Which site is best for DIY web publishing?
Rather than choose from a limited range of preset templates, Artisteer lets you generate your own design by clicking on the Suggest Design button on the ribbon bar’s Home tab. You can generate further variations by clicking on commands such as Suggest Colours, Suggest Fonts, Suggest Header and so on. Finally, you can switch to tabs that manage menus, sidebars and buttons to tailor your automatically generated design more precisely.
With earlier versions of Artisteer this was the end of the design process, and you’d export the resulting CSS-based theme and graphics into a content management system (CMS) or a traditional editor such as Dreamweaver, but version 3 takes things to the logical conclusion by actually creating the site content too.
Once again, this process is kept as simple as possible: click on the Home tab’s New Page button (or Child Page), and a new page is automatically created and the site’s navigation bars updated to match. Now replace the page title (again, all links update) and add text and graphics into prearranged text blocks, apply style-based formatting and add links.
Compared to Xara’s eye-catching interactive and graphical effects, Artisteer is restricted in terms of design power, but that keeps everything fast and streamlined, and offers real advantages
Pages are automatically added to a Pages panel that runs down the left of the screen for quick navigation of your site. More efficient still, you can simply click links directly on the page. Put all this together and it’s very quick to build a site, browsing and editing content as you go.
Compared to Xara’s eye-catching interactive and graphical effects, Artisteer is restricted in terms of design power, but that keeps everything fast and streamlined, and offers real advantages. Your site really does remain live, so even after you’ve added content, there’s nothing to stop you going back and tweaking its look and feel, or even hitting Suggest Design to rejig it completely.
Artisteer also outdoes Xara in its ability to create posts as well as pages. Each post is created as a standalone page, but Artisteer generates an overview page on which multiple posts are listed chronologically like a blog or a Facebook newsfeed.
This ability to add regularly updated blog-style postings within your page-based site is crucial if you need something fresher, more live and personally engaging than a fixed-content brochureware site.
Artisteer’s very different approach also scores in terms of the underlying architecture of each page. By keeping presentation and style separate, the resulting code can be far more efficient and less likely to offend the purists (it employs div tags for whole text blocks rather than span tags for absolutely positioned lines, for example).
Unlike Xara, it can produce fully fluid layouts that reflow to fit the available screen space, and hopefully this adaptability will be built on in future to create separately targeted designs for mobile and desktop delivery. Most importantly, Artisteer keeps things simple and lets you produce attractive sites that are easy to update without any HTML, CSS or even design skills.
My third option, Tumblr (free), is very different again: rather than running on your local PC to generate HTML/CSS code that you then post to a remote web server, it’s a CMS that runs on Tumblr’s own servers. All you need to begin creating your site is a web browser.
Once you’ve signed up, Tumblr provides a central dashboard with several large graphical buttons running across its top with which you create the content for your site. The first of these, Text, is the most important since it takes you to a web form where you can enter a title, any descriptive tags and the content of your post, including images, which you can upload directly.