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Best web design software of 2022: Free and paid, for Windows, Mac, Linux, and online

PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
The best web design software - Wix, Adobe Dreamweaver, WordPress, Weebly and Webflow logo on on a laptop with a brick wall background
(Image credit: Future)

The best web design software makes it simple and easy to build a website, either by offering a coding platform, or a drag-and-drop interface.

It used to be the case that the only option was to code a website directing, using HTML & CSS and even JavaScript. However, these days drag-and-drop editors have become much more commonplace, making it a breeze for anyone to customize or even build their own website.

Whichever option you prefer, all of them make it easier to build in the elements you require on your website, and can work with additional tools such as form builders, image hosting, and even content delivery networks (CDN).

In this guide we have focused on the best web design tools currently available on the market. Similar to the best website builder services, when weighing up which to include, we focus on ease of use, supported web languages, cost, and how easy the tools make it to upload the finished project once you are done.

We've also featured the best graphic design software (opens in new tab).

Best web design software for beginners (Image credit: Wix)
The best web design software for beginners

Specifications

Free version: Available
Difficulty: Easy

Reasons to buy

+
Very easy to use
+
No coding required
+
Huge range of powerful features
+
Yet still highly user-friendly

Reasons to avoid

-
Free version has limitations

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 the superb editor and range of top-notch templates make it easy for web building novices to create something impressive.

Read our full Wix review.

Best website design tool for pros (Image credit: Adobe)
The best web design software for professionals

Specifications

Free version: Trial
Difficulty: Advanced

Reasons to buy

+
Customize your design
+
Build a responsive design
+
HTML5 support

Reasons to avoid

-
Subscription-based pricing model

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.

Best for beginner customization (Image credit: WordPress)
The best custom option for beginners

Specifications

Free version: Available
Difficulty: Easy

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to install and use
+
Many available features
+
Pre-built website templates

Reasons to avoid

-
Watch out for spam

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.

Best web design software for those with no coding skills (Image credit: Weebly)
The DIY e-commerce website

Specifications

Free version: Available
Difficulty: Easy

Reasons to buy

+
Professional look
+
Mobile-friendly
+
Easy to personalize

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited themes
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Ads in free version

Weebly is another online CMS, this time targeted at people with little or no coding experience, by 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.

Best for low-code/no-code cloud solutions (Image credit: Webflow)
Cloud-based offering that needs no coding knowledge

Specifications

Free version: Available
Difficulty: Easy

Reasons to buy

+
Drag and drop GUI
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Truly cross-platform

Reasons to avoid

-
Interface takes time to master

Webflow is a cloud-based service which has 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.

Best lightweight web design program (Image credit: Bluefish)

6. Bluefish

Lightweight and easy to use web coding platform

Specifications

Free version: Fully free
Difficulty: Intermediate

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight and quick
+
Use advanced code via wizards

Reasons to avoid

-
No visual interface

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.

While the main focus is on HTML, Bluefish supports a huge range of other languages including PHP, Java, JavaScript, SQL, XML and CSS. Unlike visual WYSIWYG web design tools, the text interface makes for much cleaner code.

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. 

Best text editor for web design (Image credit: Microsoft)
A text editor from Microsoft

Specifications

Free version: Fully free
Difficulty: Advanced

Reasons to buy

+
Customizable
+
Loads of integrations
+
Source control tools

Reasons to avoid

-
May be too complex for beginners

Visual Studio Code (or VScode) has become popular among developers – the ones who aren’t put off by the fact that it’s a Microsoft product, anyway. 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.

Visual Studio Code sports its own terminal and debugger, supports linting, and has integration with all manner of source control tools. It especially offers good support for Javascript and Python, making it potentially useful not just for coding the frontend of a website but also potentially some backend functions as well.

Read our full Visual Studio Code review.


Other web design tools you might find useful

If you're involved in web design, the chances are you'll also need some graphic design skills and assets. Here we'll look at a couple of other resources and assets you'll properly need to help with your website design process:


1. Graphics program

You don't need anything too expensive or fancy unless you're chasing a career in graphic design or illustration. However, you'll probably find yourself wanting to create simple logos, headings, text features, as well as manipulate photos, all as part of your website design.

There are a lot of different packages out there, from GIMP which is a completely free software platform, to older software such as Jasc's Paint Shop Pro which remains a competent program that can be bought on the cheap at Amazon.

2. Stock photos

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.

Even better is that there are a number of free stock image and video websites, but be advised that these tend to be much more limited than paid-for stock image sites.

Here you can check out some of our features on these, to help you choose the best ones:

How we tested the best web design software

To test for the best web design software we first set up an account with the relevant software platform, then tested the service to see how the software could be used for different site designs and in different situations. The aim was to push each web design platform to see how useful its basic tools were and also how easy it was to get to grips with any more advanced tools.

Which web design software is best for you?

When deciding which web design software to download and use, first consider what your actual needs are, as 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.

We've also featured the best drawing and painting software.

Brian has over 30 years publishing experience as a writer and editor across a range of computing, technology, and marketing titles. He has been interviewed multiple times for the BBC and been a speaker at international conferences. His specialty on techradar is Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, covering everything from office suites to IT service tools. He is also a science fiction and fantasy author, published as Brian G Turner.