Websites are more important than ever with the influx of consumers shopping for everything online. Your website is your digital storefront for online relationships, and sales but your website also does so much more.
Because your website wears multiple hats, building that website takes a lot of work. Building a website requires a lot of moving parts, and coordination but if you are using a quality web development process then it makes everything just a bit easier.
The key is to pick versatile tools and software that allows you the freedom to be creative and functional, while still being easy enough to use without decades of intense training.
To create a thoughtful and meaningful website for your business you need all your bases covered including design, content, development, hosting & project management.
In this article, we take a deep dive into the tools that we use for website building in each critical area. Then we recommend the best tools and software for anyone to use if they want to get started creating brilliant websites.
To build a great website, you need to use great tools.
1. Web Design: Adobe Photoshop
Of course – we are starting with the gold standard of design software. Adobe Photoshop is one of the most commonly used web design software in the market today – and for a good reason. It is so widely used because it is easy to use, incredibly professional, and makes it easy for newbies to make professional-looking web designs and content. Adobe Photoshop is primarily a desktop application on Mac and Windows operating systems but new versions are coming out all the time on other platforms too.
An invaluable feature of Adobe Photoshop is its massive ecosystem of brushes, plugins, templates and tutorials. If you need to do something in photoshop there is a 100% chance someone else has done it before – and created a resource to make it easier for you.
Fortunately, because of Photoshop’s popularity and age (frankly it’s been around in one form or another since the late 80’s) there are a plethora of online resources available to help you learn the ins and outs of how to use this versatile software to its full potential for website design.
If you are a beginner looking to try out your skills on smaller projects, then Adobe Photoshop may not be the best option. One of the disadvantages of using Adobe Photoshop is that it is a bit more expensive than other design software and due to the sheer brain power it takes to learn all the tools inside Photoshop, it can take a long time to become proficient.
At the end of the day, if you have design skills you can use any software to bring your vision to life – but adobe photoshop is the gold standard of the website design industry.
2. Website Project Management: Asana
We all love a good to-do list. But, without a process to categorize, assign, track, and manage tasks you will have a tough time pushing your website development project through to completion.
Project management software helps hold different contributors accountable, meaning less time wasted waiting on bottlenecks and roadblocks.
Asana not only makes it easy to manage essential tasks on a single website project but it also helps you create a scalable process if you find yourself working on multiple website projects at the same time or in succession.
Asana promotes collaboration by simple task delegation, due date assignment and communication system all in one. Users can view daily tasks that need to be completed all in one spot so asking the question “what am I supposed to be doing now” is finally a thing of the past for website development.
Basically some kind of project management tool is a must for website development – we highly recommend Asana.
3. Website Content: Google Docs
The content for every web page has to live somewhere. But ultimately it’s just words on a page so those can be kept anywhere right? Wrong.
Why? The answer is collaboration.
This is a pretty simple concept. Use Google Docs when you are writing all the content for your website because it is easy to share and collaborate with others on webpage content. With Google’s storage capabilities you also get the added bonus of storing and organizing all documentation in one spot: Google Drive.
There are a couple of features that Google provides that makes it easy for users to write website content.
Google docs provides a user friendly interface, where tools are logically placed exactly where you think they should be. Creating links is also made simple with Google’s ability to insert links into text and then edit the display text to make sense within the content – much like you will want to do on your final website.
Basically if you need the worlds best word processing software for collaboration that is free, Google Docs is the answer.
4. Web Development: WordPress + Divi
If you have been looking for information about building websites I guarantee you have heard about WordPress, and for a good reason.
WordPress is endlessly customizable, easier than learning to code, and it has a mature ecosystem of plugins that just make your life easier.
So what’s the downside to using WordPress? It can be hard to learn compared to more simple tools such as Squarespace or Wix. WordPress is seriously powerful, but with that power comes a learning curve that means overnight websites aren’t really a thing for newbies.
Luckily due to WordPress’ age and popularity, you can find a myriad of forums and help websites with a plethora of tribal knowledge solely dedicated to helping you succeed.
5. Website Hosting:
A lot of website novices get intimidated when it comes to hosting, domains, websites and the relationship between them all, but it’s actually really simple.
Here’s how your website, domain and host work together.
- Imagine building your website is like building a house. You can repaint, add a new room or build from scratch. You have complete control of it, and if you really want you can move your house or website to a new physical location.
- Your hosting is where your website is physically located. This is essentially your property, following the real estate analogy. Just like with real estate property not all hosts are created equal and the name of the game is location location location. If you have a high traffic website you need the road leading to your site to be wide enough to accommodate all the traffic – and you need enough parking to make sure everyone you want to invite over can show up at the same time.
- So what is your domain? Your domain is like your address. If you want to tell someone how to get to your house you give them your address (not your latitude and longitude – that would be like your IP address). This is where we diverge from real estate. You can keep your website on the same host but buy a new domain if you change your mind, this is not recommended but it’s possible so I found it fit to note this.
- Okay real estate rant over.TLDR Website = physical files you build, hosting where the files are located, domain how to get to your website. It’s that easy.
So this is all great to know, but what do I need?
In this article, we have outlined the most popular website development software on the market. There are thousands of web design software out there, so how can you choose the best one to match your skill set and level of expertise? Here are some factors to look for when choosing your go-to web design software.
What can you do?
So, asking this question really helps you set your expectations. Can you build a responsive website that works as well as a $100K site on your first try? Probably not.
Can you build a website with a few pages that will help you win new business? If you take your time and are deliberate with your actions I would say yes.
Select tools that fit within your technical experience and capabilities to set yourself up for success. If you have never used Photoshop, it’s probably not a good idea to try and design a website from scratch using Photoshop as your first project. You may become discouraged very quickly, but I respect your heart and effort.
Be realistic with your expectations, and capabilities and truly answer the question of what you can do. Answer the “what can I do” question and you are already halfway there.
What should you do?
Answering what you should do is much easier now that you know what you can do. It seems self explanatory but not everyone asks this question.
Should I build a one page website or a 5 page site?
Do I need an online checkout or not?
Figuring out what you should do will help guide your website development project through to completion because you are developing a vision of your website’s end state. Keep in mind that you don’t have to do everything at once. It’s very common to develop websites in phases in order to make the project more manageable.
Now you can easily filter out tools that do more than what fit your needs.
What must you do?
This is where building your website comes down to brass tax. What do you really need? How are you going to justify the time, energy and money you put into building a website? How is this website going to make a significant impact on your business?
Answering the need usually helps you make the final selection on development tools as you can clearly dictate what fits into your budget and work from there.
Building a new website takes 5 key steps. Here is your key takeaway from what we shared with you today.
- Without a professional design first, you are setting up your website development for failure.
- It’s important to manage your project diligently in order to stick to your timeline.
- Collaborating on content for your website is key.
- The software you use to build your website will take a while to learn.
- Website hosting is not as confusing as you might think.
Pro Tip: It is worth noting that learning these programs can be very frustrating, but don’t give up. Feel free to take your time learning a web design software and enjoy the process.