Since the first website went live in November 1992, web design has evolved from programming text and simple graphics to practically a science. It is no longer just about links and aesthetics. It is an industry into itself, and a vital service to any commercial endeavour. In this article, we will look at 10 web design tools that are revolutionising how websites are developed and upping the competitive ante to this day.
What Is Web Design?
Why Do We Need it?
With over 1 billion websites on the internet today (though a large number of them are inactive), the consumer is constantly bombarded by online content. Merely having a website is no longer sufficient. To be and stay competitive, a company’s website must capture the target audience’s interest and persuade visitors to go from passively viewing to actively purchasing. This is where web design will make the difference between the success and failure of a business.
Branding, Trust, and First Impressions
For most target audiences, the first look at a particular business will be its website. From the landing page onwards, your website needs to convey a compelling story, a vital service, and “hook” its visitors. Hence, your website represents your brand, so it needs to present what you would like to express to your customers. The average web surfer has a short attention span and other content competing for their time, so your messages have to get across quickly. A proficient website will build both interest and trust in the business — and maintain it.
Online shopping and social media have brought about a new era of consumer psychology and behaviour — and with it, a new set of marketing strategies. Engagement does not arise solely through a website’s visual appeal. Companies need to create seemingly helpful, no-strings-attached, fresh content that both educates and entertains. To be found in the first place, successful websites take advantage of search engine optimisation (SEO), vying to be highly placed on the highly coveted first page of search results. Search engine and platform algorithms consistently change, and web designers adapt websites to raise their clients’ online profiles based on the latest digital strategies and techniques.
The Best Tools for Web Designing
Thankfully, individuals and businesses have the option of creating their own websites and content with the help of an evolving crop of web design tools. Not only does this prospect allow website owners to forego budgeting for potentially expensive web design professionals, but it also lets people embrace their creativity. The best tools for web designing should balance user-friendliness, cost, and aesthetic and functional capabilities. Here are 10 web design tools that are considered the cream of the crop.
Adobe XD remains the most famous interface design and prototyping software for web and mobile apps. Developed by Adobe Inc., it is vector-based and supports wireframing — allowing users to play with templates and scaleable digital images. Additionally, if you already have the Adobe Creative Cloud, it will sync with other Adobe products and programs, including their vast libraries. You can easily create prototypes of iOS, Android, and web apps, and take advantage of flexible drawing tools.
On the downside, Adobe XD does not feature real-time collaboration or timeline animation, and does not have the most attractive user interface. It supports a number of plug-ins, but not as many as some of its competitors — and not third-party plug-ins. The program is still relatively new, with add-ons in development.
InVision is an intuitive app that lets users take designs and images from different sources — like Photoshop, Dropbox, and Google Drive — and turn them into interactive designs and realistic prototypes with animations and transitions. It also has features related to workflow, collaborations, and user testing. InVision is nicely integrated with other platforms such as Sketch and is relatively easy to work with. InVision’s cons include a sometimes “clunky” browser-based performance, the lack of sticky and background elements, and version control.
InVision is free for individuals and teams of up to 10 members. For the pro version that allows up to 15 members, it costs $9.95 monthly. Beyond that, you have to contact the company.
Wix is a very user-friendly website builder with smart editing functions for images, backgrounds, buttons, and animations. It offers around 500 website templates that can be modified, drag-and-drop functionality, as well as the ability to purchase your domain, monetise, and host it. If you opt for a subdomain with the Wix site, it’s free. There are also a number of affiliate programs you can join and different pricing plans to suit your needs. Wix also adapts the interface and content of your website according to the type of device you are using.
Wix is best for small to medium-sized websites because the navigation is only two levels deep. It is also difficult to create unique designs and experiences. It is not the best SEO type platform and currently does not allow you to export your site should you wish to change platforms.
Webflow is another web design/CMS software intended for people who know nothing about coding. It’s a cloud-based program with templates, marketing tools, and a drag-and-drop tool for customising texts and images into templated pages. Webflow also translates designs into usable codes. It has great customer support and a range of pricing plans. You can get it free — with limited features. Beyond that, you have to upgrade the software. Unfortunately, Webflow has limited code customisation capabilities, and there may be a bit of a learning curve because it has so many features. It also enforces traffic limits (depending on the plan you choose). Additionally, the pricing plan selection is quite extensive and can be a little confusing.
Sketch is popular for building interfaces and prototypes — especially if you do so collaboratively as part of a team — with plug-ins that simplify and streamline workflows. It does away with unnecessary features and isn’t tied to other products on the market. The Sketch community is pretty prolific, creating plug-ins and interacting on forums, so there is a lot of support available for new web designers. Sketch is also pretty intuitive. Sadly, Sketch is still quite new — and hence, still has bugs — but the development team appears to be making good fixes. It’s also only available for Mac, with a propensity to lag. Sketch offers pricing for individuals as well as teams of contributors. Note that all contributors must be running the same version of the program in order to properly collaborate.
Google Web Designer
Google Web Designer works on Linux, Mac, and Windows and is completely free to use. It creates excellent animations for banners and web ads and can convert pages from Google Drive into HTML5. While it is possible to create web pages, Google Web Designer — despite its name — is more of a creator of animated advertising rather than an application for web design. The interface is pretty simple to use, but cannot open HTML files that were not specifically created by the program. The advanced iteration of Google Web Designer lets you switch between code and default views — so it may be hard for novice web designers to use. For professional web designers, Google Web Designer may feel “clunky”.
Adobe Dreamweaver allows people who don’t know much about coding to create websites from code. This means you aren’t constrained by templates, and beginners can actually learn about the coding process. Autofill drop-down menus allow you to incorporate code suggestions with a simple click. Adobe Dreamweaver also lets you see the real webpage on the same screen as your design — but because the program isn’t browser-based, “what you get” might actually be different from what you see on the design screen. The interface also takes time to learn and your coding can be hard to read if you are someone who hits “Enter” after every line of code. Adobe Dreamweaver is comprehensive — almost too comprehensive — so there will be a lot of things you don’t end up needing. The program is also relatively expensive.
Canva is a fun web design tool that helps you create beautiful graphics for your website. Not only can you access a huge library of photos, videos, and templates, you can also add photo effects, special effects, a range of elements, and various fonts by dragging and dropping them into templates. You can create images and websites, banners, invitations, certificates, business cards, newsletters, flyers, and more. Canva’s social media publish scheduler and content planner are also helpful.
On the negative side, the photos and templates look somewhat “generic”, so you may want to look at other design resource sites. You cannot create new elements. While Canva lets you edit photos, it is nowhere near as good as Photoshop. Canva’s desktop application is also superior to its mobile app.
Epicpxls is less of a program and more of an online compilation of graphics, templates, and fonts — many of them made and sold by users. Several of these offerings are free, but others come with a one-time cost. The premium plan costs a little over $20 and gives you 20 downloads. Alternatively, there is a “lifetime access” plan, also with a one-time cost. The design possibilities are seemingly endless with Epicpxls. This can either be really, really good — or really, really unhelpful.
Figma is becoming a popular interface designing app, vector graphics editor, and prototyping tool. It is a web-based program that runs in your browser, although it does have some offline features for Windows and macOS. Designers love Figma for allowing them to publish works and have others view and remix in real-time collaboration. It also has a great interface. Figma could do with training options, a less confusing library system, and a more intuitive interface. With no timestamp and minimal version control, it’s hard to track changes.
Why Use Web Design Tools?
That’s why many smart businesses hire web design specialists who are not only able to create an optimised website but also leverage sound growth strategies to promote you and your business. If you are looking for integrated digital marketing, content creation, and web design on the Central Coast, contact us today.
Head of Strategy & Projects
Laetitia’s passion has always been to understand the “what” and working out the “how”. She’s the head of strategy and projects within her company, My Web Advantage.
For over 20 years, Laetitia roles have been aligned with retail customers, getting into the psyche of consumer behaviour.