Best Tools to Build a Website – Expert Roundup

Looking to build a new website or update your current one? Not sure which is the best option for you? What tools to use?

We´ve pulled together some of the best web designers to give us their expert opinion on the best tools and CMS to use.

Which Web Design Tool Should I Use?

 

Made by Bridge have been using Craft for around a year now and we love it. For us (developers) it’s powerful and has clearly been built with developers in mind. The flexibility you get with field types and content is great – the ‘out of the box’ field types are brilliant.

Our clients love it because it’s so user friendly and makes their life easy! The control panel is simple and the learning curve is small.

Finally, the support is great and the Craft team are there to help if you need them. There’s also a substantial and growing online community to share knowledge and best practice.

 

Niclas Uddman
Niclas Uddman
www.geckodoit.com

Our customers are mainly small and mid sized companies and they are looking at cost, speed and simplicity. 6 years ago we built in WordPress, Drupal and Joomla but since then WordPress has develop to become both ours and our customers favourite CMS.

Main reasons are our clients finds it much more user friendly than anything else out there. End of the day user friendliness its a very important factor as clients need to be able to make edits without sending trough IT departments or finding consultants. Then there are tons of very affordable useful modules for a variety of needs that can be turned on and configured in your sleep. As we specialise in WP we know how to speed it up, keep it secure and optimized.

For WordPress Woo-commerce is the choice of e-commerce module since they play so smooth together. Woo-commerce is very powerful tool which we are implementing on regular basis.

 

Choice of tools normally comes from the clients own requirement and this generally drives our decision making process.  Most clients value the strengths of a CMS and the advantage it can give them in the marketplace.

For most clients who do not require ecommerce the natural choice almost always is WordPress. And with a quarter of all websites being built this way, you know you are in good company.

We find with its low resource footprint, endless customisation options, regular security updates and wide availability of plugins, makes WordPress a hard combination to beat.

While not as capable as Open Cart and Magento for Ecommerce, for a lot of clients combining WordPress and Woo Commerce is still and ideal combination.

Other benefits include am incredibly easy update process and the knowledge that due to the WordPress talent pool, you’re not even stuck with a single developer of company.  In fact the best advertisement for WordPress is that we use it to drive our main site.

 

When it comes to your basic ‘brochure website’ or a decent sized website for an SME, we find that at least 50% of people who come to us have already decided that they want a WordPress site, and this is what we would usually recommend anyway for a site of this size.

Not only is it easy to use it updates itself and there are so many plugins available that you can make it as easy as possible for the client to continue to manage the site in the future if they want to.

When it comes to Ecommerce we would normally code a bespoke shop system, unless somebody just wanted to sell a handful of products.

Over the years we’ve found that although WooCommerce is a good starting point selling things online, eventually you will usually end up outgrowing it – mostly due to things like variable shipping and too many product variations. Additions like this are quite easy to code bespoke but things can get really slow and fiddly on WordPress when you have that kind of variation.

The most useful tools we have come across in relation to Ecommerce and WordPress are probably the plugins that allow you to import shop data from a spreadsheet, CSV file or another database, and match the old data to your new WooCommerce database. This can save days, if not weeks of.

 

Conor Campbell
Conor Campbell
@lizyddesign
www.lizyd.com

I, like many other designers these days, prefer WordPress to design the majority of my sites. This isn’t to say it is the best tool for every website imaginable, but it is definitely more than sufficient for the majority of business portfolios and blogs out there.

This is just the backbone of the website we’re talking about though. I use the “Inspect Element” tool in Chrome more often than I can describe. It is fantastic for CSS and Javascript testing in realtime. Some users might prefer to use Firebug, which is very similar.

I also spend a lot of time using WAMP and notepad++, when code needs to be tested in a local environment, without having to worry about other factors (themes, 3rd party plugins, etc).

Bottom line: WordPress is great, but don’t forget your coding skills if you want a website that really stands out.

 

Michael Gunner
Michael Gunner
@watb_team
www.watb.co.uk

At WATB, we use a variety of tools to build our websites. CMS wise, we generally stick with WordPress. It’s powerful without being overwhelming for the user.

Coupled with the Advanced Custom Fields Pro plugin, we’re able to create different field types that allows us greater flexibility with design. We tend to utilise a Gulp-based work flow that allows us to concentrate on coding rather than the more menial tasks.

We also use browsersync, it’s by far the best solution for auto-reloading the browser and when incorporated into a Gulp work flow, it massively streamlines development.

We’re able to prototype WordPress sites quickly as a result, focusing on design and user experience to create better products for our clients.

 

WordPress and Woocommerce are our tools of choice. We’ve been using them for over 7 years due to their ease of use for our clients, and the flexibility they offer in terms of design.

There are very few restrictions and this allows our designers to create websites with a really premium look and feel. I think the most important two things to consider when choosing a tool (or platform) for your website as a small business owner is 1) how futureproof is it? and 2) how easy is it for our company to manage day to day?

With WordPress the continual commitment of the open source community to drive it forward is massive, and it’s very easy to use.

I love Craft CMS. Craft is designed to be super flexible. All of your content is setup using custom fields. It encourages you to build your website with your own code rather than manipulate current code from a theme. Craft is very powerful out of the box meaning you can be less reliant on third party plugins, so less headaches when updating, especially as the core is an easy one click install.

Craft has recently launched a first party ecommerce plugin making it my CMS of choice for even more projects.

Clients love it too as it’s tailored to their sites content requirements, and the UI is very slick to use.

I aim to offer my clients a solution that is tailored to their budget as well as only offering features they specifically need (and will get use of). As we already know 99% of website projects these days require being built on a CMS. For more complex websites with specific functions like ecommerce I like to use WordPress and Woocommerce, simply for their out of the box features, community of support and well written documentation.

However for the website projects that require little features, like a standard business portfolio website I feel that WordPress can sometimes offer a bulk of unnecessary features that the client wouldn’t really need, not forgetting its need to perform regular updates on plugins and the risk of being the target of large scale cyber-attacks.

Therefore I have been using an amazing relatively new open source content management system called ‘Couch CMS’. Couch CMS provides you a complete clean canvas to easily turn your HTML website into a fully functional CMS that features inline editing, dataforms, shopping carts and much more!

It’s the perfect solution to offer your client a CMS that is 100% specific to their needs. Its documentation is easy to follow and the support forums are very active with expert advice. Not only that but you can completely white label it for a very reasonable price. Which is why it gets the #1 tool for me.

Our main focus in on creating SEO-optimised websites, as well as optimising existing sites. The greatest looking site is nothing more than an expense unless your potential customers can actually find it when they’re on Google looking for your service or products.

In my experience as an SEO, WordPress is the best platform to work on. So many sites are now built on the platform that whole industries have grown up around it. Theme and plugin developers know that is they create a valuable product they can build successful businesses.

This is good news for the rest of us as it means some of the best brains are developing sotwares that can keep our websites at the leading edge of online perfomance, helping boost site loading speeds, mobile performance and security, amongst others.

One word of advice is to always keep your WordPress elements up-to-date. Paid plugins and themes offer an incentive for the developers to maintain them, so don’t be afraid to spend a little to keep your website safe and performing well.

Although WordPress has become a recognised website building platform, its roots are as a blogging platform. The ability to quickly and easily add fresh content to your website is a real plus, and it keeps the site alive and visitors engaged. A growing and visited website also helps build Domain Authority and is beneficial for your search rankings.

WordPress is easy to edit, even for the non-experienced. If you can use a word processor, you will be able to edit a WordPress page. Once your website designer has created your site, there is no reason why you cannot take control.

Here at Bartlett we like Drupal and WordPress, depending on client needs and budget. Drupal is the go to for full customization, scalable and highly complex or large scale sites. Drupal lets us continue to learn and develop our skill set. Design wise our favorite tool is creativity. To stay current and inspired we use Muzli Design Inspiration — a chrome extension. Keeping up to date on the range of the web from experimental experienced sites to complex systems. Tool wise we rely heavily on photoshop and experiment with simulation tools.

For e-commerce we use Drupal commerce and WooCommerce on WordPress. When developing, we use SASS preprocess + Compass framework + Susy responsive layout. Those are our must have web tools for layout theming. Our team collaborates on projects using Git version control.

As for staying current and gaining inspiration, we read smashingmagazine.com, tympanus.net/codrops/all-articles, alistapart.com.

When I first started out in Web Development standard HTML was the norm but more recently with the evolution of a number of CMS’s the options available to us have become extremely vast.

Recently I have worked on sites in a number of bespoke CMS’s and the more commercial such as CMS Made Simple, Joomla!, WordPress and I have recently started to look at DotNetNuke for one project in particular. Throughout my experiences with these I have found that all options tend to have positives and negatives depending on the scope of the project.

With this being said, the bulk of my work tends to come from small to medium businesses and WordPress is certainly the most popular option for the majority of my clients. Although not limited to, I do prefer working in WordPress as well.
I find WordPress allows an almost unlimited variety of options in regards to site designs and layouts, which, when working with purchased themes, can be unlocked even further if you are both willing and capable to expand the theme boundaries with extra customisation. Also there is of course the option to build your own theme should this be preferred.

The number of plug-ins available within the WordPress community is also a massive plus as these are available to add pretty much whatever functionality to your site that you may require, although some investment may be required as not all are free it is certainly worth the investment for the correct solution. The right plug-in can make basics like site security and analytics a breeze and of course, as with bespoke themes, there is always the option to build a bespoke plug-in if required. The Woocommerce plug-in would be my recommendation for ecommerce within a WordPress site and again, this is extremely expandable too.

If you are looking at handing over a website to the client for self-maintenance the WordPress admin area is very user friendly and user roles can also be managed well, another aspect I have found invaluable.

In summary I would certainly recommend WordPress as it is cost effective, expandable, adaptable and in my opinion very user friendly. If HTML, CSS and even PHP are within your skill set, these would be a massive bonus, but you do not need to know these for basic customisation if the correct theme and plug-ins are selected. I would most certainly add here that it is imperative to keep on top of security and updates of your site to avoid complications in the future.

I would also recommend the Adobe creative Suite for artwork, Photoshop and Illustrator tend to be a staple within all of my projects for web content creation.

Here at Pedalo we have been developing websites for over 15 years, using both WordPress and Drupal.

We like working with Drupal because it’s fully customisable and when creating a bespoke website for a client, that’s what you’re looking for. It allows us to build anything the client can dream up, and integrate with any database or billing system the client might have.

WordPress is a good option for clients needing a simpler solution or on a tighter budget. It is also very user-friendly.

Magento is our preffered platform for Ecommerce because of its capabilities.

Along the years we’ve picked up a few other handy dev tools that make our life easier and our work better, such as Pixel Perfect for overlaying a web composition with semi-transparent layers and Sublime Text, a great cross-platform source code editor.

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16 Comments

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    As a non techie who had to teach himself everything from scratch, I started off with and cut my teeth on Joomla in the early 1.5 days. It just seemed like the best option at that time. Just out of habit I’ve been using it ever since, even with its faults and everything that drives me insane about it… I know my workarounds now and most whatever I want to do, I can, quite quickly. Habit on my part, as well as not having that tech background and no training, its just easier to stick with what I’ve grown accustomed to.

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    Usually if a web site requires an E-commerce element the approach is usually to start with something like opencart, maybe WordPress . Basically you have something that looks like everybody else’s site and then hack away to make it look different.
    Recently I did it the other way around and put together the main static stuff as my wife wanted it (hey its her cosmetics) . I used Twitter Bootstrap (with a custom css for over-ride) for front end which which at least makes Google happy & their mobile friendly trend. I then did the E-commerce system using PayPal PHP SDK which has a lot of potential for allowing website coders to do it as they want but still be able to take transactions online. I have gone for an anonymous buyer approach ,i don’t store any customer details. At the point of buying product selections are passed to payPal. Customers get handed over to PayPal for the purchase on a secure socket and handed back to the web when done. I get all the required info of shipping, item description, quantity from PAyPal transaction report. For coding all you need to do is have the main SDK directory in your system & I just instantiate the PAyPAl classes in my index.php bootstrap. I think more use could be made of PAyPal SDK

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