The latest version of this join-the-dots web design programfrom Magix lets you create Flash-based web sites from templates. It arrives with over 100 improvements designed to attract those whose have yet to take the online plunge.
Although it comes in a box, Website Maker isn’t really a conventional program at all. It’s the electronic key’ that opens the door to a set of web services, including over 150 editable Flash templates with 1,500 design and decorative elements – and because it’s browser-based, you can use it on a Mac or Windows PC.
So what are the 100 improvements? There’s a new user interface (about which we have distinctly mixed feelings); a range of new animations, effects and interactive elements (think galleries, scrollable text fields, lightbox effects and so on); simple vector graphics; the ability to change the size of an individual page without affecting the whole site; as well as free registration for one domain and three sub-domains for 12 months. There’s also support for HTML code snippets – but this is still flagged as beta.
Website Maker breaks the process of designing a site down into three steps – selecting the design, customising it and then publishing. You can either use the Assistant to walk you through each step, begin with a template, or start with a blank page.
In theory, the Assistant is the way for beginners to go – but we found it hard work and unpredictable. The tiny preview window means you’re constantly scrolling left, right, up and down to see what you’re doing, and replacing the dummy lore ipsum’ text with your own – whether using cut and paste or typing – was so hit-and-miss that we gave up.
The templates looked more promising but we found the browser frustrating – you can only see three thumbnails at a time, they’re not arranged in any order (none that we could discern, anyway), and there’s no search feature – and despite some of the built-in Flash effects being pretty sweet, there’s some slapdash design too, with pages including the wrong placeholders. At least the working view is a decent size and you can preview pages before publishing them.
The included templates cater for a wide range of business, hobby and personal site styles and are inevitably geared towards multimedia so you can incorporate fancy photo slideshows, video clips and digital music on your sites. It would be a good choice for example, if you wanted to make a band web site.
Good WYSIWYG tools
Website Maker 5 is exciting and frustrating in equal measure. Assuming you can live with the drawbacks of Flash web sites (not good for SEO, iPhones or iPads – and they can make visitors’ heads hurt if not used with caution), then for the price, this is worth investigating. If you’re confident enough to start with a blank page, then the WYSIWYG tools are rather liberating, the templates are generally good but finding the right one is too much like hard work – and we thought the Assistant was unusable.
Oh, and one other thing. Once you’ve built your site with Website Maker 5, registered a domain with Magix and uploaded the site, you’re good to go for 12 months; after that you’ll need to renew the subscription for a monthly fee or drop down to the more limited, free version.
Contact: 0203 318 9218
- WYSIWYG mode offers plenty of design freedom; supports for HTML snippets could really open things up.
- Assistant mode is horrible; template browser could use a revamp.
Magix Website Maker 5 offers a decent range of templates, with some nice Flash elements (especially some of the navigation), good WYSIWYG layout tools, and easy-to-add interactive elements like media players, guestbooks, forms, download boxes and so on. It could do with a much better template browser, though - and the Assistant mode needs a serious talking to.