7/ Xara Web Designer MX
Xara Web Designer MX works in a similar way to Serif WebPlus and is equally easy to get to grips with.
A gallery pane to the right of the screen lets you keep track of your pages and you can change colours just by dragging a swatch from the bar at the bottom. We were impressed by some of the features on offer here. Even the standard version lets you create fly-out menus and pop ups. Something we especially liked is the way it automatically reflows text around a picture as you drag it around allowing you to move away from the rigid template feel.
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For £89.99 you can buy the MX Premium version that offers extras including Flash animation and slick page-transitions but for most people the standard edition will have everything they need.
8/ Web Studio 5.0
For medium-sized businesses or those that perhaps need to maintain multiple sites there are a number of options available. Of these semi-pro offerings Web Studio 5.0 offers the familiar drag and drop operation, a shopping cart, forms design, drop-down menu creation and graphical rollovers.
There's a steeper learning curve here than with some of the other tools as you start with a blank page rather than a template. However, it uses a ribbon-style interface and has video tutorials built in so even though it's a powerful tool it won't scare away beginners.
A single copy is US$159.99 and there's a business licence option that allows you to use the software on up to five machines for US$630.
Price: Modules from £31.15
CoffeeCup is a little different from the other offerings here in that it's modular. You buy the Visual Site Designer (US$49) to get started then add things like Shopping Cart Designer and Web Form Builder as required.
The extra modules cost around US$39 each but there are package deals available which combine the most popular options at a reduced rate. It's straightforward to use with some attractive templates included. For hardened web geeks there's an HTML editor module available which allows you to work with the underlying code of the site.
If you want to start small but have the ability to grow your web design capability as your business expands CoffeeCup is an attractive proposition.
10/ NetObjects Fusion XII
NetObjects has been making web design software for over 15 years and its latest offering Fusion XII combines some powerful features. It has eCommerce options, integrated analytics to help you assess your site's performance and access to an online image bank. You also get a Site Wizard that lets you build pages fast – ideal for trying out ideas – and there are templates for mobile-friendly sites.
Fusion is based around a site map that lets you see how all of your pages link together and there's the option to access the HTML code if you need to. Fusion is relatively pricey (though it's a lot cheaper than pro tools like Dreamweaver) but it is a very powerful package offering a lot of flexibility.
If you don't need all of the latest bells and whistles there's a free Fusion Essentials version based on an earlier release. This still allows you to build a good-looking site and is a useful way of seeing if Fusion is for you before you lay out any cash.