Xara rolls out new versions of its Web Designer products, now at revision 10
While the internet is undoubtedly an integral part of everyday life, it's surprising how many companies still show their face to the world through an outdated, uninteresting and unresponsive website. Yet with products like Xara's Web Designer, there's no good reason to have such a 'that will do' attitude.
Since my first encounter with the product range, I've converted many companies to the cause, showing that web design is not some sort of black art, but can actually be quite therapeutic. The design process is mostly a matter of choosing a template that roughly conveys your message, then through a series of drag and drop operations, building up the website, drawing from the wealth of content included In the package.
This latest version of Web Designer increases this range of content with lots more templates, widgets and effects, consequently keeping your internet presence in line with current trends. Some of these new templates include what Xara calls "responsive web design solutions", which essentially allows you to create websites that work on a number of different platforms. So regardless of the device used, the website will still look as you, the designer, intended. In doing so, you open up your website to smart phone, tablet and touch-screen users. In fact, that's another feature in this release, the inclusion of gestures, making your site more touch-screen friendly.
There's also a menu option that creates these website variations for you, so you can convert your existing sites to work in the same way, without starting from scratch. This does entail some input from the user, to change the size of images, reposition text flow, etc., but the interface and integral tools make it a quick and easy process. For example, if you change the text in the full screen site, it will automatically and instantly be updated in all the other variations. However, resizing images or changing font attributes in the main headers are not rippled through.
The core interface of Web Designer 10 is based on Xara's excellent Designer Pro product, a lineage stretching back to the long forgotten days of the BBC Micro. It was a revelation at the time, and the company has stayed true to its roots with each new revision. This version is no different, bringing a raft of new and improved features to the program, while retaining the relaxed approach to design, which is an encouragement to those who are new to the genre.
For example, the days of fitting your text and graphics into predefined boxes are long gone. With WD10, you can put anything you like anywhere on the page, just like you would in a typical DTP program. You also have full control over the templates, so you can drag pages from one to another, change the size, fonts and colors in fact customizing it to the point where it becomes totally your own. I also like the very useful auto guides that appear as you move objects around the page, making it easy to line things up; similarly text will automatically flow around graphics as you move them. Of course, all these features can be tailored to suit your project.
Other notable additions include 'Supersites'; these are single-page sites designed for quick scrolling. They incorporate fast animated transitions to carry your message in a single document. I must say they're very impressive, easy to create and comparable with the slickest Flash-based sites you're likely to find. There's also a new online content catalogue that effectively expands the built-in design gallery, so you have access to any new content as soon as it's released.
Finally, if you don't currently have any web space to use, purchasing Web Designer 10 can save you the cost of buying some, because the standard package includes 500MB of hosting space, while the Premium version reviewed here includes 2GB of space and a free top-level domain. This means you can get your own domain name for no extra outlay.
If you're not yet convinced, the Xara website has a trial version you can download and try before you buy.