The web design market is packed with tools that promise to help you quickly build a website, even if you’re a design novice. But while ease of use is great, the end results are more important still: and the dull, static HTML templates you get with many of these packages won’t impress anyone at all.
The cross-platform MAGIX Website Maker 5 takes a different approach, by allowing you to create animated Flash-based sites, which you can then customise with a host of animated and dynamic components: music and video players, photo galleries, contact forms, guestbooks, embedded YouTube videos or Google maps, and many more.
The package is still reliant on the quality of its templates, of course, but fortunately these are generally very good. You get to choose from more than 150 in total, each of which includes multiple pages and comes with the navigation already built in. And they make excellent use of Website Maker’s more advanced features.
No need to take our word for it, though – just browse the demo site, which includes the lightbox, media player, contact form and other goodies. It’s all very professional, and keep in mind that this isn’t some polished product that might take you hours to produce: it’s a template, you can start with something like this in seconds, and then easily customise it to suit your needs.
While you must install a local component before you can use Website Maker, it actually runs in your browser, and this may pose a few compatibility issues (only IE, Firefox 3 and Opera 9 are supported). Otherwise, though, the program has a rich interface that looks and behaves much like many other website designers.
So, for instance, there are three ways to create a new website project. Beginners will appreciate the Assistant, a wizard that walks you through each step of the design process. You can choose your preferred site template from the excellent selection on offer, each of which comes with all the necessary pages and navigation built in. Or, if you know what you’re doing, you can start with a blank page and build a site from scratch.
Whichever option you choose, you can then customise your work with the program’s sizeable library of Flash components. There are more than 200 navigation bars of various types, for instance. You get several media and music players, and a host of ways to present your favourite digital photos.
The “Extras” section of the library includes some particularly useful dynamic components: contact forms, guestbooks, download boxes that can be used to host files for your visitors to access, and widgets that can embed YouTube videos or Google maps. And if this isn’t enough then you’re also able to add custom snippets of HTML, which may allow you to embed other services in your page.
Adding most of these objects requires little more than a click, or a drag and drop. And you’re then able to adjust them further with a range of interesting options. So instead of just having a static YouTube player, for instance, you can add a custom animation so that, say, it flies in from the left. Filters can then apply a block shadow, bevel, glow or other effect to the object. And you’re able to tweak the colour, opacity, scale and angle of rotation of any component, too.
Overuse these effects and, unsurprisingly, your pages can become a real mess. Apply them a little more carefully, though, and just about anyone can create an eye-catching site, packed with professional features, suitable for either personal or small business use.
Once your site is finished then you’ll want to put it online, and here Website Maker 5 is a little different to most of the competition.
The good news is that purchasing the program gets you 5GB of web hosting space (with FTP access) for a year, plus the domain of your choice (www.your-name.com), plus support for managing 3 further sites based around your own MAGIX URL (your-name.magix.net/sitename).
But the not-so-good news is you can’t do anything more than this (it’s not possible for the program to directly manage two dot-com domains, say).
And in addition, you’re locked into using MAGIX hosting, which will start to cost you $1.99 a month after the first year if you want to continue using the full features of the program (although if you’re just leaving a simple site online, not editing it, then you can do this for free).
This isn’t a program for the web design professional, then. Template, navigation and page management issues mean it’s really only suitable for small sites of just a few pages. The reliance on Flash makes these tricky to view on Apple devices. And the restrictions on hosting, and the sites you can create, are annoying. You’ll be better off with something more flexible, like Xara Web Designer 7.
If you’re a web development novice who just wants to build a small site, at speed, however, it’s a very different story.
MAGIX Website Maker’s excellent templates will get your project off to a speedy and attractive start. They’re easily personalised with a host of professional features. Domain registration and hosting is handled for you, and you can put your site online in just a few clicks, no need to worry about server names, ports, or other FTP complexities – a perfect package for web designer beginners.
This article originally appeared at softwarecrew.co.uk