but is an important first step in moving from your vision of a web site to execution.

Here are some free resources that can make the process easier, and provide good prototyping results.

Are you familiar with the free, open source applications Blender and Gimp?  The former is one of the most respected 3D animation and graphics programs, and the latter is one of the best loved graphics programs. The web abounds with useful tutorials for creating slick logos in Blender as seen here, and here.  You can easily learn to make animated or still logos for a web site with Blender. For Gimp, too, there are many tutorials for making slick logos. Try searching at for examples.

You can also find free logos at LogoInstant. The site shares slick looking logos every day, and they’re free to use as either inspiration for a version that you modify, or you can just use the logos as they stand.

Back in June, Mike covered Open Source Web Designs, which provides over 2,000 free web design templates that you can work with for free. Most of them are XHTML- and CSS-based.

Finally, if you are collaborating with another web worker on a prototype for a site design, one of the best loved, free tools for doing so is JumpChart, which I wrote about here. It lets you build and save versions of your site through several iterations. The free version only gives you 10 pages to work with, but that’s usually enough for a basic prototype that you can build out from.

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