Ever wondered how people get those cool real-time photo-linked timeliness on their sites? How about those crazy montage of jumble-up words or those fantastic looking graphs and charts? Must cost the publishers a bundle?

Nestor Arellano

Not really. Kim Pittaway, a Toronto-based journalist, media consultant and digital content expert, recently let on a bunch of editors and Web site producers to her favourite list of free Web design goodies. Pittaway was among the presenters at MagNet 2010, a series or sessions and workshops recently held in Toronto.

Her message was: Great Web design and search engine optimization need not break the bank.

Here’s a sample of her favourite free to low-cost online apps for boosting readers online experience. I’ll put up a few more in the next few days:

 Create content in new ways

In many cases, text and static photos are no longer enough.

Pittaway suggests using other Web elements to add some oomph to your site.

For example, you can create a sleek timeline to hang you photos, text and video on with Dipity.com’s timeline tool.

 

Google Maps and Street View can be incorporated to a site, associated with a photos video or copy to provide readers with additional visual aide that can enhance the reading experience or actually help in decision making.

The site SafeFood Finder uses Google Map to identify the location of restaurants that have had the worst recent inspection scores, The Toronto Star’s map of Canada’s Afghan Dead plots out the Canadian cities that fallen soldiers came from.

Add video, by embedding clips from video sharing sites YouTube or Vimeo .

Pump some music into your site from sites that offer royalty free tunes such as Partnersinrhyme.com, museopen.com or get free sound effects and music loops from FindSounds.com and Soundsnap.com.

Automatically make your own slideshows with music, photos and captions with the help PhotoPeach’s Fresh Slideshows To Go.

2. Create a better looking site

Web design know how – Can’t afford a full-blown Web development team? No problem. Get access to technical and not-so-technical instructions, tutorials and articles on Web design and development from Six Revisions. The site is also chock full of freebies such as stylized social media icons, and design themes. Six Revisions is also an excellent place to connect with Web designers and developers.

Free Range Studios, based in Berkeley, Calif and Washington, D. C. also offers low-cost Web design and interactive tool development, Web movies and animation. They specialize in campaigns for not-for-profit organizations such as the World Wild Life Fund, the Sierra Club, Students for Free Tibet, the UN Refugee Agency and the Alliance for Climate Protection.

Free pictures – A picture may be worth a thousand words but these sites contain thousands of photos – most of which could be downloaded for free. Check out: Pixel Perfect Digital, a free stock photo site that also recently began offering premium low-cost images; paid and free photos are also available on the photo sharing site Flickr; and morgueFile contains high-resolution stock photography images free for either corporate or private use.

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