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Karol K.
Contributor, Writer
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Web Design Software

Web designers use a wide range of tools to design, build, and maintain websites.

Interface design apps and prototyping tools help designers envision and communicate how websites will look and behave before they’re launched. Photo-editing and graphic design tools allow designers to manipulate images and create graphics. Code libraries, development environments, and hosting services allow developers to launch their websites and share them with the world.

If you’re new to web design, however, the huge number of options can feel a bit intimidating.

That’s why we created this list of the top 15 web design software tools, broken down by category. With both free and paid options, you’re sure to find an option that meets your needs and helps you bring your website to life.

Best Design Software for Website Creation

1. WordPress (Free and Paid)

wordpress.com

Here at WebsiteSetup.org, we recommend people to use WordPress to create their websites.

Why?

Through our experience creating hundreds of sites, we’ve found that WordPress offers the best combination of flexibility, power, and ease-of-use necessary to build and launch content-based websites.

And it seems like the internet agrees with us! Over 35% of all websites run on WordPress. WordPress powers popular blogs, e-commerce stores, communities, and more.

To get started with WordPress, you have two options:

    1. Set up a self-hosted WordPress site (see guide here)
    2. Sign up for a free WordPress.com account

If you’re just looking to host a small personal site, WordPress.com may be a great choice. However, if you’re starting a more complex project a self-hosted WordPress site is probably a better option.

If you are already using WordPress, but looking for help creating a WordPress theme or customizing WordPress pages, we recommend checking out the Genesis Theme Framework and the Elementor Page Builder.

Visit WordPress.com

Or follow our step-by-step WordPress tutorial (on how to create a website)

2. Bootstrap (Free)

bootstrap

Originally created by the engineering team at Twitter, Bootstrap is now the world’s most popular framework for building responsive, mobile-first websites.

Put simply, Bootstrap is a free library of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript that simplifies the process of coding a website from scratch. Bootstrap offers dozens of features like a grid system, responsive breakpoints, and a large library of components that make coding a website quick and easy.

The component library includes headers, navigation, buttons, forms, alerts, and more. The Bootstrap team has comprehensively documented each feature, complete with examples and suggestions for customization.

To get started with Bootstrap, simply download the latest version of the Bootstrap framework, copy one of the example templates, and start coding.

Visit GetBootstrap.com

Or follow our step-by-step Bootstrap tutorial here

3. Wix (Free and Paid)

wix

Wix is an easy-to-use, affordable alternative to WordPress.

Much like WordPress, Wix can be used to create a variety of different sites, including blogs and stores. Through its drag-and-drop editor, Wix makes it simple to set up and launch your site in just a few minutes.

Wix is a fully-managed subscription service, meaning that the company handles all the details around hosting the site, backing it up, and handling security.

Wix offers a free, ad-sponsored plan that includes hundreds of templates and options to choose from. Paid plans start at $13 per month and include ad removal, increased bandwidth, and additional space for videos.

Visit Wix.com

Or follow our step-by-step Wix tutorial here

4. Dreamweaver (Free Trial)

dreamweaver

Dreamweaver is Adobe’s application for coding, editing, and maintaining websites. It lets you edit websites both by coding them manually and through an intuitive visual interface.

Dreamweaver includes many of the features of a traditional, text-based Integrated Development Environment (IDE) like syntax-highlighting, automatic code-completion, and the ability to collapse and expand sections of code. You can even use Dreamweaver with Bootstrap!

Unlike a traditional IDE, however, Dreamweaver’s visual interface is what makes it really stand out. Any changes you make in your website’s code automatically display in real-time in Dreamweaver’s interface, and you can also point and click to edit your website’s code visually.

If you’d like more power than a simple drag-and-drop editor, but need something simpler than a code-only IDE, Dreamweaver is a fantastic option.

You can subscribe to Dreamweaver on its own for $20.99 per month or choose a subscription to Adobe’s full Creative Suite for $52.99 per month. Adobe offers 7-day free trials for both options, and discounts for students are frequently available.

Visit adobe.com/products/dreamweaver

Or follow our step-by-step Dreamweaver tutorial here

5. Squarespace (Paid)

squarespace

Squarespace is another website builder that serves as a third alternative to Wix and WordPress.

Much like Wix, Squarespace offers an intuitive drag-and-drop interface for creating your website. Squarespace also offers a huge variety of different themes and color customizations and includes many of the standards you’d expect like SSL encryption and the ability to build an online store.

Squarespace’s personal plan starts at $12 per month with limits of 20 pages and two contributors. The business plan lifts these limitations and costs $18 per month.

Visit Squarespace.com

Best Software for Interface Design & Prototyping

6. Figma (Free and Paid)

Figma

Despite being one of the newest tools on this list, Figma is also one of the most powerful. If you’re looking for a feature-loaded tool for interface design and prototyping, Figma may be the perfect fit.

Much like Sketch, the next app on this list, Figma features an intuitive, vector-based interface that makes designing websites simple. Anything you can do with Sketch or Adobe XD, you can also do with Figma.

What makes Figma really shine, however, is its collaborative, cloud-based approach. With Figma, multiple team members can edit a design file simultaneously. Business stakeholders can also leave comments, and developers can copy code snippets to simplify the process of turning your design into a real site.

Figma offers a free plan that includes up to 3 projects. Paid plans start at $12 per month and include advanced options like custom user permissions.

Visit Figma.com

7. Sketch 3 (Free Trial)

Sketch

Sketch is an extremely popular interface design tool focused on simplifying the process of creating beautiful, high-fidelity mockups. Sketch gained popularity in the early 2010s when it won a design award from Apple.

Designers love Sketch because its uncluttered and intuitive interface makes it easy to create beautiful designs quickly, without the steep learning curve often associated with other design tools. Sketch also has a comprehensive ecosystem of plugins and integrations that bring added power and make it simple to integrate Sketch into your workflow.

While Sketch has recently added some features focused on prototyping and collaboration, the program isn’t as advanced in these areas as some of the other tools on this list.

Sketch is available for macOS and, like many software products, is sold as a “pay-once” license for $99/year. Sketch offers a free, full-featured, 30-day trial.

Visit Sketch.com

8. Adobe XD (Free Trial)

adobe xd

Tired of being beaten out by simpler tools that were better-suited to interface design and prototyping, Adobe released XD in 2019 as its answer to the other tools on this list.

XD is a powerful, vector-based tool that also supports prototyping animations. If you like Adobe’s other products like Photoshop and Illustrator, chances are you’ll also like XD.

The program also supports opening and editing files from Sketch, making it a popular choice for Windows users who need to collaborate with other designers who use Sketch. That said, novices may find XD’s learning curve a bit steep, and even many professionals prefer other tools on this list.

You can subscribe to XD on its own for $9.99 per month or choose a subscription to Adobe’s full Creative Suite for $52.99 per month. Adobe offers 7-day free trials for both options.

Visit adobe.com/products/xd

9. InVision Studio (Free and Paid)

invision studio

While InVision got its start offering a cloud-based prototype service that integrates with tools like Sketch and Photoshop, it now offers its own full-featured interface design and prototyping tool called Studio.

Think of InVision Studio like an advanced version of Sketch, complete with advanced motion animations, collaboration tools, and options to create and share prototypes.

InVision Studio is currently in free beta. To share prototypes using its cloud service, you can opt for a free plan or upgrade to one of InVision’s paid offerings, which allow for more collaborators and projects.

Visit InVisionapp.com

10. Framer X (Free Trial)

framer x

Framer originally started as a JavaScript library and toolset for prototyping, but it’s evolved into the most powerful tool on this list.

Framer X is a rapid prototyping tool that supports complex animations and generates the code for React components on the fly. At first glance, Framer’s vector-based interface looks extremely similar to Sketch, but there’s far more power under the hood.

Designers like Framer for its responsive design features, an array of premade components, and support for advanced animations. Developers love it because it simplifies the process of turning a design into a production-ready code.

If you’re already part of the React ecosystem, or if you simply want a powerful interface capable of creating high-fidelity prototypes with realistic interactions and animations, Framer X is a fantastic option.

Framer X offers a 14-day free trial. Plans for individuals are $12 per month, with discounts for teams of 5 or more.

Visit Framer.com

Best Software for Graphic Design

11. Adobe Photoshop (Free Trial)

adobe photoshop

If you’re looking for a powerful, do-it-all graphic design tool, Adobe’s Photoshop has been the leader for decades.

While originally released purely for photo editing, Photoshop has evolved to support a variety of use cases, including interface design, video editing, and more, while remaining true to its photo-editing use.

While many designers prefer to work exclusively in Photoshop because of its flexibility, others prefer more specialized tools. Like Adobe’s other products, the learning curve is a bit steeper because of the vast array of tools and options Photoshop offers.

You can subscribe to Photoshop on its own for $9.99 per month or choose a subscription to Adobe’s full Creative Suite for $52.99 per month. Adobe offers 7-day free trials for both options.

Visit adobe.com/products/photoshop

12. Canva (Free and Paid)

canva

If you need a simple tool for creating graphics for social media posts, flyers, or business cards, Canva is a fantastic option.

Users love Canva for its easy-to-use, drag-and-drop interface. With thousands of templates and hundreds of design types, marketers and hobbyists can produce beautiful imagery in just a few clicks.

Canva offers a free plan with over 8000 templates. Pro plans start at $9.95 per month and include advanced features like the ability to export transparent PNGs and the option to resize a graphic for multiple use cases in just one click.

Visit Canva.com

13. Vectr (Free)

vectr

Vectr is a free, cloud-based illustration tool with features similar to Sketch and Adobe Illustrator.

If you want to create complex illustrations, or simply design a website or mobile app, Vectr offers everything you need to get started.

Vectr’s drag-and-drop editor is easy to learn, and since it’s cloud-based, it’s easy to share designs with others for feedback and collaboration.

Visit Vectr.com

14. Pixelmator (Free trial)

pixelmator

Much like Photoshop, Pixelmator is a feature-rich photo editor for macOS.

While you can use Pixelmator for illustration or interface design, it works best as a tool for editing and retouching photos, with features for color correction, retouching, and applying filters.

Pixelmator costs $39.99 and is available on the macOS app store. Pixelmator also offers a free, 15-day trial on its website.

Visit Pixelmator.com

15. GIMP (Free)

gimp

GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program), is a popular, open-source photo editor that supports Windows, Linux, and macOS.

While the interface feels a bit dated, don’t let that fool you. GIMP packs quite a bit of power and is capable of nearly everything that Photoshop can do.

While the free price point is certainly appealing, GIMP isn’t the easiest tool on this list to learn or use day-to-day. Still, it’s a great choice for budget-conscious designers who need to edit photos or design interfaces.

Visit Gimp.org

Going Further

While the tools on this are certainly powerful, your results will ultimately depend on your knowledge. Check out our resources and tutorials to continue leveling up your skills.


Want to ask a question or leave a comment?


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47 comments

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  1. Avatar

    I have a rather unique requirement I need a recommendation for. I have piles of scanned letters and Kodachrome slides from my late father’s time in the Army over the Vietnam era. I want to organize them for my siblings in some kind of web-like interface. The big catch is that it needs to be offline (stored on a thumb drive, etc.) so I don’t have to pay hosting fees for perpetuity. Do you have any recommendations for easy-to-use software for a web-authoring novice like myself? Is it easy to pull something like this offline once completed? Thanks!

    1. Avatar

      One possibility would be to install WordPress locally and build a website with the photos on your computer. Here is an article for that: https://websitesetup.org/install-wordpress-locally-xampp/

      However, if you want to be able to simply share it with your siblings, a simple HTML site would be the best option. That way, they don’t need to create a local server themselves but can simply open the HTML file in their browser and they are good to go.

      I would just google for free HTML templates. Since you know some of the markup, you should be able to figure out how to modify it to your needs and include the images in the pages. Otherwise, you might want to opt for a tool like Dreamweaver that can create pages for you.

  2. Avatar

    Framer X is forgotten. It’s a design tool like Sketch but allows to build code components and also use existing packages to extend your design, just like developers do.

  3. Avatar

    I have used Dreamweaver for years, and even though ADOBE is forcing their Creative Cloud which makes you have a subscription- I dare to say not true.
    I have used a stand-alone Dreamweaver app for PC up to current. Seems one has to do some digging nowadays to acquire it. Dreamweaver is a cats meow, coding experience is a plus but not required. Takes a little getting used to if you have no experience with HTML5 or CSS.

  4. Avatar

    My web design apps consists of Bootstrap Studio, Blocs, Mobirise and Pinegrow Web Editor. For illustration and photographic manipulation work you can’t go past Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo, and if you’re into print publishing Affinity Publisher. Another excellent app for image work is Acorn. When I need to get down and dirty with the code then it’s BBEdit or Visual Code Studio.

  5. Avatar

    While the list of software applications in this article are certainly worth looking into I have to take exception to most of them being lumped under the title of ‘web design software”. Web Design Software is not the same as Photo Editing Software which with the exception of two programs listed, is what they are. While you may utilize photo editing software, for example, for the photos used in a website, most photo editing software is not ideally designed to create the required framework for a website. There’s more to a website than photos and text. Today we have an emphasis on mobile design and such designs are often Responsive designs that automatically adapt to the screen dimensions of the device the website is shown on.
    WordPress is a content management platform and not specifically a web design tool per-se, even though you can tweek a design in WordPress through its interface. WordPress utilizes templates that are imported. The ability to customize a WordPress template depends on the design of the template and possibly what you know about the PHP programming language as well, to go beyond what WordPress or the template offers. GIMP and PhotoShop are capable of photo editors but they do not design a website framework. For example, neither GIMP or Photoshop create Responsive Mobile frameworks. If you want to create mobile and responsive websites from scratch you’ll need different tools. If all you want is to work with templates and do minimal editing WordPress will do.
    Dreamweaver and Mobrise on the other hand are definitely website development tools, with Dreamweaver being a professional tool. But you will still need other tools, such as Photoshop or GIMP to work with photos and media content because neither Dreamweaver or Mobrise provide such capability. So your list of Web Design tools is useful from the standpoint of making newcomers aware, but from a web design standpoint most of the tools you list are image oriented not website design oriented – so you should make that subtle but very big distinction upfront. Your listing needs to be broken down into website design tools and photo editing tools and reordered accordingly.

  6. Avatar

    We used to have our website (an online store) with XSite Pro. It was great. Thankfully, the woman (I’ll call her R) that works for me taught herself XSite inside and out and we continued to use it long after the company closed. Then GoDaddy made us switch to a new server and XSite doesn’t work anymore – yes, even though they promised me it would.
    R tried WordPress but it doesn’t seem to be as nice of a site now. R tried the programs GoDaddy offers but they don’t do what she wants them to do.
    The website has been a complete nightmare since GoDaddy made me switch servers over a year ago. If it weren’t for my normal face-to-face sales, I’d be closed by now. “Under Construction” is practically my DBA.
    I want to buy a program that is not a subscription based program, I don’t want to pay monthly fees.
    Suggestions?
    Thanks, A

  7. Avatar

    Hi, I am looking to build a website to gather research data. I would in principle like to have a questionnaire functionality, however where people get an access code, and then can at some point follow up and do a 2nd questionnaire with the data linked to the one from the first.

    1. Avatar

      Hey Basil, WordPress definitely has plugins to create online questionnaires. I don’t know of any that fit your exact specifications from the top of my head but that’s nothing a little research can’t solve.

  8. Avatar

    Forgot another requirement: 3. I would like to be able to password protect ONE page of my site where we have personal contact information without having to password protect the entire website (as I have to in Website Builder).

    1. Avatar
      Nick Schäferhoff

      I know that in WordPress, you have this functionality built in. I don’t know about every other website builder since I never had to use this before.

  9. Avatar

    I would like to find a website building software that would allow you to: 1. sort columns by (ex: Last Name, First Name, etc.) and 2. Be able to adjust picture sizes – or even superimpose text over a picture. Is there such a product? I have used WordPress before (but probably the free version from Big Daddy hosting) and it doesn’t. I have also used Website Builder and Web.com and neither of them will do it either. Thanks for your help

    1. Avatar
      Nick Schäferhoff

      Hey Joni, WordPress and other website builders can do all of the above. However, much of it depends on the configuration you are using. For example, in WordPress there is the TablePress plugin for all things columns. Superimposing text on images is part of your theme, so you need to find one that supports this feature. In other site solutions it might be the same. So, it’s all a matter of research.

      Does this answer your questions?

  10. Avatar

    We want to make changes on our existing website without depending on the company HOSTING it because they keep charging us for every little thing they do. What is the best way for us to make changes on our own? The company has given us instructions on how to make minor changes such as additional writing, but major changes such as TITLES on PAGES such as ABOUT US, they refuse to tell us and want to charge us $500 for making those minor changes.