Five tools to help you design better sites

1. Basecamp

Of 37signals' portfolio, it's web- based project management tool Basecamp that comes in for the most praise. "We couldn't work without it," says Happy Cog's Jeff Zeldman. "We use it to collaborate with local and remote partners, keep track of deadlines, and even handle the bulk of our client communications."

2. Firefox Web Developer toolbar

If you work on standard web pages, you've probably already got this installed. If not, you're missing the means to efficiently and effectively test page components from within a standards- compliant browser.

3. Subversion
This popular open source version- control system enables designers and developers to maintain versions of code. As Andy Budd notes, "This enables you to keep up to date with the latest version of project files, which is especially useful if you're working with external developers, or if you've got a distributed team."

4. Silverback
This new kid on the block is a 'guerrilla usability testing app', enabling you to run low-cost usability tests with hardware you already have in your Mac. It records screen activity, video, audio and mouse clicks, and you can use the Apple remote to define chapter markers when usability problems are encountered. Once tests are finished, video and data is exported to QuickTime for analysis.

5. Pen and paper
Seriously. Turn off your computer, go for a walk, and sketch some ideas, rather than staring blindly at Photoshop or Fireworks, gradually turning your mouse hand into a gnarled claw.

First published in .net magazine, Issue 181