horatio alger pluck & luck bookBusiness owners have limited supplies of three things: time, patience, and money. Whichever of those items is the scarcest commodity in the moment will determine the relative importance of finding hidden stores of the other two. Most often for my clients, money is the hardest thing to spare when they’re looking to improve their existing web site; they’re looking for the best ways to save it. Fortunately for them, the web is full of free resources that — while they may take time to search and patience to implement — are great ways to save money on some things you can do for your web site by yourself. Like the plucky young heros of early 20th century rags-to-riches novels, entrepreneurial web site owners willing to do some of the work for themselves with free tools they find may find themselves pulling themselves up by their bootstraps (only this time, it’s often backed by a Twitter tool actually called Bootstrap).

In this post, I’ll break down the kinds of free stuff you can get for your web site into several categories: Free Images; Free Extensions & Plugins; Free Advice; and Free Everything.

Free Images

I’ve written before about using stock photography on your web site. It can work really well, or it can look really corny. If you take the time to think creatively and search for concepts instead of literal images, the searches are usually much more fruitful. For example, instead of searching free image sites for the words “free sign,” I searched for “plucky” and found the Horatio Alger book cover image. Some of the best places for free stock images are:

RGBstock – a very simple search that requires a registration so they can track your use of their images. They respectfully request image attribution.

Pixabay – also very simple to use, and seldom asks for image attribution

Freeimages.com – This one is somewhat more complicated to use, but often has a far broader and higher-quality choice of available images. The best path to images you can use without attribution and without paying is to follow the steps below.

  1. Enter your search term or terms in the text fields.
  2. Select “no” in “restricted ok?” pull-down menu — this ensures that you have the right to use the photo you choose in any way you like, without owing royalties to the photographer or needing to provide attribution. It allows for you to use the image, hassle-free.
  3. Select “photos” in the pull-down menu unless you want to include clip-art in your search results. (A word of aesthetic advice: you don’t want to use clip art.)

freeimages.com instructions

Google images advanced search — This is more complicated to get right, and there is a lot of junk there, but the bright side of a Google Images search is that you can often find a gem of an image that isn’t available anywhere else. The key is in Google’s Advanced Search — not the standard one. Starting here, the interface is more complicated, but once you’ve entered your search term at the top, the most important criteria to add is the last one, labeled Usage Rights. In the pull-down menu for Usage Rights, select free to use, share or modify, even commercially. That will give you image results you can edit, crop, and augment to your heart’s delight with the blessing of the original photographer.

Free Extensions & Plugins

Joomla Extension Directory – Joomla makes it very easy to search for free extensions. In the Joomla Extension Directory, which may be available directly from your installation of Joomla, you can search for the kind of component, module, or plugin you want based on a number of criteria including whether the extension is free or paid.

WordPress PluginsWordPress plugins are far more often free than they are associated with a cost. More often, a free version is available through the WordPress Plugin Directory within your WordPress installation, with a fuller-featured version available as a paid upgrade. Searching the plugin directory is easy.

Free Advice

CNET – CNET has been around since the mid 1990s and is known for its well-researched reviews of technology. The software reviews and available downloads are a helpful and reliable source of vetted, expert advice and information.

Wired – What’s coming next? Where is innovation headed, and where can you get inspiration for your next endeavor? The core of Wired’s content is innovation and in-depth stories of the leaders in technology, both inside and outside of traditional tech firms.

UnMarketing and the UnPodcast — Scott Stratten and Allison Kramer, the minds behind UnMarketing, write about customer service in the digital age. Their thoughts on the ways businesses use the internet and digital marketing to provide the best possible experience for their users and customers are fun to read and even more fun to listen to on their podcast (the UnPodcast).

Free Everything

Speckyboy – For tutorials, free icon sets and fonts, and articles

Designmodo –  Slightly more geeky, techy tutorials, discounts on design tools and images, and a whole page of freebies

All these resources are free of cost, but of course, none are free from the time and patience it takes to use them well. If you’re looking to take care of your site on your own, or simply stay ahead of the rapid changes in technology, you can use the resouces above to find keep yourself ahead of the game.