Best Website Design Software [Free & Paid Tools]

Katie Horne
Last Updated on October 20, 2020
Disclosure: Your support helps keep the site running! We earn a referral fee for some of the services we recommend on this page. Learn more

Looking for website design software that’s the right fit for your experience and budget? Want something that’s intuitive and easy to use?

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced developer there’s a solution for you.

Below we review two types of software tools:

  1. DIY website builders that enable anyone to quickly create a professional-quality website — no experience required.
  2. Traditional website design tools for those who want extensive customization options and who want to edit the HTML, CSS, or JavaScript.

Let’s start with DIY tools.

Website Builders (WYSIWYG Tools Bundled with Hosting Services)

One of the easiest ways to get started is to use an all-in-one website builder.

Not only do you get the tools you need to build the site itself, but you’ll also get web hosting. That means you won’t need to find your own hosting and get it set up and configured like you would if you used traditional web design software.

These tools aren’t just for beginners. Experienced developers can use them to speed up development time.

Furthermore, these options are all cloud-based; all you need to use them is a computer connected to the internet.

Wix

Wix is known for being a free website building option, but the company offers much more.

The free option is fairly limited. It includes a “Wix” label and doesn’t come with a custom domain. So you’ll definitely want to opt for a paid plan. However, by signing up for the free version, you can get a good feel for Wix without having to pay for a subscription upfront.

Wix offers over 500 designer-made templates you can use to get started and a drag-and-drop site editor.

You also get app market access. Apps are easy-to-use plugins that add features and functionality to your site.

All sites created are “responsive”, which means they’ll look good on all devices including smartphones and tablets.


wix interface

Upgrade to the paid option to remove Wix branding from your site and get access to added features.

  • Wix plans start at $13 per month and business/e-commerce plans start at $23/month. Read our detailed Wix review to learn more.

Squarespace

Squarespace is an all-in-one website builder that is known for its ease of use and top-notch customer service.

Squarespace offers some of the best templates for websites on the market. Its intuitive editor makes it easy for you to add or remove elements like photo galleries and blog posts.

Squarespace is SEO-friendly and includes built-in analytics tools so that you know how your site is performing.

squarespace interface


If you plan to work on your site on the go, Squarespace offers mobile apps featuring site-building functionality.

  • Plans begin at $12 per month, though the cheapest plan that includes e-commerce functionality costs $18 per month. Read our Squarespace review here.

WordPress.com

The hosted version of WordPress gets you everything that the WordPress content management system (CMS), but without you having to buy hosting and set up the WordPress core yourself (the WordPress CMS is a self-hosted option).

Though WordPress.com is geared toward bloggers, its built-in extensibility means that it is also one of the most flexible website building options on the market.

You can control the appearance of your site by changing and editing your theme, and you can add additional features by installing plugins.


wordpress-com


Because WordPress is so popular, you may find yourself wanting to spend a bit more time to get your site to stand out from the crowd.

One of the ways to do this is to use one of the many page builders available to WordPress users:

You can use WordPress.com free of charge, though you’ll be limited in what you can do to your website in terms of customization. You won’t be able to use a custom domain name, request support, use premium themes, or remove banner ads.

  • WordPress.com paid plans, however, begin at just $5 per month when you opt for annual billing. Read our WordPress.com review to get a comprehensive look at this website builder.
  • If you choose WordPress.com and want access to all WordPress plugins, you’ll need to select the Business Plan for $30/month (paid annually).

Compare Website Builders

Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress dominate the website builder market. If you’re looking for an easy way to get online, it’s worthwhile giving one of these tools a try. They’re similar but differ in price and ease of use.

Website builderEase of use Free planPaid plans starts at...
WixStraightforward drag and drop, WYSIWYG site editor, pre-built site with Wix ADI Yes$13/mo
SquarespaceDrag and drop blocks to build site pagesNo$12/mo
WordPress.comUse page builders; use blocks to build pagesYes$5/mo

Traditional Web Design Software (HTML/CSS)

The following list of traditional website design software options does a good job of balancing between ease of use and control. The more powerful a tool is, the more likely it is to have a steep learning curve.

Adobe Dreamweaver

Adobe Dreamweaver, now a part of the Adobe Creative Cloud, is an established web design software option. The interface gives you full control over HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript code for your site.

In addition to the “simplified coding engine” that allows you to create and update website pages dynamically, you can manually adjust the code Dreamweaver creates.

adobe dreamweaver

Dreamweaver isn’t the easiest tool to use, and some beginners may find its user interface daunting due to the sheer number of options available. If you’ve ever used an Adobe tool however, the interface will be familiar.

You can toggle between code, visual, and split-screen views.

This cloud-based tool is accessible to most operating systems.

CoffeeCup

CoffeeCup has been around since 1996. Today, its goal is to help people use CSS Grid and assorted frameworks (e.g., Twitter’s Bootstrap and Zurb Foundation) without spending too much time writing code.

CoffeeCup can be used to design websites, craft custom emails, generate forms, and, for those who want the utmost control over their code, edit raw HTML.

coffeecup interface

CoffeeCup is not a one-time, umbrella purchase that gives you access to multiple apps. To get the functionality you want, you’ll need to purchase individual apps.

For example, you might choose to bundle the Responsive Site Designer with the HTML Editor and the Web Form Builder.

CoffeeCup is good for those who want a more guided experience. But if you’re tech-savvy and want to manipulate your code manually, CoffeeCup offers ample editing features.

  • Prices begin at $99 for the Responsive Site Design, though there are additional apps and tools available.

RapidWeaver

RapidWeaver, which is one of the best web design software options for macOS. It allows you to build responsive websites without any coding required.

Choose from over 50+ built-in themes. There are many tools to help you customize your design.

All of the websites built by RapidWeaver are responsive and GDPR compliant.

rapidweaver homepage


If you work with a language other than English, RapidWeaver offers multi-language support. It also comes with an Unsplash integration for stock photos, an icon generator, and an intuitive, easy-to-use interface.

RapidWeaver’s built-in device simulator feature allows you to see how the site you’re building will look on assorted devices.

  • RapidWeaver can be purchased from Apple’s App Store for $99.00.

Microsoft Expression Web

Microsoft Expression Web is a full-featured tool for designing, developing, and creating websites. Although it’s been discontinued, you can still download it for free directly from Microsoft.

microsoft expression web

With this product, you can develop web pages that use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, as well as ASP.NET and PHP.

It features a WYSIWYG editor, though its complexity may be daunting to new users. (WYSIWIG stands for what-you-see-is-what-you-get. It’s used to describe interfaces that are intuitive.)

Microsoft Expression Web promises users websites with code that’s standards-compliant.

Kompozer

Kompozer is an open-source WYSIWYG HTML editor.


kompozer editor

Though discontinued, the product is still available for download and use.

Kompozer doesn’t have the bells and whistles many of the other options on this list have. If you are looking for a free, yet powerful product for editing your website’s HTML, consider Kompozer.

You can use Kompozer as a standalone tool or in conjunction with another web design tool.

Compare Website Design Software

The software we’ve discussed offers different levels of HTML and CSS customization. And although you can pick up free tools, many of the powerful features only come with paid plans.

Web design  softwareHTML/CSS CustomizationPaid plans start at...
Adobe Dreamweaver Write and edit HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP$20.99/month
CoffeeCupAdd HTML and CSS frameworks with Responsive Site Designer; export to Code Pen to edit$99
RapidWeaverEdit CSS, add HTML snippets$99
KompozerWrite and edit HTML and CSSFree
Microsoft Expression WebWrite and edit HTML and CSSFree

Code Editors and Integrative Development Environments (IDEs)

If you’re comfortable with technology and have the skills to code your website manually, consider working with a full-featured code editor or integrated development environment (IDE).

These options tend to come with more than just text editing capabilities. Many, like Sublime Text, also include package managers that allow you to add additional functionality, such as code linters to clean up any mistakes you might have made.

Some of the code editors/IDEs that you might consider:

Conclusion

With the abundance of website building software options on the market today, no one needs to hand-code a site from the ground up anymore.

Even professional developers use frameworks and “boilerplate” to speed up design work.

Those who are new to web design will want to stick with an easy DIY option like Wix or Weebly, while tech-savvy users may want the increased power and flexibility offered by Dreamweaver.

Read previous post:
SEO and keyword tools
10 Top Keyword & SEO Tools for Small Business [Comparison Table]

As a small business, do you need SEO? Is it worth the cost? Absolutely. Google is responsible for more than...

Close