The best web design software streamlines the website building process - whether you’re a skilled developer or it’s your first time designing a site.
Designing a website has never been more accessible. So, as we face 2023, it’s a good time to focus on building or refreshing your website to reflect your brand’s hopes and values for the coming 12 months. New year, new you.
Steve Clark - Creative Editor
The very best web design software also work well with third-party tools. If the name of the game is boosting your online presence, you can add online form builders, image hosting, and CDNs to your site without much fuss.
To help you find the right tool for the job, we’ve tested the best software for designing your website - whatever your budget, whatever your coding experience. As part of our tests, we’ve compared everything from UI/UX and supported web languages to the moment when you finally go live.
- For more web design tools that fit your workflow, try the best Adobe Dreamweaver alternatives and the best Adobe Portfolio alternatives.
The best web design software in 2023
Wix is more of a website builder than a coding platform, but it is one of the most popular online website creators, offering a range of plans and products. The free version has Wix branding, limited storage space and bandwidth, but move up to the most popular plan (unlimited) and there’s no Wix ads.
An excellent collection of 500 plus templates gets the design process off to a quick start. The drag-and-drop editor gives you all kinds of tools and features to explore – an image editor, video backgrounds, animations, social buttons, an integrated site blog – and just about everything can be tweaked, tuned and restyled. Furthermore, as of recently, Wix introduced Wix Turbo, which increases the speed and performance of websites substantially.
All the core editing functions are really smartly designed, and operate more like a native app than your average website builder. Wix does have some weaknesses, with tech support seeming a little sluggish and limited in some respects. But there’s no denying that it's the best web design software, with a superb editor and range of top-notch templates make it easy for novices to create something impressive.
Read our full Wix review.
Adobe Dreamweaver is a long-established app that allows you to code your website design directly, without having to know too much about programming. The software works through a mix of visual editing and HTML editing, which means it shouldn't have too steep a learning curve for most users.
Additionally, while coding your own website design requires you to put in more effort than simply using an existing ready made template, at least you have the chance to ensure you get the look you actually want, rather than trying to work around someone else's design specifications.
A particularly good feature of Dreamweaver is that it allows you to produce a responsive design, which means your website can be optimized to display on desktops as well as mobile devices, without limiting the user experience.
However, if you are a more advanced user you may be pleased to note that Dreamweaver provides multi-monitor support for Windows. It also supports the Chromium Embedded Framework (CEF) to work with HTML5 elements and CSS grids. Additionally, there's also support for Git to allow you to edit source code directly from within Dreamweaver.
Dreamweaver is available as part of Adobe's mid-range packaged app subscription service, Creative Cloud, which also includes Photoshop.
Read our full Adobe Dreamweaver review.
WordPress is an alternative way to set up and design your website, being rather different to the other offerings we've highlighted here because it's actually a content management system (CMS) (opens in new tab). The power here is that it is a simple matter to set up a website in minutes. Indeed, many web hosting packages include a one-click install of WordPress from their Control Panel, but even without that, WordPress is relatively easy to install.
Once installed, the backend for administration and management is very user-friendly. You can use the existing WordPress design templates for your website, but more likely you will want to download and install an existing free or premium WordPress template – all of which can be done with just a few clicks.
Even if you would prefer to work with your own design, you can often do so using drag-and-drop functions, usually from a downloaded design with an in-built framework. This can allow you to create a professional-looking website without having to learn programming or coding at all.
Better still, there are so many free add-ons available to download and install, often requiring nothing more than a few clicks. This makes the whole process of customizing your website very simple, and it does not require any professional skills.
Overall, WordPress is a very easy CMS to use, and can provide a very quick way to get any form of website online fast. The huge variety of template designs and additional community supported features mean that getting something which is near the mark of what you want isn't hard at all. Just ensure that in the settings you select to turn off comments so as to avoid spam.
Read our full WordPress review.
Weebly is another online CMS, and it's one of the best web design software tools for users with little or no coding experience, providing easy to use drag and drop tools for creating a website.
Weebly also provides the ability for users to create online stores using existing templates to work with their simply website-building framework.
The number of themes available for Weebly is somewhat limited, but the designs are clean and professional-looking, plus there are options to personalize accordingly. Additionally, the themes are responsive, which means they are optimized to work with mobile devices, plus they have in built SEO, analytics, and even a feature for posting ads directly to Facebook.
There's a free tier available for basic use, and allows you to get used to the service. However, to use your own domain and get rid of ads, you'll need the Professional plan.
Read our full Weebly review.
Webflow is a cloud-based online web designer that's been created specifically to allow people with no coding knowledge to get started with web design.
Aside from being truly cross-platform, as it's web-based, Webflow emphasizes the concept of 'smart codelessness'. In the first instance this means a crisp drag and drop interface allowing you to drop elements such as text and images seamlessly onto a page using one of the freely available templates.
Unlike many WYSIWYG editors, the code produced is very clean and well-written even if you choose the 'I have no coding experience' option during setup. Webflow's automation tool will create the necessary HTML/CSS code for you. You can make granular changes to individual elements using the panels on the right.
Webflow offers a free demonstration of its features via the website, and you can also subscribe for a free Starter package which allows you to create up to two projects.
Read our full Webflow review.
Bluefish is among the smallest web design tools available today. The tiny installer takes only a few moments to setup. While the interface is text-only, it's clearly designed with novices in mind as it employs clear-cut toolbars, user customizable menus and syntax highlighting.
Bluefish has an excellent search function, allowing you to find text across multiple projects. The tool also has no trouble juggling hundreds of documents at the same time. Although Bluefish supports working with remote files, the varied and useful dialogs and wizards don't currently support direct upload of web pages via FTP.
Despite the best efforts of the developers, Bluefish may take some time to get used to. The tool is available free of charge, however, so you have nothing to lose by giving it a try.
Visual Studio Code (or VScode) has become a popular web design tool among developers. It offers a variety of packages and free extensions that can be downloaded from its marketplace to add additional features – and the code editor itself can be customized.
While a lot of people may be intimated by the idea of coding if they have no programming experience, at some point in the web design process it can be important to be able to edit code directly. This is particularly helpful if you want to customize code for existing software add-ons in order to get the features you want for your website. Visual Studio Code can help make the process less painful by providing a dedicated platform for coding.
Read our full Visual Studio Code review.
Best web design software: Buying advice
How to choose the best web design software for you
Why you can trust TechRadar Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
When deciding which web design software is best for you, first consider what your actual needs are. Budget software options can sometimes prove limited when it comes to the variety of tools available, while higher-end software can really cater for every need, so do ensure you have a good idea of which features you think you may need.
Additionally, you will also need to consider whether you're happy to set up with a third-party platform or whether you are designing a website to host just for yourself.
Also factor in skill-level. If you have low or no coding knowledge, you'll fair better with a simplified drag-and-drop editor until you're more experienced.
What is web design software
Web design software lets you create sites either using code or, in many cases, by selecting elements and dragging them into position on the page. Generally speaking, web design tools are front-end focused - so the software is geared around helping you build stunning interfaces and designing experiences that your users love. That’s important because, in a crowded market, it’s not enough to capture an audience once; you want them to return to you again and again. For the back-end - where the 'magic' happens - you’ll want to explore the best web development tools.
What other web design tools do I need?
If you're involved in web design, the chances are you'll also need some graphic design skills and assets. And the best web design software integrates well with third-party tools and platforms. Here we'll look at a couple of other resources and assets you'll properly need to help with creating the best website design process:
You don't need anything too expensive or fancy unless you're chasing a career in graphic design or illustration. But, you'll probably find yourself wanting to use graphic design software, the best font resources, and the best logo designers (or even a free logo maker) to give your site a visual punch to stand out from the crowd.
There are a lot of different packages out there. Photoshop is the industry-standard, but we've tested plenty of alternatives to Adobe Photoshop, too. If you're not signed up for an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, try GIMP - one of our favorite free photo editors and an excellent digital art and drawing tool.
Stock photo libraries
On top of creating your own graphics, there's also a good chance you'll want to use stock photos to really give your website a professional look.
Stock photos are available on almost any subject matter, and on top of that there are also an increasing number of stock video websites, in case you want to add video media.
How we test the best web design software
When testing the best software for web design, we look at a variety of factors, including ease of use, interface & experience, and value for money. We also explore how well the tool meets user expectations - whether it's a coding platform for experienced web designers or a low/no-code offering for newcomers.
To test for the best web design software we first set up an account with the relevant software platform. We then assess the service to see how the software could be used for different site designs and platforms, and different situations and use-cases. The aim is to push each web design tool to see how useful its features were and also how easy it was to get to grips with any more advanced tools.
- Bring your website designs to life with the best Adobe Stock alternatives for royalty-free images, videos, graphics, and more.