207+ Super-Duper Resources to Help Build Your First Product
In this carefully-curated collection, you'll receive information about all the tools and resources (but none of the guidance) you need to help build your first product.
For expert guidance, you'll have to read the book ;-)
Most of these tools are free unless indicated otherwise.
Absolute favorites are denoted by a fire icon: 🔥
Choosing a name
There are 2500 ICANN-Accredited Registrars you can use to register your chosen domain. Here are the two I recommend:
Hosting, static frontend only
- Github Pages — host static web pages for free, on your own domain, with https.
- Netlify — Awesome front-end only website platform, starts at free... a great place for a landing page. (I'm keen to play with this option some more)
Hosting, your own server (VPS)
- 🔥 Digital Ocean — your own dedicated Linux server on the internet from $5 per month
- Linode — your own dedicated Linux server on the internet from $5 per month
- Vultr — your own dedicated Linux server on the internet from $2.50 per month
- Amazon Web Services — Amazon's cloud offering (in particular EC2 & Lightsail) (from free)
- Azure — Microsoft's excellent cloud offering. Prices are complex.
Hosting, platform as a service
Apart from AWS and Azure, above which are PaaS, there is also:
- Appharbor — .NET Cloud platform as a service. Freemium.
- Heroku — Cloud application platform (js, ruby, java, php, python, go, scala, clojure)
Static website generator / framework
- Jekyll — Jekyll is a blog-aware, static site generator in Ruby (code)
- Ghost — open source, hackable platform for building and running a modern online publication.
- Hugo — a general-purpose website framework for generating static web pages using the 'Go' programming language.
- Octopress — Octopress is basically some guy's Jekyll blog you can fork and edit.
- Pelican — Python powered static site generator
- 🔥 Bootstrap — Twitter Bootstrap, by far the most popular CSS framework. A nice way to get a robust site started.
- Foundation — Bills itself as 'The most advanced responsive front-end framework in the world.'
- Pure CSS — "A set of small, responsive CSS modules that you can use in every web project"
- Bulma — "A modern CSS framework based on Flexbox"
- Materialize — "A modern responsive front-end framework based on (Google's) Material Design"
- Semantic UI — Err... apparently "User Interface is the language of the web". I don't know what kind of slogan that is.
- UiKit — Claims to be "A lightweight and modular front-end framework for developing fast and powerful web interfaces." Let us pray that it is so.
- 🔥 Zoho — Email hosting starts at free. Recommended. (They do a lot of other things too)
- Blacklist check — "The blacklist check will test a mail server IP address against over 100 DNS based email blacklists. (Commonly called Realtime blacklist, DNSBL or RBL)"
Bulk Email, Mailing List, and Transaction Email
- 🔥 Mailgun — Transactional Email API Service For Developers
- Campaign Monitor — "Send Email Your Customers Can't Ignore"
- MailChimp — The dominant company in the world of bulk-email.
- Drip — Email marketing automation that just works. Founded by Rob Walling.
- ConvertKit — Email marketing for professional bloggers. Founded by Nathan Barry.
- TinyLetter — Email for people with something to say. Now owned by MailChimp. Freemium.
Logo & Icon & Favicon & App Icons
- Logo Crunch — "a multi-resolution logo maker" (helps you make logos that work effectively at different sizes)
- Logo Creation Wizard — Generates hundreds of example logos. This helps you immediately understand what you like or do not like.
- Logo from Squarespace — Logo creation tool at Squarespace
- The Noun Project — Icons for everything
- 🔥 Favicon-Generator — Turn an image into a favicon of all sizes, with the relevant CSS
- Fiverr: Logo Design — freelance services cheap not free
- 99 Designs — "Find and work with talented freelance designers online. A design you love or your money back"
- All the free stock — "Free stock images, icons, and videos."
- Flaticon — "The largest database of free icons available in PNG, SVG, EPS, and PSD formats"
- Inkscape — free & open-source professional quality vector graphics software for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.
- Paint.net — free image and photo editing software for PC
- Autodesk SketchBook — $30 per year
- Buffer Pablo — Design engaging images for your social media posts in under 30 seconds
- Colorpic — The desktop Color Picker tool (for windows)
- TinyPNG — Shrink png's to be as small as possible
- Pencil Project — An open-source GUI prototyping tool that's available for ALL platforms
- Balsamiq mockups — Create evocative mockups of apps and sites. From $89.
- Moqups — "A streamlined web app that helps you create and collaborate on wireframes, mockups, diagrams, and prototypes." (from 10 projects for $13 per month)
- Web Sequence Diagrams — handy tool for making sequence diagrams online using a simple grammar, in a variety of themes.
- 🔥 Draw.io — My favorite online diagram drawing tool.
- AsciiFlow — Draw ASCII flow charts quickly
- Shaky Flowcharts — Turn ASCII flow charts into hand-drawn images. (Use in conjunction with Asciiflow)
- Visme — Tool for creating "beautiful visuals" to help your content stand out. Starts at free.
Stock Photos / Stock Art / Free Art
- Greenshot — "a free screenshot tool optimized for productivity."
- Skitch — Screenshot and annotation tool from Evernote
- 🔥 Take full page screenshot in Chrome without extensions — you can quickly take a full-length screenshot of a page in Chrome, without stitching things together manually and without using any extensions.
- Placeit — from $8, place your screenshot in a realistic setting
Fonts and Font pairing
- ColorHunt — beautiful color schemes to take away and use
- Adobe Color — Formerly kuler
- Colormind — "A color scheme generator that uses deep learning... can learn color styles from photographs and movies"
- Paletton — Create complementary, triad, tetrad etc schemes; previously known as "color scheme designer".
- PayPal — Give and receive money online without exchanging financial details.
- Stripe — "Cloud payment platform. APIs to accept credit cards, manage subscriptions, send money, run a marketplace."
- Bitcoin — Just kidding.
- Google analytics — This is all the analytics you need right here and it's free.
- MixPanel — "Deeply understand every user's journey with instant insights for everyone on mobile and web." Can track individuals with great precision. Starts at free.
- Kissmetrics — Focus on deeply engaging with individual customers
- Hotjar — See a visual representation of your user's clicks, taps, and scrolling behavior, free up to 2000 clicks per day.
- Pingdom — website and performance monitoring
- Status Cake — Website Uptime & Performance Monitoring
- W3C Link Checker — A broken link checker (aka 404 scanner) from the W3C, see their other tools too
- 🔥 MXToolbox: DNS Check — "run a comprehensive DNS Report for your domain" — particularly useful for email setup (MX, TXT, CNAME, A records, DKIM, SPF)
- Google PageSpeed Insights — "The PageSpeed tools analyze and optimize your site following web best practices"
- Google Lighthouse — "an open-source, automated tool for improving the quality of web pages. You can run it against any web page, public or requiring authentication. It has audits for performance, accessibility, progressive web apps, and more."
- GT Metrix Performance Reports — "Analyze your site’s speed and make it faster" with "actionable recommendations"
- VirusTotal — Analyze suspicious files and URLs to detect types of malware including viruses, worms, and trojans. You can use this (programmatically) to check if a file is OK.
Forum and community
- Discourse — modern forum software for your community. Use it as a mailing list, discussion forum, long-form chat room, and more!
- Slack — modern chat system. "Slack is where work flows. It's where the people you need, the information you share, and the tools you use come together to get things done." Allegedly.
- If using WordPress there are various forum plugins. I don't have the experience to judge. You're on your own.
- ZenDesk — "Zendesk builds software for better customer relationships"
- UseResponse — "All-in-one Customer Support Software"
- FogBugz — "One tool for task management, document collaboration, agile development, code management and customer support"
- freshdesk — With Freshdesk, your teams can work together to resolve customer issues faster.
- UserVoice — "Build Better Products with intelligent product feedback"
- Feature Upvote — Customer suggestion platform, $29 per month.
- 🔥 Trello — "Trello lets you work more collaboratively and get more done."
- Get Satisfaction — "The Shortest Distance Between You and Your Customer"
- Intercom — "Makes communicating with customers simple, personal, and fun for everyone"
- Airtable — "Airtable works like a spreadsheet but gives you the power of a database to organize anything."
- 🔥 Google Forms — "create and analyze surveys for free"
Brain Storming/ Mind Mapping
- Scapple — Brainstorming tool for Mac and Windows $15
- Bubblus — free for up to 3 maps
- Xero — beautifully designed accounting software that lets you manage your small business finances.
- GnuCash — freely licensed personal and small-business financial-accounting software.
There are numerous others in this category but TeamViewer wins outright, so I haven't listed any others.
Whether connecting to your aged relative or a customer in need, TeamViewer is the right tool.
- 🔥 TeamViewer — "Empowering secure remote desktop access and support"
Research Sites (including Competitors)
To see estimated traffic numbers and visitor info about sites such as forums or competitors
- alexa — "Our software helps your business get better marketing results"
- Site Worth Traffic — "calculate website worth"
- Similar Web — "Market Intelligence Solutions to track your market share"
- MOZ Open Site Explorer — "Research backlinks, find link-building opportunities and discover potentially damaging links"
- Google trends — See the latest trends, data and visualizations from Google
- Site Alerts — "How much traffic do they get? Where does it come from? What tools do they use? What keywords do they rank for? Is social media working for them?"
- Versionista — "Monitor Website Changes. Get Notified When Changes Occur. Compare Differences Side-by-side."
- Who is — Find out who has registered a given domain.
- Built With — Find out what technology was used to build and host a site.
- Buffer — queue up your tweets in advance
Marketing, Keywords, and SEO
It's become a compulsory item: put your websites on
https. And with let's encrypt, it's free.
- Docracy — "Open Legal Documents. Provided and trusted by people like you."
- Startup Documents|Resources — "Don't speak 'legalese'? Don’t worry. Our articles break down the basics of popular legal topics in a language you can understand."
- FoundersWorkBench Document Driver — "free online legal document generation solution allows you to produce a suite of legal documents to form your start-up as a Delaware corporation or a single or multiple person LLC"
Other Business Tools
- Business Model Canvas — if you're interested in this, also see the version from canvasizer.
- Dasheroo — Small business dashboard tracks "your important KPIs for overall business analytics, web analytics, marketing, social media and sales, in one great-looking free business dashboard." Making dashboards is the most fun part of running your own business!
Blog Post Title Templates
- 🔥 Bitbucket.org — Free unlimited private repositories for git and Mercurial.
- github — $7/month gives you unlimited private repositories for git.
- Coffitivity — "Coffitivity recreates the ambient sounds of a cafe to boost your creativity and help you work better."
- 🔥 Spotify Deep Focus Playlist — a powerful tool to help you get in the zone as described in this article.
- f.lux — "software to make your life better," look after your eyes, sleep better, be happier. For MAC and now Windows too.
- WriteRoom — Distraction free writing on macOS
- DarkRoom — Distraction free writing on windows
- Chains — Don't break the chain
- Streaks — The to-do list that helps you form good habits.
- Pocket — Store things worth reading for later (integrates nicely with Kobo, my chosen e-reader too)
- Cold Turkey Blocker — "Temporarily block distractions so you can focus and finish your work sooner." For Windows, macOS and Android."
Meta (Other people's directories of resources)
Okay, that's the whole list... for now! I'm constantly revising it, adding more and taking things away.
If you were to re-tweet it, and share the love, that would certainly be appreciated:
As described above, the book is a more robust way of walking through each topic and learning just what you need to know. The hardest part of starting an online business is making the 1001 tiny decisions you must make, and a list like the one above only exacerbates the problem. The book, in contrast, makes the decisions easier.
Now I think you should sign up to be notified when the ebook is ready. It steps through the process of finding a good idea, validating it, turning it into a product, then selling, marketing and supporting your product. It's written for people just like you.