If you are a web developer or any kind of professional working in the information services or computer industry, you would have to be living under a rock or tucked away from the world in a basement mainframe computer room in order to have not heard of cloud computing at this point. And while everyone in the industry has pretty much heard of cloud computing, web designers have been a little slow on the uptake in terms of taking advantage of all of its great offerings. Large IT organizations have taken advantage of cloud hosting and software as a service (SaaS) features for several years now, but individual web designers are finally starting to pick up on the cloud computing trend.
Area of Storage
The first way in which cloud computing is affecting web designers is in the area of storage. Several cloud storage sites have popped up over the past couple years that changed the way web designers store common files and share them with colleagues, clients, and even among their own computers and mobile devices. Sites such as CloudApp and Dropbox allow users to set up a free account that gives you instant access to a modest amount of storage that can be accessed from any computer or mobile device with an Internet connection. These sites could be great for storing image files or compressed folder files that you wish to access later from a different location or share with clients and colleagues.
CloudApp will even assign each of your saved files a unique database ID that can then be accessed through a unique short URL. This makes presenting new designs or vetting new ideas much easier than before since you do not have to worry about physically exchanging thumb drives or even dealing with clunky email attachments.
Mac users have the ability to use the very handy iCloud service. Users of any iOS mobile device or Mac computer can set up an iCloud account and instantly have 5 GB of virtual cloud storage for free. This is a great way to share media files or image files between your entire Mac based devices.
Cloud Hosting Services
The second big way cloud computing is affecting web designers is through the hosting of new web sites on the web instead of relying on traditional server hosting or even hosting in your own managed data centre. Web designers have now found it easier than ever to set up initial web site samples for potential clients or set up low cost solutions for smaller clients who require small web presences. This is due to the fact that cloud hosting is based on pay per usage billing.
Small sites that experience little storage, user traffic and bandwidth can typically be set up for no hosting cost. This can be a significant advantage to web designers who can set up a low cost proof of concept web site for a potential client for a small fee, or as a loss leader for particularly large clients, without having to pay anything out of pocket themselves in terms of server or hosting space costs. Many cloud hosting companies now follow and work as per the cloud governance policies of large organizations. Web Designers could surely leverage these options for their own benefit.
Amazon Web Services offers a particularly robust service for web designers who wish to set up a hosting presence in the cloud. Amazon’s E3 servers offer everything from support to prebuilt and custom images to offsite storage solutions for large data heavy projects. Google Apps is a good option for those who lean more heavy toward application development and design. On the simpler end, Google Apps prebuilt office productivity solutions could solve many requirements for smaller clients, while the Google App Engine platform allows seasoned programmers to build robust web solutions that can scale to very large solutions.
Other Advantages of Cloud
While these are the two big hitters, there are several other ways that cloud computing is affecting web designers, changing the way they perform their work from day to day.
Virtual Development Environment
Wireframing and prototyping can also be moved to the web. The Jumpstart app allows you to save your wireframe designs on the web in a virtual project site and share it automatically with clients and team mates. No more emailing multiple versions of wireframe documents back and forth!
Online Photo Editing
Photo editing has also been moved online. You do not necessarily need access to your heavy desktop photo editing tool to do small tweaks to your graphics. Adobe now offers a cloud version of its famous photo editing suites, as do smaller apps such as Pixlr.
One of the most useful debugging tools for web designers today is Firebug. This Firefox plugin is so useful that even shops that only support IE officially for their internal web pages still utilize Firefox with the Firebug plugin for its debugging and testing.
Matching Color Palettes
Adobe continues to lead the charge for making designer’s lives easier. The Adobe Kuler app is a cloud based application that allows designers to match color palettes on their websites. Again, no thick client app is required and it’s available from anywhere with a browser.
Besides color and graphics matching, font type matching is the other big designer specific concern when creating websites. Typesetter, a cloud based font application, allows users to test fonts from one page to another to make sure everything matches up consistently.
All of these little features add up to a complete change and simplification to the life of a website designer. Cloud computing continues to change the way we perform our everyday development and design jobs, so keep your eye out for new advancements that are sure to come over the next several months.