Build your own website
Web design software transformed web building: if you were a keen coder, software could speed up your coding with auto-completion and macros; if you preferred to design visually, your software would turn your designs into code and stick them online.
Although more and more web building platforms are online and based around fairly inflexible templates, web design software still has a key role to play - especially if you like to get things done when you're far from a data connection. So which web design apps are the best? Let's find out.
1. CoffeeCup Free HTML Editor
Make your own professional-standard website in minutes
CoffeeCup's paid-for products are excellent, and CoffeeCup Free HTML Editor is great too. It combines coding and WYSIWYG design in an app that runs quickly, is easy to learn and can produce some stellar sites.
It lacks some of the features of its paid-for siblings - features such as the useful Color Schemer and built-in FTP uploading are reserved for the paid products - but unlike some rivals it's in continual development to keep it current.
A powerful text-based editor packed with extra tools for web developers
PSPad might not be pretty, but it's pretty good. Inside the defiantly old-school Windows interface is a powerful programmer's editor that includes an FTP client for on-server editing, templates for common languages such as HTML, PHP, VBScript and many others, multiple document editing and macros that you can use to create and trigger commonly used code.
3. Google Web Designer
Create stunning HTML5 animations for your own site
Google Web Designer's name is a little misleading, because it's really an advert and animation designer: it's best suited to people who need to create animated, cross-platform elements that they'll then use in another program (or add to their otherwise hand-coded sites). But if you're one of those people there's lots to like including Google Drive integration, 3D objects, layers and events.
As Google's showcase of animations created using Web Designer demonstrates, the app is capable of creating some really impressive results.
An older website builder, but still a favorite
We have a soft spot for KompoZer, which is a spin-off from the same Mozilla that created Firefox - but where Firefox has been in constant development from day one, KompoZer hasn't been updated since 2010.
That's a problem, because the languages used on the Web haven't stood still: while it's still possible to create sites in KompoZer, we think there are much better and easier ways to do it - such as the BlueGriffon app, which is based on Firefox and offers a more modern approach. Unlike KompoZer, however, BlueGriffon requires a paid licence for its most useful features.
A text-based editor for more experienced web developers
It's overkill for beginners, but if you're a keen coder then SynWrite is well worth a look, and not just because it's small enough to carry around on a modest USB flash drive.
It's a fully featured code editor with macro recording, plugins, clipboard history, text clips, stacks of coding helpers, colour pickers and previews, search and replace across multiple files and code templates too. It's been designed for every kind of web work from layout to coding, and it's a good choice for expert users.
6. Mobirise Website Builder
Create responsive websites that look great on desktop and mobile devices
You've got to love an app whose sales blurb says "creating well-designed websites is a real fun" (sic), especially when it actually is. Mobirise can create good looking, responsive websites with the minimum of fuss.
It's all about blocks: you choose the type of block you want, drag it to where you want it and change the default content to suit your own requirements. It's easy to see how your design will work on desktop, smartphone and tablet, and you don't have to use the pre-defined styles if you don't want to.
Another responsive design tool, but keep its limitations in mind
The free version of TOWeb is there to promote the more powerful paid-for versions, so as you'd expect, its features are limited: you can only create one website, the size is limited to 10MB and TOWeb will put ads in the website. It's simple, based on customisable and generally good looking templates, supports multiple languages and enables you to publish automatically to a wide range of web hosts.
8. Weebly Free
A simple drag-and-drop editor that's ideal for making your first site
We've steered clear of online-only services in our round-up as they tend to be template-based web builders rather than web designers, but Weebly is a little bit different as it enables you to design the content of your pages by dragging and dropping.
You get free hosting and unlimited pages, and while you can't remove Weebly's branding - that's £5 per month for the Starter package, which enables you to use your own domain name - it's a great starting point if you want to make something that looks good without taking forever to build.
A web-based site builder that's very capable, but intimidating for beginners
The dark, dense interface might be a little off-putting for absolute beginners and it isn't as easy to use as some rivals, but there's no doubt that openElement offers a lot of power for more confident designers.
It does much more than most other WYSIWYG apps, and in the right hands it's capable of great things, but we think the interface is a little confusing compared to similarly useful apps like CoffeeCup Free.
A stylish online web builder if you don't mind the ads and limited page views
Like Weebly, Webflow is an online app that's part of a suite of paid-for services - and like Weebly, that means there are limits on what you can do with it. The free edition won't let you export HTML/CSS code for use outside Webflow's own hosting (although you can prototype your site for free with a webflow.io subdomain), your free site is limited to two pages and tech support is online-only via a busy discussion forum. If those limitations are okay, however, Webflow is a really great app for designing pages that pop.
Have we missed your preferred web design software? Share your recommendations in the comments below.
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