As the available tools for website designers multiply, the roles of designer and developer are merging. The most defined example is WordPress as it expanded from a blogging only site to a CMS platform. The expansion was possible by the platform allowing developers direct access to the HTML and image files to pass off to their client. This access encouraged developers to create specific tools, plugins, and themes that took the platform to the next level.
Other platforms do not allow the developer or client as much, if any, control of the files and ultimately entire sites can be lost. Keep in mind the tradeoff in choosing a different platform can be the ease of build. If you are designing and developing a website yourself, a different product might suit you best to get off the ground running.
There are several third-party design tools built specifically for WordPress. The ideal end result you want is a responsive website that will read beautifully on all devices; including desktop, tablet, and mobile. Themify Flow is a tool to create unique themes, the overall look and layout of your design within the platform. Using drag and drop, you can design without knowledge of code. Themify Flow is open source, so it is adaptable and free. Another visual editor for WordPress is Cornerstone, which also has a code editor for developers. The opening access point is free, but the most advanced tools are paid. The most contemporary looking design tool available in the WordPress space is Qards. Unlike Themify Flow, Qards is a visual editor plugin allowing use on any theme. It adds design templates in page sections, which is ideal for one-page sites and to add dimension to an already existing website.
If you are a beginner or are building for an inexperienced client who wants to maintain their own site, consider all-in-one website builders. Webflow allows development and design at once with access to hosting. With no need for coding, the visual editor in the CMS is extremely easy to use and has a preview for all platforms as you build. The tools available are limited for a true developer, but it does integrate with third party apps. Integration includes Google business apps, Evernote, Twitter, and MailChimp. Hosting costs $20/month. BuilderEngine is another website builder that uses a visual editor and provides hosting. An upside of purchasing an all-in-one package is access to a support team who has access to both your site and host engine. If your client has an issue arise in the future with their site, they can call one number to diagnose the problem. The costs range depending on hosting, theme options, and chosen app add-ons.
The quickest, most intuitive, and modern looking website builder is IM Creator by XPRS. The designs are premade in an organized template library and use HTML5 for seamless, wide layouts that are familiar to iPhone and iPad users. It can take as little as twenty minutes to design and fill content for a five-page website if you have the images and text ready to go. IM Creator is unique from the other all-inclusive (design, CMS, and hosting) website builders in that it allows you to export your files. This is important to backup your files if you stay on their platform or if you want to switch to a new hosting service at some future time. The downside is that the code is unique to the platform and can only be edited via code in a different platform. It is free for personal use, students, non-profits, and artists. E-commerce and business sites payment plans begin at $7.95/mo. Both personal and business plans include hosting, website creation, email, and domain.
The Best Tool is The One You Use
The most effective design tools are the ones you use. Take time to research and test all of the available tools for website creation, but keep in mind you are finding what will work for your projects. Once you find your toolset, narrow in and learn them inside and out. If you are working with a client, find out their process and how they intend to upkeep their site. This will inform which tool will work best for you and the ultimate user.