A bespoke graphically designed website is simply an expense too far for many SMEs in the current climate; however, the presence of their brand online is something most can ill afford to be without.
Serif’s software solution, WebPlus x6 retails at under £100 and is targeted at both beginners and experts, putting professional quality website design in the hands of small business owners.
Georgina Rayner of inspiresme reviews Serif’s latest offering to present an overview of the application and establish whether or not it delivers on the promise of "professional quality websites made easy”.
- Ability to create and customise your own website including ecommerce sites without the need for coding;
- Able to build sites optimised for all devices including mobile devices;
- ‘Drag and drop’ feature makes it easy to add additional elements to your page;
- Social integration allows you to easily link your website to a variety of social media networks.
Installing the software is straight forward, and takes a matter of moments. You can choose whether to begin with a template, including a mobile template, or to start from scratch. Upon choosing the latter option, you are guided through the initial stages of setting up your website, including selecting your site’s name and page size.
Designing your site
WebPlus x6 is a huge program; however, navigating your way around it becomes familiar relatively quickly. There are two main panels to refer to when designing your site; one situated on the right of your screen the other to the left.
The panel on the left hand side consists of four tabs a ‘How To’ tab, offering easy step by step guidance; and a ‘Text Styles’ tab, enabling you to create your own branded text styles to be used throughout your site to enable consistency. The third tab is the ‘Quick Build’ tab which contains an assortment of different widgets all of which can simply be ‘dragged and dropped’ into place. These include: layout items, navigation items, interactive objects, external managed content including the functionality to create your own blog, social media, media inclusive of Flash SWF files and video, forms and ecommerce. ‘Assets’ is the final tab in this panel; here you can save all the widgets or assets you have added to create an ‘assets pack’ for this project.
The panel on the right hand side of your screen contains other design options such as colour swatches and the ability navigate between master, as well as individual pages.
The trend in mobile and mobile optimised sites has encouraged Serif to incorporate the creation of pages specifically designed for mobile devices into their latest version of WebPlus. Serif has created a common-sense approach, allowing you to create smaller mobile pages to represent your website’s desktop pages and setting up redirects to ensure that mobile optimised pages are only viewed when mobile devices are in use.
The ecommerce tool offered by WebPlus x6 is surprisingly straightforward and flexible. Firstly, you are asked to choose your shopping cart provider, for example PayPal, and are then able to specify a considerable number of details relating to the transaction. These include: transaction types, the name, description and photograph of the product for sale, the price and what type of prompts you would like the customer to receive during the checkout process. There is also the option to import a catalogue of products from a database saving you having to create each individual listing. Overall, this appears to be a great solution to getting your products online, quickly and with the minimum amount of hassle.
The site provides prompts for ‘On Page’ optimisation, helping to make you website ‘search engine friendly’. These include encouraging you to complete title and meta tags on each page and underlining the importance of including keywords relating to your business or service.
WebPlus x6 enables you to effortlessly tie together your website with all your other social media profiles and pages including Facebook, Google+ and Twitter as well as allowing your visitors to effortlessly share content from your website within their own social media networks.
Site Checker and Site Preview
Site checker is another incredibly useful tool in terms of checking your site for broken links and widgets that aren’t working correctly before you publish it. Moreover, you can use the site preview feature to explore the usability of the site and easily make any structural changes to it using the site structure tool.
WebPlus x6 seems to tick nearly every box in terms of providing an accessible and affordable way for start-up and small business owners to create their own website to a professional standard.
As the application allows you to build your site from a template, there is a question mark over whether the end product will appear bespoke or indeed have a mass produced feel. Furthermore, as your business grows you may need to incorporate additional functionality into your site which may become problematic and mean that in the long-run, your business needs can only be met by a site created by a professional website developer and/or designer. However, this remains to be seen and as it stands, WebPlus x6 will surely prove to be a very cost-effective way for entrepreneurs to take their business online.