When Written: June 2010
I had a request from the owner of a cottage in Orkney where we have holidayed. She has become a good friend and wanted to update her website. So she signed up with a web design company that for a fee offered her a four page web site with eight images. The company sent her a questionnaire to fill in detailing what she wanted on her web site. The terminology she found confusing and so ask me to take a look and advise.
I decided fairly quickly that to try and get all the information required into just four pages and with so few images would be next to impossible, and her budget would not stretch to a larger package. If you look around hosting is cheap ( even cheaper if like us you have your own servers ) so as she had already paid out to this other company, the budget for this web site was next to nothing and I needed a quick way of producing an attractive web site. I remembered at this point a program that I have mentioned briefly before in this column, Xara Web Designer.
Within half an hour I had a basic 10 page web site built and uploaded onto one of our servers for Catherine to look at. She was delighted with this first attempt, so I transferred more images from her old web site and added some new ones, re-wrote some of the wording and added the necasary SEO tags to help the search engines and within half a day all was completed. The best part about Xara Web Designer is that you don’t use HTML to create your pages. All the design is done within a vector based design tool with lots of pre-cooked designs available for you to drag and drop.
But even after you have used one of these designs or buttons you can change the colours to match your web site, in fact the program even asks if you wish it to change the colours to match the other elements within your design. So if, for example, your design has a foreground colour of green and you drag in a button design which has a foreground colour of red, then Xara Web Designer will ask if you want it changed to match. When your design is finished you just hit the ‘publish’ button and your masterpiece is converted to very neat CSS based HTML and uploaded via FTP to your designated server. In fact the server settings can be stored within your design and so if you want, you can give a single file to your client/friend who, if they have a copy of Xara Web Designer, can edit the design and re-upload to the live web server without knowing a thing about HTML.
Obviously if such a tool excluded HTML totally then it would be severely limited, but this is not the case and it was a simple task for me to put the necessary HTML code for Google Analytics to track web traffic so that the popularity of the site could be measured. If you want to take a look at the site in question it is at www.theslapcottage.co.uk . This exercise got me thinking that it could be a neat way of building the ‘business card’ type sites for those clients who often say that they want to be able to edit their web site but whose budgets don’t really stretch to a full design and implementation on a CMS solution. Xara Web Designer 6 costs just £39 inc VAT and so is easily affordable, I suggest that you check it out. It is no Dreamweaver replacement but then it doesn’t try to be. Rather it tackles the problem from a different angle and achieves a rather competent result.
Article by: Mark Newton
Published in: Mark Newton