Best Website Design Software for Professionals and Hobbyists Alike

Modern blue business website template with gpsI’ve been designing websites for many years now. I started out with Netscape Navigator Gold, which had a built-in html editor. But pretty soon, I decided that I wanted to tinker with it and make changes to my web pages.  I wanted the fonts to be a different color; I also wanted the layout to be different. I just couldn’t achieve the look I wanted with what I had.  Of course, Navigator Gold was so limited in what I could do with it. That’s when I decided to learn how to hard code. In other words, I needed knowledge that I didn’t have. By learning to hard code, I learned that I had more control over the whole design. And away I went on this fabulous journey to designing my own websites. I actually enjoyed learning HTML, although I still have trouble with CSS. If you have trouble with any part of web design, here is a course to help you out with HTML and Web Design.

Then I went to school to learn about designing web sites professionally. I had learned to code, and to not rely on design alone since it gave me more control over my design. But a funny thing happened when I went to school: I had to learn how to use Dreamweaver CS4 and to use it in design mode. That was so confusing. You might think, that’s not such a big deal. It is when you have ADHD (which is an acronym for Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity, making learning a new program even more challenging.) I learn by both reading and by doing. I couldn’t work in just the design mode. So I took the middle line having Dreamweaver in split mode so that I could code and see the changes I made. Worked for me, and I graduated with honors and now I have an Associates’ Degree in web design. I also took development, which is one of the reasons that I’m familiar with IDEs (Integrated Development Environment.) I used one when I was trying to teach myself C and C++.  Then I moved, and unfortunately there wasn’t anyone around who was into programming, and I forgot most of what I’d already learned.

shutterstock_158114483To The Point: My Top 5

There are many web design programs available, but not all are up to par. Nor will they all fit your style or your needs.  Do you want a WYSISYG (what you see is what you get) program? Or maybe like me, you would prefer both so as to be able to hard code and yet be able to see the changes as they are made.

Here are my choices, in order of preference for designing websites:

1. Dreamweaver

2. CoffeeCup HTML

3. Microsoft Expression Blend 4

4. Aptana Studio 3

5. Bluefish

Dreamweaver CS4 is good, and you can follow this link to learn how to use Dreamweaver CS6, which is even better. Version 4 is good for many things, but it doesn’t truly understand HTML5. While there are plugins available that will give HTML5 hints, it doesn’t work as well as version 6, which has HTML5 and CSS3 built-in. I have a copy of Adobe Master Collection CS4, and I can use it for many things. If, however, I want to design a website in HTML5, then I have to work harder. I believe in the old adage of “work smarter, not harder.” Both versions come with built-in web templates. Version 6 comes with templates for mobile web sites as well. You can of course design your own template which gives you more control over how the web page looks. If the template you’re using doesn’t have a right sidebar, simply float left. I was in having to use a template from Dreamweaver CC since I hadn’t received the CS6 yet, and I needed the sidebar to be left. The only templates available were with the right sidebar. I thought, ok, now what? After looking at the code, I thought to myself, if I change float right to float left that should take care of the problem. It did and I suppose my teacher was impressed, as she didn’t say anything. You can set up a site in Dreamweaver and either make it local or set it up so that you can download a page from your CPanel or upload to CPanel after working on it.

Retro design website template for computer & tablet pc.  VintageRegardless of which software package is right for you, there will be pros and cons.  Dreamweaver does more than just HTML. It also does ASP, ColdFusion, PHP and JavaScript among others. There are plenty of plugins that expand the usability of Dreamweaver.

Next on my list is CoffeeCup HTML editor. There is a fully functional free version is a little toned down in that it doesn’t have certain things, although the core of the program is fully functional. I decided to buy the paid version because it has FTP support built in, as well as a Web Color Schemer. CoffeeCup also has site setup, very similar to Dreamweaver. CoffeeCup uses HTML5 and CSS3. You can design responsive websites with it, and you can and it also has the ability of creating a flat design. CoffeeCup HTML Editor is a little easier in setting up the sites than Dreamweaver. On the left is a panel that lists all your files, regardless of whether they are on your local computer, or on a remote host. I find this greatly simplifies things for me when I’m working. They also have a Cloud based drive called S-drive. You can even host your webpages there if you wish. When I bought the software, I was given an S-drive which has 500 MB of storages. This is for $0.00 per month and they also offer monthly plans for more storage if you wish to invest. I didn’t because I already have a webhosting company which I truly enjoy working with.

Like Dreamweaver, Microsoft Expressions Blend 4, features hybrid editing in a dual-panel setting, allowing users to work in design and code simultaneously. Microsoft Expressions Blend 4 comes with built-in web templates, facilitating easy web design. This doesn’t mean this program is for those who are just starting out. It has a learning curve that I found a bit intimidating. I know that Dreamweaver has a steep learning curve, but it seems to me that Microsoft Expressions Blend 4 has a steeper curve. Be sure to check out the build a Web Design from comps course and brush up on your skills.

shutterstock_127868954Microsoft Expressions Blend 4 is also notable for its SEO features, but then so does Dreamweaver and CoffeeCup HTML Editor. SEO does help your rankings in the search engines, as long as they’re not abused.  If you wish to know more about search engine optimization for your website, you can go to Udemy and learn from their SEO training course.

Aptana Studio 3 is an open source web design program that can also be used for development. You can use Aptana for JavaScript, PHP, Rails, Ruby, and Python. It has a built-in terminal for command line operations. It has a deployment wizard and a debugger. You can use FTP, SFTP, FTPS and Capistrano within the deployment wizard.  It is perfect for developing a website.  Aptana has templates you can work with. You can use them as they are, modify them or create your own from scratch.

Speaking if which, when you create a template, regardless of which program you use, YOU are the deciding factor in how the website looks. This is a great thing! No more depending on what someone else wants. If you’re designing for someone else, you can make it even easier on yourself by choosing a template; modify it or designing one from scratch. I suppose in some ways, it’s similar to using CSS. No need to make each page from scratch, just make a template and the accompanying CSS file and as long as you choose to use that template and styles file, your pages will all be the same. Your website will be uniform in design, color, fonts, etc.

shutterstock_156140909Bluefish is also free and open-source like Aptana Studio 3. The latest version is 2.2.5. It is an advanced text editor that is compatible with many platforms. These operating systems include Linux, Solaris and Mac OS X, as well as Windows. Bluefish is very versatile and flexible and it offers a variety of tools for programming in many different languages. The languages are HTML, XHTML, CSS, XML, PHP, C, C++, JavaScript, Java, Google Go, Vala, Ada, D, SQL, Perl, ColdFusion, JSP, Python, Ruby and shell, among others. In other words, it is a programmer and web developers’ editor. This means it is code only, with syntax highlighting. You will need to preview your work in a browser to see the results. I like to use programmers’ editors for many things, although I very seldom use one for web design. I prefer to see what I’m designing and the changes I make. But the reason I like programmers’ editors is because of the syntax highlighting and I can work on so many different types of files. Dreamweaver, while not specifically seen as a development tool, can allow you the capability to work on many types of files, as can CoffeeCup HTML Editor.

All of these programs are good, and I have had either fairly extensive use of them, or have at least tried them at one time or another. Many people will tell you to use an editor such as Notepad, or Notepad++. While this may work for some people, it really doesn’t work for me since I like to use an editor that allows me to see the changes I make almost instantaneously as I code. If I’m working in a different language, that’s a different thing altogether. I also like the tabbed interface of these programs as I can work on a whole website at once. The tabbed interface is especially good on Dreamweaver. I’ve worked on more than twenty pages in Dreamweaver and CoffeeCup at one time. If I have to work on more than one web page for a web site, then I prefer to have all of them open at the same time so as to not forget what I’m doing on any particular one. Then, when it’s done, it’s done and I can go on to the next project. I tried a few times to work on just one page, then move on to the next one and forgot some of the stuff I was supposed to do. I left pages out, forgot to correct links, left some text out. Thank goodness these were my web pages; otherwise I might have lost a client. Now I work on each of the pages, adding or updating links, graphics or text. Whatever needs to be done can be done easily from one tab to the next. I suppose you could conceivably say that Dreamweaver and CoffeeCup allow me to multitask. This is good, since I seem to have a knack for it.

shutterstock_145325479And My Favorites Go To…

As you may have surmised, I have worked mostly in Dreamweaver and CoffeeCup HTML Editors. I like to work with the best software I can find, as well as afford. If a program is free, great! If not, then I will buy one that meets my needs. Free or not, if it doesn’t meet my standards of what I need, then it is of no use to me. These web design software programs do have steep learning curve when you first begin, but after you get used to them, they are a real time saver. There are other software programs that are geared for one or more aspects of web design, but I’ve not commented on them because they are not part of the software I chose. For instance, if you choose to design only PHP, there is NetBeans and Editra. For my purposes, Dreamweaver and CoffeeCup HTML have been my winners through the years, and I hope to continue working with these two!