Tools of the Trade: CSS

Cascading Style Sheets or CSS is the language in which web pages built upon.  There are a lot of tools out there that work with or in conjunction with CSS.  Here’s a breakdown of a few that might be of use to you.

1.  Firebug

Firebug is an add-on for Firefox.  Open sourced and free, this add-on allows you to inspect code.  Whether you are veteran web designer or new to the game, this tool is great for viewing how things might look in production.  The ability to add and remove code to see how the changes appear on the front end is essential to staying on top of bugs

2. CSS Menu 3.3

Menus are a time eater.  CSS Menu 3.3 allows for quick menu creation, allowing you to easily visualize how menus will look and behave.

3. CSS3 Button Generator

Buttons!  Buttons are a great way to add polish to a website.  They are used to draw attention, generate sales, or make statements.  CSS3 Button Generator is free, though we do suggest that you donate to help support the creators, CSS Portal.

Nothing Beats Free: Part 3 in an ongoing series

Opening a store is a large undertaking, whether brick and mortar or an online establishment.  It is easy for costs to get out of hand.  Here are some free or free-for-now software to help get your online store off the ground and save you cash.


The 5.2x version of AgoraCart is open source and free, though version 6.0 is coming soon.  AgoraCart is PA-DSS and PCI-DSS compliant, meaning it is secure.  This software is all about plug and play.  After getting the software you can drop in various features like a Pay Now button.  AgoraCart supports 10 different methods of shipping and payment.  You also set it to send thank-you notes to customers.  However, it should be noted that the free version comes with no support other than an internet forum.

Paint.Net was originally created as an alternative to MS Paint.  Now, it has grown to include a tab to help with image manipulation.  Basic recoloring, cropping, and 3D rotation will allow you to make your product photos that much better.  A picture may worth a thousand words, a really good picture is worthy of a sale.

Fedex’s Rate Finder

Making the sale is only half the battle.  Using Fedex’s rate finder, you can get a better picture of what it’ll cost and how long it’ll take to get there under different plans.  This will help you predict how much it’ll cost to ship your product out and what kind of promises you can promote.

You can find more about your IT needs here.




Nothing Beats Free: Part 2 of an going series

When doing business nothing is better than free.  So, what’s good out there that’s free?  There’s plenty out there for business owner on a budget.

For Your Security: Windows Defender

For Windows 8, Microsoft combined its anti-spyware and real time anti-virus scanner into the Windows Defender. It’s not the best security suite around, but it’ll cost you nothing.  If you’re on a budget, just keep your Windows Defender up-to-date and you should be mostly secure.

Human Resource Management: Orange HRM

Orange HRM is an open source database software.  It helps keep track of job applicants, organize employee information, and assign permissions at a touch of a button.  It sounds complicated, but this software has a low learning curve.  There are paid SaaS (software as a service), but they are not necessary for most small businesses.

E-mail Marketing: MailChimp

MailChimp has several tiers of service. However, the free one is pretty generous.  It lets you send up to 12,000 e-mails to up to 2,000 e-mail addresses. With it, you can create quasi-customized templates to create a fairly unique look for your business.  The free version also has analytic data on your e-mail marketing campaign.

And of course, if you need IT support you can find that here.


Can’t Beat Free: Google Offers Free Web Hosting Service

If you don’t have a website for your business then you’re missing out.  A huge chunk of the battle of getting customers to purchase your goods and services is having people even know you exist.  Sixty-two percent of businesses in Massachusetts don’t have website.

As with all things business related, price is a major factor.  Now, Google is offering domain registration and hosting for an unbeatable price of zero dollars for one year.

With your Google account you can sign up to create a website from a set of templates and Intuit tools.  You can even link an existing website to this new system.

Google has tried to make it as easy as possible.  All of the design sections are click and drag so there’s no need to know any HTML.  We know that there are plenty of website hosting companies out there, but this has to be the quickest with the most reputable company.

The downside is that it’s only free for a year.  Beyond that, it’ll cost $6.99 a month to keep your newly made site.  Also, tech support is free for the first month, but will also add additional fees.  For what it is, it’s a fairly reasonable rate.

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