If you are hoping for a post that tells you what tool you should be using to design websites then you will be disappointed. There is no best software for web design.
Our choice of tool for designing websites is a personal one. There is no right or wrong selection. Some use Photoshop or Fireworks, while others design in the browser. There is also a new generation of tools such as Adobe Edge Reflow, that will give us even more choice.
I hate it when people claim “this is the way websites should be built” or “this is the best tool for the job.” We are all different and we should use the tool that best suits our workflow.
Don’t blindly use the same tool
That doesn’t mean we should blindly continue to use the tool we always have. Just because something works for us doesn’t mean it is the best solution. We should take time to explore other options occasionally.
After all the way we build websites is constantly changing. You probably chose your current design tool before things like responsive design or designing from the content out came along. Our choice of tool should evolve alongside the techniques we use.
There is another factor in our choice of tool that is rarely talked about; the client.
Just because a tool is right for us, does not mean it is for the client. For example, if you have a client who gets confused by concepts like responsive design or progressive enhancement, it may make more sense to design in the browser so you can actually show them these things. Sending them a Photoshop comp may confuse them if it doesn’t look the same when they view the final site in IE7.
Also consider if anybody else needs to work with your design. Is there a developer involved? Does he have Photoshop available or would he prefer a Fireworks file? We should be flexible enough to accommodate these varying requirements.
Leigh Howells is a great example of a designer that varies his approach based on circumstances. Although he favours Fireworks (and has just started an excellent video series on its use at WebDesignTuts+), I have also seen him use the browser, Photoshop and indeed many other tools. In short he picks the right tool for the job.
Whether you are talking about our choice of design tool, coding environment or content management system we tend to become intrenched in our choice of tool. We have invested a long time learning it and so hate to change. However, if you don’t like change you shouldn’t have chosen to be a web designer. This is a fast moving sector and if we are going to provide our clients with the best service we need to be flexible over the tools we use.