Which One, Dreamweaver Or WordPress?

Often, I get asked which approach people should take, Dreamweaver or WordPress. That’s a really good question, especially for someone just starting out, who’s not sure which way to go.

Dreamweaver’s often the first choice because, after all, it’s included with all the other Adobe programs. The thinking is often, "It’s an Adobe program, so it’s probably just like Photoshop or InDesign." After launching Dreamweaver and playing around with it for a bit, it’s quickly discovered that no, it isn’t just like other Adobe programs!

It’s important to know what WordPress and Dreamweaver are, and how they differs from one another in order to make a more informed decision about which one to use.

Understanding The Differences Between Dreamweaver And WordPress

Making a direct, side-by-side comparison of Dreamweaver and WordPress is pretty tricky. Yes they both allow us to build websites, but they’re very different tools. Let’s talk about each one, and then we’ll try to compare them to one another.

First off, Dreamweaver is a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor—it’s often times simply referred to as an HTML editor. The idea being that you work in a visual design interface, while Dreamweaver writes all of the code for you in the background. You can use menu commands, dialog boxes, panels, and other workspace elements to build your layouts, and remain blissfully unaware of what’s happening in the background.

Dreamweaver gives us a visual interface while all the code happens in the background

Dreamweaver’s visual interface handles the design, while all the code is written for us in the background

Once your layout and overall site is complete, you’re left with a set of HTML, CSS, and graphic files which will then need to be uploaded to your live web server in order to be publicly available.

WordPress takes a very different approach. It isn’t a piece of software that runs on your computer; it runs on a live web server. At it’s core, WordPress is a set of PHP files (which contain HTML, whose design is handled by CSS) driven by a MySQL database. This may sound a bit technical, but WordPress was created specifically to make web publishing simple and easy, even for non-technical users—so all this techie stuff is handled for you. In fact, many web hosting companies provide easy one-click WordPress installers, making the process a breeze.

And at the same time, those wanting to dig deeper into WordPress can lift the hood, get into the code, and customize things as they wish.

WordPress's back-end console allows us to add content, customize our theme, and install plug-ins

Unlike Dreamweaver, WordPress runs on a live web server, making creating and publishing content fast and easy.

Once WordPress is installed on your live web server., you can begin building sites pages, posts, and content, all via WordPress’s back-end admin console. And, because you’re working off a web server., everything’s "live" online. In this live environment, you have the ability to publish, unpublish, or mark content as draft as you go.

So as you can see, Dreamweaver and WordPress are very different animals, although the end result is the same—getting content published online. Let’s now take a more in depth look at these two tools.

An Even Closer Look At Dreamweaver vs. WordPress

So we’re getting a handle on what Dreamweaver and WordPress are, and perhaps you’re starting to piece together the differences between these two, but let’s now take an even closer look. As different as they are, I’ll do my best to do as close a side-by-side comparison of the two as I can.

Dreamweaver’s Pros and Cons

Let’s begin with Dreamweaver. It’s made some big strides over the years, especially with newer features like Fluid Grid Layout and jQuery UI widgets.

When we begin building a new site in Dreamweaver, we first have to define our site; then we begin with a blank file or possibly a template. Staring at a blank canvas and not knowing where to start can be somewhat intimidating!

And although Dreamweaver will let us build fairly intricate sites, it’s approach is often clunky and overly confusing. Additionally, it has a somewhat confining nature as well. What I mean by this is, the vast majority of users are going to be limited to creating static, rigid websites; in other words traditional websites that lack dynamic content, navigation and structure.

Dreamweaver's Fluid Grid Layout makes it easy to build responsive site layouts

Dreamweaver’s Fluid Grid Layout makes it easy to build responsive site layouts

While Dreamweaver’s visual approach may sound great in theory there are some shortcomings there as well. For instance, what if you want to achieve a certain result, but no command or menu option exists to achieve it? Even worse, what if something goes horribly wrong and half your layout gets blown out? Without having an understanding of HTML, CSS, and web design overall, fixing problems or achieving certain results can be a huge hassle.

Dreamweaver does have some positives going for it, however. First, once you’re up to speed with it, you can build some very nice sites and layouts. Dreamweaver’s also one of those programs that grows with you as your skills develop. Beginners often start inside the more comfortable Design View, then start getting a taste for code in Split View, which gives us a side-by-side view of our layout in both design and code; and then finally, many wind up using Dream weavers full Code View.

Dreamweaver’s Code View includes many code-assist features like code complete and code hinting, and still provides access to dialog boxes, menus, panels, and other interface elements.

How WordPress Stacks Up

Now over to WordPress. As I’d mentioned earlier, it was intentionally built to be simple and easy to work with, especially for non-technical users. What’s more, it’s incredibly powerful, customizable, and extendible—and it gives us a much more modern approach to building websites.

There are two sides to a WordPress site: the public-facing side, which is what your visitors see, and a behind the scenes admin console. This is where we’ll be spending the majority of our time, adding content, making changes, and customizing our site.

Unlike Dreamweaver, where we start with a blank canvas, with WordPress we begin with what’s called a theme. A theme is the visual design of your WordPress site, and you can change your site’s design with just a few mouse clicks. Generally speaking, a theme has four areas: the header, content area, sidebar, and footer—and everything’s pre-formatted for you (and of course, you can change and customize things to your liking).

With WordPress, we can build small, static sites (just like the kind we can build with Dreamweaver), or dynamic blogs, interactive sites, online stores, and even large and complex sites. WordPress really can handle it all. In fact, anything we can build in Dreamweaver we can create with WordPress—and much, much more.

One of WordPress’s most powerful features is plug-ins, that is, additional add-ons that expand the capabilities of your website. And there are literally thousands of them available. For example, you could incorporate social media into your site, image galleries, membership areas, and many, many other possibilities…all with a few mouse clicks.

One of WordPress's most powerful features, plug-ins, allow us to extend our site's capabilities

One of WordPress’s most powerful features, plug-ins, allow us to extend our site’s capabilities

And much like Dreamweaver, WordPress grows with you as you gain skill and experience. As your comfort level increases, you can begin venturing into some of the code via WordPress’s built-in code editor, and you can even begin customizing aspects of your site if you wish.

Earlier I mentioned themes. If you want to begin freelancing and build sites for clients, you should seriously consider using WordPress as your platform of choice, and learning how to build custom themes for it.

Are there any downsides to WordPress? Like Dreamweaver, things can get overly technical if you dive in too deep too quickly or start fiddling with code that you don’t quite understand. It’s also important to make sure your site is secure and backed up on a regular basis as well, which can be handled by plug-ins.

Beyond these issues, WordPress is fairly intuitive, easy to learn, and gives us the horsepower to build the sites we want.

Wrapping Up Our Side-By-Side Rundown

I really do want you to go with the tool that feels most comfortable to you. That said, I’d like to encourage you to start using WordPress. It gives us a much more modern approach to building sites, and really is where things are now.

I know a lot of people are still using Dreamweaver, but after using WordPress for so long, when I go back to Dreamweaver, I feel like I’m being strapped into a straightjacket! For my personal and professional work, I don’t build sites without WordPress. Ever. From simple sites that have only a few pages to something as involved as a monthly membership site, 100% of my sites are done with WordPress.

So while Dreamweaver was the web publishing titan for many years, these days it’s looking a little tired and old fashioned. And it struggles to handle the demands of modern web design. This at least makes the choice easy for me, and I hope you find the decision easy as well.

If you’d like to get your website online quickly and easily with WordPress, be sure to check out my How To Get Started With WordPress course. Or, if you’re still thinking Dreamweaver’s the way to go, then Building Websites With Dreamweaver is for you!

Hey, I’m Geoff. I love helping people just like you learn more about web design, gain new skills, and launch online projects. This stuff ain't rocket science, but it's often made more complex (and boring) than it needs to be. Web design and online business is supposed to be creative and fun! You can learn lots more (for free!) right here, check out my online courses over here, and find out more about me here.

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  • Michael Whenham

    Awesome article…thank you.

    • Thanks Michael. Any questions, just fire away! -Geoff

  • Kurt Breede

    Great article! Can I pick your brain? While looking into how to install WordPress I encountered what appears to be an alternate approach using Windows (http://www.microsoft.com/web/wordpress)? Will the two approaches create the same results, or am I comparing apples to oranges?

  • Aaron

    Super info, Geoff. What do you say about the idea of using both dreamweaver and wordpress together?

    • Thanks for the comment, Aaron. It can certainly be done, but admittedly I’ve found it a bit flakey. WordPress is just so easy and straightforward, it very well may be the right choice! -Geoff

    • The major benefit here is having a better code editor with highlighting, line numbers, tab completion, etc. You can install a WordPress plugin to add a code editor to WordPress though, then you don’t need Dreamweaver!

  • razzy

    Well explained Geoff.

  • Jim

    Good comparison. I’m wrestling as we speak with the decision of whether to look more into WordPress. I just finished a certification course as Webmaster/web design using Dreamweaver, as well as HTML5 and CSS3. The problem is that all the jobs/companies out there appear to be using WordPress! Doh! What would you recommend as the fastest way to get up to speed with WordPress, given my current knowledge level?

    • Hi Jim, Thanks for your comment. To answer your question (and hopefully you don’t mind the shameless plug), I’d suggest Ten Ton’s How To Get Started With WordPress course (http://www.tentononline.com/how-to-get-started-with-wordpress/) It’s the fastest, most direct way to dive into WP, and will teach you everything you need to know to get your head around WP quickly. However, your HTML and CSS skills will come in very handy when you’re ready to start customizing and building your own WP themes. Hope this helps! -Geoff

  • Walter

    Great post, really helpful.

  • Salvatore Esposito

    WordPress is just a content management system created for blogging. Nowadays more people who are neither designer nor developer just buy a template and create a site, and the clients are happy and don’t know that a site like this is cheap but it’s useless. Useless for seo purpose – especially if they buy a share host with apache, the response is really slow and tha ranking go down; useless for commercial purpose. there better option for example magento, but this one after a month gets a database who make everything slow.

    The lucky of this server side application is that web companies can be faster
    with low quality can create a site and the clients think that they save
    money in this way, without realize that they just trash their money.

    I think that node.js + mongodatabase is growning so fast even in business market, this is causing taht in the future of commercial application is AJAX + server side program and there will be no CMS.

  • Ollie Williams

    Is it possible to create websites without either WordPress or Dreamweaver?

    • Sure Ollie, you could create your site with straight HTML and CSS, or there are many other approaches…perhaps using something like Webflow

    • Debbie Kurth

      Yes

    • And to get even crazier, you can use both! Create a project with dreamweaver, download the WordPress website, and modify your wp-content/themes/appropriate-theme-name’s header.php, footer.php, style.css, and content files.

      The visual editor in dreamweaver is probably going to fail when you try to use it, but if you’re using the code view you’ll be fine.

      • Alyssa Duprey

        I think that’s what I’m going to do! I have Dreamweaver CS6 just from purchasing the Creative suite, so I want to get my money’s worth (even if it’s just a glorified Notepad++)

  • Pindi

    Thanks for the insight, it cleared a lot of things for me. However, I read that wordpress.com is different to wordpress.org. I want to create a website similar to gumtree where customers can update their information and add search dropdowns etc. So my question is, does your review speak for wordpress.org as well in comparison to dreamweaver. Or would you recommend dreamweaver for my requirements.

    • Thanks for the comment. Yes, WordPress.com will host your site for you, whereas WordPress.org allows you to self-host. I’d imagine for what you want to do, self-hosting would be the best option.

  • A Clemens

    Hi. I learned WordPress by jumping in as I was taking a class for Dreamweaver. I have actually learned more for HTML working in WordPress than in Dreamweaver and I find it easier to use when building a site. Dreamweaver take me a while to build a website. WordPress I wa able to build a website for a client with multiple pages and full content in less than 2 weeks. Though it is good to know more than one way to build a website incase you get asked by a client for GoDaddy or any other tool out there. I am slowly learning how each one works so I can help any client that comes in.

  • Debbie Kurth

    Interesting. However I still prefer using Dreamweaver as it shows you exactly what a site shall look like on the fly. Furthermore, it is adaptable to many we servers without issue. I do not need the ease of WordPress . In fact I feel strangled by it with rules that I dislike. Coming from a c++ programmer. Switching to coding mode in dream weaver is simple. WordPress is just a different style .

  • Ricky Anthony

    I must disagree with the assertion that word press can do everything dreamweaver can and ‘much, much more’, or at least I am having trouble believing it. I found wordpress limiting, using several visual editors, divi (theme), diving into the css, etc. It still seemed like I did not have ultimate control over my site. I’m still a relative beginner at this, but it does appear to me that for the kind of control you need to build a unique site, you do need to know how to code.

    • WordPress cannot do everything dreamweaver can do and dreamweaver cannot do everything WordPress can do. One is a content management system and one is a tool to create code. They can for sure be used together, or separately.

      WordPress takes a while of reading, experimenting, and learning to grasp what it’s doing. I just think of it is a leg up when it comes to building out a database to store content. I always build my themes from scratch and then pull the wordpress ‘loop’ in between the header and footer of my custom code. Like this:

      [ my header code ]
      [ wordpress loop ]
      [ my footer code ]

      Working with other peoples themes is often more time consuming than starting from scratch imho. WordPress is plenty to learn, and now you’re learning someone elses themes all their customizations.

      • Ricky Anthony

        Yeah, I understand there are some types of sites for which wordpress is ideal. I like the idea of having my own theme, which I guess would make content updating so much easier.

        • Thought I’d jump in here too!

          Admittedly, WordPress does take some time to wrap your head around, especially if you want to be able to completely customize the look and feel of your website. If you don’t, then it’s great as-is right off the shelf. To get into customizing, not only would you have to be comfortable with HTML, CSS, and even some PHP, but you’d also have to have an understanding of how WP functions, it’s loop, PHP calls, all the various files that compile together, etc.

          Dreamweaver’s more like a blank slate, whereas WordPress comes with templates (design layouts) right out of the box. So, WP is great for those not wanting to delve into the complexities of building a custom site, but also allows for those who want to dig into customization to do so.

          Hope this adds a bit to the conversation!

          • Ricky Anthony

            Hi Geoff. Yes, wordpress has been a great tech leap forward. I remember thinking when I was just getting into it, that it’s just not ‘there’ yet, when it comes to building anything you want. But in a few years, I’ll bet hand-coding will be out the window for the most part.

            However, right now, it is frustrating, even to position elements properly, get rid of unneeded parts or space ina page, and go hunting for stuff in lengthy css files. To do a reasonable amount of customizing in good time I think you’d need to be familiar with a theme’s files

            Added to this is my surprise at some web pros charging hefty fees to for the design of a wordpress site. So, to dramatize, I say, let WordPress be known for bringing website building to the average user, but there are instances when you would want to make the effort to build a site from the ground up, so that the end result is satisfactory in the long-term.

      • Mathijs Pluijmen

        Is it fair to say that Dreamweaver is a code-generator that creates the actual web-site in the form of a code, and that it can also beautify a site using CSS? And that with WordPress you could also make a site but its purpose is more to organize a site and modify it as you wish, with the availability of tons of plugins?

  • Montaser

    Thank you very much ! for that great article .

  • David Woods

    Hi Geoff, I’m responsible for keeping a small Greyhound rescue website updated (Hampshire Greyhound Rescue). Was happily using Adobe Contribute to do this, but it is now refusing to publish edits to the site. According to Adobe, Contribute is now obsolete and I’d be better off using Dreamweaver, but advised I may have to rebuild site from scratch – Aaaarrrrgh! Never built a website, but willing to learn (even coding), as there are parts of the site I would like to amend; but can’t afford to screw it up. The charity needs the site and the dogs need to be seen. Advice would be welcome as would guidance!

  • Mathijs Pluijmen

    I want to build sites in the future and this article really helped me out to make a choice. Thank you so much. I’ve actually already started learning Dreamweaver, but I think I’ll go start learning WordPress instead. (Luckily I started just 2 weeks ago and I haven’t bought the book ” Dreamweaver Classroom In A Book ” yet that I was planning to buy).

    Anyway, these are the reasons for my decision:

    According to your article it’s simple and easy to work with. That’s one.

    Two: I’m a student at the moment so I’m not rich. So naturally if WordPress can do the same as Dreamweaver and it’s free, then I start to really wonder why I would pay for Dreamweaver.

    And then reason three, and this is also important I think, I saw someone in the comments saying this:

    ” I just finished a certification course as Webmaster/web design using
    Dreamweaver, as well as HTML5 and CSS3. The problem is that all the
    jobs/companies out there appear to be using WordPress! Doh!”.

    After reading that comment I felt that that was another good reason to start with WordPress instead.

    Are there any learning books you would recommend? I did see a link you posted to a course on this site

    I could try that, but I personally like learning from books, so I figured maybe you have a recommendation?

    O, and again thanks for the great article!

    • Hi Mathijs, Thanks for stopping by. Great to hear the article was so helpful. A lot of people love Dreamweaver, and I still use it from time to time, but for all the reasons you listed (and others) WordPress is such a solid choice.

      The timing of you stopping by and commenting is perfect too, as moments ago I just released this free video which delves further into this exact topic: http://www.tentononline.com/why-you-should-use-wordpress-for-web-design/ I hope you can gain even more insight on the issue from this video.

      As for books to recommend…I’m not really sure. I’m a video guy and I love that format, but I’m sure there are some decent books available. Thanks again! -Geoff

    • Dreamweaver and WordPress are entirely different. Neither one of them do the same as the other. But they can work together.

      Dreamweaver is used to write code, connect to FTP/SFTP servers, and assist in designing the look of your website. (Sure, I suppose some people use it to manage their entire website too.. but that’s never been what I used it for.)

      WordPress is used to store information in an organized way into a database for you to to display on a website. There is an area within WordPress where you can do edits to your theme, but the only way to truly be able to man handle your WordPress installation is to access it through FTP or SFTP. For this you would need to pair it with something like Dreamweaver (I use Sublime, but that wasn’t free, but you could try Atom it is very similar and it is free). Editing the theme within WordPress is very tedious compared to using a real code editor.

      Dreamweaver isn’t my #1 choice of code editor, you can use any code editor. Learning Dreamweaver is just to say you’re learning how to navigate Adobe’s software, which is not really necessary at all. There are some really great free editors like Notepad++. FileZilla is also free and worth mentioning. I would not recommend relying solely on WordPress alone to be able to do everything you need.

      Code is code, you can write it anywhere as long as you get it uploaded to the server. Learning WordPress is a wonderful goal, but learning code is also a wonderful goal. Knowing them both will allow you to see the whole picture. The three main languages WordPress uses that you should know are HTML, CSS, and PHP. This is similar to making just about any website these days unless you have very specific needs.

      • Mathijs Pluijmen

        Thanks for your reply Scott!
        I’m not sure if I fully understood that part about the differences between Dreamweaver and WordPress. How I understood it was, with Dreamweaver you can build a site from scratch and it generates all these codes for you, but, even though it makes a lot of things easier, it’s just limited in what it can do compared to WordPress.

        WordPress on the other hand has templates and a huge amount of plugins, but it can be more intimidating to use if you’re a newbe like me. It’s not as easy as Dreamweaver, right?

        Well one thing at least I start to realize more and more. If I learn about those codes and how to work with it, then that probably will take me a lot further.

        • Oh I wouldn’t say that WordPress is harder than Dreamweaver! They both can be a challenge in their own way. I’m a huge WordPress fan and supporter so of course I think you are totally going the right way imho. I feel like Dreamweaver is just old news now, there’s nothing exciting about it to me anymore. I’m with you on the themes and plugins for WordPress 100%! I use WordPress lately for just about every project we start at work (or for myself personally), unless I’m specifically told not to use WordPress by a client. Many times people don’t even realize their site is in WordPress. It’s so flexible! It’s totally worth mastering. And interesting to note, if you get stuck in your jouneys to make the perfect WordPress website, you can always jump into the #wordpress freenode IRC channel and ask for help. That’s what I always do and they are almost always able to help point me in the right direction.

          • Mathijs Pluijmen

            Thanks for the reply. Well I just started this evening to make a site and according to WordPress content is key. I used to make music in the past so I started writing a bio.
            In the next days I want to make some nice images and write some other pages as well, and then I’ll have a little bit of content. With that I plan on practicing. I quickly wrote down your tip about going to that IRC channel in case I need help, thanks for that suggestion.

      • Nizamul Hoq Chowdhury

        Hi Scott! Your recommendation is extremely true. U have mentioned real picture at your ending para. I admit it seriously.

    • Wolf80

      And? Plenty of websites don’t need cms and if you are good with HTML5 and CSS3 you can out design all those thousands of WP “designers” that use child themes or premium themes but don’t know php coding. Those design all in general have the same basic structure.

      • “Those design all in general have the same basic structure.”

        Again, not necessarily true…if you know your PHP building blocks and your HTML and CSS very well. You can get WP to look and feel however you want…which is why it’s such a popular platform to build with. -G

  • Abhinandan

    very nice explanation…appreciate it…

  • Amica Catherine

    I recommend WordPress. Specially when using with WordPress builder “TempateToaster”.

  • Wolf80

    Yeah, no, I disagree! Unless you are a expert php coder WP will always be limited design wise. I use a different wysisyg editor and everything you think in your mind you can create on screen with a little help of PS also, WP (again,unless you are a php expert) can simply not do that!

    You got theme builders to adjust WP themes, move it around, resize it etc but you can’t just create custom designs what is in your mind. Same with wysiwyg wp template builders like “TemplateToaster” sure you can create a wp website from scratch but again you are limited with the tools they give you.

    So unless you are a php pro WP doesn’t even come close when it comes to custom design.

    When it comes to cms, yeah wp is on top.

    • Hi Wolf80, Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate the contrarian approach, but I must contrarian your contrarian! …

      I am certainly not an expert PHP coder, and I develop custom WP themes all the time. I know PHP well enough to kinda read it and get a sense of what it might do, but I certainly can’t code it by hand off the top of my head — and truthfully, I don’t wanna learn it. I want to learn and do other things instead. So no, you don’t need to be an expert at all in PHP to build custom WP themes and designs.

      I think the key to building themes is to not start with a blank canvas, but with something that already has the basic building blocks — say a child theme, or a naked theme. They’ll give you the raw structure that you can start designing on top of. Or, you could use a drag-n-drop editor.

      I’m working on some new Ten Ton material that deals directly with this topic — after years of seeing PHP and working my HTML and CSS around it, you do kinda get a sense of what’s what. And, it’s important to know where to go to get answers, too.

      I hope this provides some insight, and I’d be happy to continue the conversation here if you like. Cheers! -Geoff

  • Karen

    As a new president of our club, the board suggested WP and our webmaster is quitting because be has always used dream weaver for years. ????