If you’re learning the basics about web development, you may be wondering what software you need to get started with Web Design. In this guide from Australian Internet Advertising, we’ll discuss a few desktop and web-based tools that may be right for you – whether you’re just getting started, or already have some development experience under your belt.
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Visual Web Development
Visual web development tools allow the use of code as well as visual tools to create website pages. Even if you have little-to-no coding experience, you can use one of these tools to create websites and start learning.
If you want a fully code-less website builder, Webflow is a good option. Using the Webflow Designer, you can build a website using a drag and drop interface to place design elements, with no HTML/CSS or other coding knowledge required.
It’s completely free to use until you want to launch your website, so it’s a good way to learn the basics about how to design and create websites, even if you don’t know how to code. The learning curve is quite small, so you can start creating beautiful websites fast.
Once you build your website, you can choose to use Webflow web hosting and deploy it right away – or you can export it to a variety of other platforms of your choosing.
If you are interested in building a website and have a bit of coding experience, Adobe Dreamweaver is a good option.
Available as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, this program allows you to create websites with minimal coding, but does have a built-in code editor that lets you make adjustments to HTML and CSS, so it’s a bit more powerful and flexible compared to a tool like Webflow.
You can see a real time preview of your website in Dreamweaver, too, which makes the process of development faster and easier, and helps you spot errors and mistakes right away.
Microsoft Visual Studio
If you have a lot of coding experience, Microsoft Visual Studio is a powerful IDE (Integrated Development Environment). It supports 36 different coding languages, and has useful tools like an integrated web designer, built-in debugger, and support for a wide variety of plug-ins that extend its functionality even further.
However, it’s definitely not a good option for non-technical users who are just getting started – you need to have extensive coding experience before you can really make use of its features.
Almost all modern websites are built on some kind of CMS (content management system) platform. You can think of a CMS as a “skeleton” that provides the basic features that you’ll want as you begin building a custom website.
A CMS contains tools that let you modify website themes, upload media content, arrange your web pages, create online stores, and design individual pages – to name just a few of their diverse features.
Some CMS platforms even have their own web page builder, so you can design a website with no coding experience. Here are our top picks. You can get free trials of most of these services, so you can try each one and see which may be the best choice for you.
WordPress is a flexible, powerful, and open-source CMS that’s pretty much the “de facto” standard for web design. More than ⅓ of all websites use WordPress, which can be used for blogging, eCommerce, restaurants, portfolio websites, and so much more.
WordPress is completely free to use, unless you choose to buy web hosting and a URL through WordPress. If you don’t do that, you’ll still need to buy your own internet hosting and URL.
In addition, WordPress is open-source, unlike its competitors, making it easier to migrate your website, change hosting providers, and take other actions that are not possible with a tool like Wix or Squarespace.
Squarespace is easy to use, has a variety of design templates, and walks you through the process of creating web pages using its drag-and-drop editor step-by-step, so you can get started even if you have no past web design experience.
Wix is the closest competitor to Squarespace – together, they have about 55% market share in the “website builder CMS” market. Wix allows for a bit more of a free-flowing approach to website design, and is less structured than Squarespace.
However, it’s comparable in most ways. Both products offer a wide variety of design templates, a drag-and-drop editor, plenty of tutorials, and integrations for things like eCommerce plugins.
Prototyping & UX Mockup
Depending on the websites you’re designing, you may find it useful to have tools for mocking up and prototyping websites. These tools let you create interactive website previews without touching a line of code – streamlining the collaboration, feedback, and iteration process.
InVision Studio is one of the most well-regarded prototyping software options on the market. It offers a vector editor, rapid prototyping, support for a wide variety of animations, streamlined collaboration tools, and a relatively straightforward user interface. It also offers more than 50 unique plugins to extend its feature set.
Sketch is right behind InVision Studio as the most popular prototyping/UX software. It’s available exclusively for macOS, and its native design makes it easy to use on Mac devices. Broadly speaking, it offers the same feature set as InVision Studio – allowing you to easily create web and mobile-ready website prototypes using drag-and-drop features, multiple layers, animations, and more.
Adobe XD lags in popularity compared to the above options, and it’s a newer program, since it was first released in 2017. However, it may be a good choice if you have experience with other Adobe Creative Cloud tools like Photoshop and Dreamweaver, since it shares many similar UI features.
Like the other software on this list, it supports reusable design elements, responsive design, animations, and many other features – and it integrates closely with other Creative Cloud programs including Photoshop and Illustrator.
Web designers aren’t graphic designers, but it can still be helpful to have access to a few graphic design tools to make quick modifications to images and streamline the web design workflow. Here are our top picks for image editing software.
Adobe Photoshop is the best choice if you are frequently editing images for your website designs. As part of the Creative Cloud, you can also get access to Adobe Illustrator, which is useful for creating icons, logos, and other illustrations for web designs.
There are a lot of tutorials out there about using Photoshop, since it’s so popular – and this is a good thing, particularly if you’re teaching yourself web design. Even if you’re not experienced in graphic design, you can pick up on the basics fairly quickly.
GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a free, open-source alternative to Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. It doesn’t look quite as nice and has a slightly higher learning curve, but it can do almost all of the same things – and it’s free, so you won’t have to pay a monthly fee for Adobe Creative Cloud.
If you’re willing to invest a little more time and effort in learning the basics of image manipulation using GIMP, you’ll be rewarded – and the official GIMP website has a huge range of tutorials, which make it easier to get started.
If you don’t want to spend a lot of time learning a new desktop program and just need to create and edit images quickly for your designs, Canva is a good option.
It’s free to get started, and this completely-online image editor has tons of easy-to-use tools that can help you create professional graphics right away, even if you don’t have much design experience.
Best of all, they’re usually very cheap – or even free. The features of these programs tend to be quite similar, but everyone has their own favorite. So find yours – here are our top picks for web design text editors.
Atom Text Editor
Atom is a free, open-source text editor that’s designed for macOS, Linux, and Windows. It’s developed by GitHub, one of the most well-known companies in web and applications development.
Notepad++ was first released in 2003, making it one of the oldest text editors that’s still widely used for coding today. It’s free and open source, but is only available for the Windows operating system.
In its modern incarnation, it supports syntax highlighting of over 78 different programming languages, and offers other features such as code folding, limited code autocompletion, find and replace, and simultaneous editing of code. It also has support for more than 140+ community-built macros and plugins for further features and extensibility.
Sublime Text is built in Python, and it supports syntax highlighting, while also offering additional advanced features like code “snippets,” auto-completion of code entries, simultaneous editing, customizable hotkeys, a built-in spell checker, and much more.
It also supports more than 250 visual themes and supports a wide variety of macros and plugins built by the community.
Use The Best Web Design Software For Your Projects!
We hope that this guide to web design software has helped you understand more about what you may need to use to build your own website. Take another look now, and make sure you choose the right tools for your unique project.
Not ready to take on the challenge of designing a website on your own? Contact Australian Internet Advertising for a free consultation, and see how our expert team of web designers can help!