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Best Overall: Adobe Dreamweaver CC at Amazon
"Incorporates both a "what you see is what you get" (WYSIWYG) visual interface and a clean, color-coded text editor to work directly on the code."
Best Free Software: WordPress.org
"A full content management system (CMS), it’s ideal for websites or blogs where content is regularly posted or updated."
Best HTML Editor: Atom
"Open-source (and free), Atom is billed as a “hackable” text editor that anyone can iterate upon."
Best Web-based Software: Webflow
"The code Webflow creates is impressively clean, with less clutter than in other, "code-free" builders out there."
Best for Interface Design: Sketch
"A vector-based graphics editing tool for designing, wireframing, and prototyping websites and mobile apps alike."
Best Online Website Builder: Wix
"Thanks to affordable, easy-to-use online website builders like Wix, website creation has never been more accessible."
Best Offline Website Builder: Mobirise
"Its user-friendly, block-based WYSIWYG interface makes it simple for anyone to drag and drop their way to a clean, modern-looking website."
Courtesy of Amazon
One of Dreamweaver’s main strengths is its live preview functionality. With it, you can see exactly how your site will look and function, across a variety of platforms, before it's published. It is compatible with just about any commonly used browser, and support for responsive design means your site adjusts to the size of the screen it’s being viewed on, whether on a desktop, tablet, or smartphone. There is a learning curve to the software, but once you’re familiar, the process of building a website is simple and streamlined.
As part of the Adobe’s cloud-based services, a subscription is required. You can pay monthly or yearly, slightly discounted with the longer commitment. But this also means you’ll automatically get the latest updates, features, and support. Many design professionals need other related Adobe apps anyway, so a bundle of some or all Creative Cloud programs is a smart investment, both for cost-efficiency and seamless integration of tools.
Courtesy of WordPress
In a lot of ways, WordPress occupies a world of its own. As a full content management system (CMS), it’s ideal for websites or blogs where content is regularly posted or updated. You will need to have your own web hosting account to install the WordPress software, which is usually painless since most hosts offer one-click WordPress installation. But part of what makes it so popular is that it’s all available as a completely free and open-source download from WordPress.org. (In contrast, WordPress.com is a more hands-off solution with paid plans, where your site or blog is hosted on WordPress itself with no access to the backend files or code.)
With the WordPress.org software, you have complete flexibility to customize your site by uploading themes created by yourself or other web designers. There’s a huge community of developers creating WordPress-specific themes and custom plugins, available for free or for purchase. This includes robust drag-and-drop page builders to make customizing the design and layout of your site even easier. You could create your website without touching the code at all, but now you have the option to modify as much or as little as you would like.
Courtesy of Atom
When it comes down to it, web design still centers around a bunch of lines of code — letters and numbers and symbols that tell a browser what to display. That’s why text-based editors are, to this day, an important tool for many developers. But you don’t need to code in plain Notepad, especially not when full-featured HTML editors like Atom exist. Open-source (and free), Atom is billed as a “hackable” text editor that anyone can iterate upon. It was developed by GitHub, and it connects to a community where contributions and support are encouraged.
Atom runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and it includes features to make programming more efficient for a lot of different coding languages. It gives you project organization, multi-pane views, smart autocomplete, and more. Visually, it makes things much easier on the eyes with customizable colors, styles, and formatting for the text and background. You can use any of the pre-installed themes for the interface and adjust the look to your preferences. You can install thousands of free user-created packages as well.
Courtesy of Webflow
Webflow offers the general ease-of-use of a WYSIWYG online website builder, but with extra layers of complexity to top it all off. It brings together a lot of tools, integrating a CMS, forms and data, SEO tools, collaboration for teams, and some e-commerce functions for online stores and payments. Webflow also has its own hosting service, and you can use the limited free trial version as long as you like if you’re only hosting with Webflow.
When you begin creating your new site, you’ll find a large, varied collection of free templates to start from, with even more available for purchase. These templates are geared toward different types of sites you may want to set up, from blogs to portfolios to e-commerce sites.
Interested in reading more reviews? Take a look at our selection of the best Mac publishing software.
Courtesy of Sketch
While many designers use Adobe Photoshop to establish the visual foundations of their websites, Sketch is an alternative with a stronger focus on user interface and digital design. Available as paid software, exclusive to Mac, Sketch is a vector-based graphics editing tool for designing, wireframing, and prototyping websites and mobile apps alike. Working with vectors makes responsive design easy, and you can mirror your work on iOS to preview what it would look like on a phone or tablet. Collaborative features for sharing artboards and mockups with team members or clients are included, too, since smooth workflow is an important part of what Sketch provides.
Unlike with full website builders and HTML editors, extra steps are required to turn your Sketch designs into actual websites, but the program exports code and other files in a way that they’re optimized and ready to be converted to HTML and CSS. You’ll also find a wide assortment of plugins and extensions available to help streamline the process to meet your needs.
Check out our other reviews of the best laptops for design available on the market today.
Courtesy of Wix
Thanks to affordable, easy-to-use online website builders like Wix, website creation has never been more accessible. It doesn’t require a whole lot of effort or expertise to create an impressive-looking, decently customized web presence on Wix, so it’s not hard to see why the platform is so popular. The core tools are free with no time limit, but you can subscribe to monthly premium plans to unlock more advanced professional features.
The process starts by asking if you want to use Wix’s Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI), which asks a few basic questions and automatically builds a site based on your answers. Or, you can choose from one of the hundreds of elegant, artist-designed templates. Once you’re in the innovative drag-and-drop editor, you can add, move, resize, and customize modules, all without touching the code. There’s also a vast market of free and premium functionality you can add to your pages, like photo galleries, calendars, social media feeds, and music players. You can even access site traffic analytics, get insights from an SEO wizard, and manage a database of your contacts and subscribers.
Courtesy of Mobirise
With all the web-based, DIY website builders on the market today, Mobirise holds a somewhat rare position as an offline program with comparable features. Its user-friendly, block-based WYSIWYG interface makes it simple for anyone to drag and drop their way to a clean, modern-looking website. Templates based on the Bootstrap 4 mobile-first framework ensure sites are naturally responsive and look great across devices.
Mobirise is available as a free download for Windows and Mac, though you have to pay for most themes, extensions, and content blocks. This includes a Code Editor extension that lets you edit the HTML/CSS of any block or add custom HTML blocks of your own, which may be worthwhile if you’re looking for more flexibility and control. When you’re done, you can publish directly to an FTP site or GitHub, or save to your local drive to upload to a hosting service later.
Our writers spent 3.5 hours researching the best web design software on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 40 different software overall, screened options from 34 different brands and manufacturers, read over 12 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 7 of the software themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.