Serif's WebPlus has been around a good while. It started life as a budget alternative to the likes of Adobe's pro-level Dreamweaver, in the days when the only way to design a web site was to hard code it in HTML or build it like a page in a desktop publisher (DTP).

Serif has done its best to move with the times, introducing many of the features of its online competitors as widgets that can be added to a page. In the latest version, for example, you can add site search, Google Maps, Google AdSense, YouTube videos and captcha codes (to prevent spamming), just by dragging and dropping smart objects. See also: Group test: what's the best web-design software?

When you start the program, the analogy to DTP is strong, with the editing pane bordered on the left by a toolbox and multi-pane box of objects and on the right by palettes of colours, a site navigator and object alignment tools.

In the same way as most of the online offerings, Serif has provided a bank of pre-designed templates, where you can simply change the text and images to personalise each page for your own use.

Many of these are provided in dual formats, for PC screen and mobile device, so the design can be consistent on both platforms. Some of these templates are provided with WebPlus X6, some are free downloads and some are charged extras, with prices starting from £8.

New features in version X6 include the ability to add live feeds from Facebook, Twitter and Google+, a site structure view showing thumbnails of pages and their links and a site wizard which handles the basics of a new site, like number and size of pages and the navigation bar.

Serif provides web hosting, but only one month is free at its lowest service level. This means you'll have to opt for something like the Gold package which offers 2GB web space and 25GB of traffic for £40 per year. Add that to the cost of WebPlus X6 itself and you’re looking at £122 for the first year. This looks pricey against the competition, though costs do fall later.

Next page - review by Clare Brandt, from 18/08/12

From 18/08/12 - By Clare Brandt

For many businesses and individuals alike, the question of whether to blog, keep a traditional website, or maintain any of a number of social media accounts is a common quandary. Blogging sites have ways of incorporating traditional content, but do you want to reinvent your Web presence around a blogging site? Social media is great for feedback, but why be tied to the site of the moment? And traditional websites with static content are so 2004. Now you don't have to choose, because with Serif's WebPlus X6 you can incorporate blogging and social media access with an easy WYSIWYG website development tool, and manage it all from Serif's site. See all: PC Advisor software downloads

WebPlus X6 can import HTML files from a local source or URL. It also comes loaded with about 30 theme layouts, a handful of X6 Pro templates, and a link to free content packs on Serif's Website. Each template and layout includes a few different colour themes—colours that have specifically been chosen to complement the layout style, so you don't end up with pink body text on a purple background—but you can use any of the colour themes for any layout.

Each layout also comes in two general sizes: one for a regular website, and one for mobile devices. Unfortunately it's up to you to cut and paste the content. But WebPlus X6 offers you some options for creating a smooth Internet-to-mobile-experience. You can include mobile-ready (and -sized) pages within your site, or link to a separate site. In addition, WebPlus allows you to automatically redirect depending on device accessing the page and set a time delay for the redirect. Redirecting based on user device is one of the features not available in Serif WebPlus Starter Edition, the free version of WebPlus.

WebPlus X6 includes a good balance of professional-looking business sites, and more relaxed, playful ideas. They include almost everything you'd expect from a website template: Home page, contact us, product/image showcase, etc. Unfortunately, some of the WebPlus X6's templates are a little busy, and the fake Latin text (not the usual lorem ipsum) can be a distraction ): you may find yourself trying to read it to discover what the page was really intended for. Fortunately any element you don't like can be relatively easy to change, delete, or you can start from scratch.

Drawing from scratch is not as easy with WebPlus as with Xara Web Designer MX (a WYSIWYG Web design program with equally adaptable templates). Unlike the full scope of excellent drawing tools available in Xara, WebPlus includes quickshapes, line drawing, and artistic text, plus a generic image editor. It's a little tricky to master. However, WebPlus X6 is really easy to use even if you are not a designer or Web designer. You can use it even if you have no experience whatsoever with desktop publishing.

When you opt to create a new web page from scratch rather than from a template, you are given some size options: 320 pixels (typical smartphone width), 640 pixels (iPhone 4/4S protrait native width, 750 (for smaller monitors), 960 pixels (recommended), 1200 pixels (for widescreen monitors only), or a custom width. You are then asked choose a navbar style and Assets, which essentially are the elements from the various templates and content packs. WebPlus X6 includes a lot of content—graphics (icons, buttons, etc), stock images, panels, buttons, picture frames, content, backgrounds—fortunately you can add Assets any time, and it makes it a lot easy to work on your design when you have a few ideas in front of you (rather than the entire content pack).

Smart Content, such as blogs, forums, and hit counters, are hosted on Serif's servers. For that, you'll need to create a Serif Web Resources User account, regardless of whether you plan to host your site with Serif. The user account is free for up to 512MB per month of bandwidth, and is separate from your Serif account. The good news, however, is that you can create a blog built right into your website, and use your Serif Web Resources User account as a very simple content management system. This is definitely one-up on Xara Web Designer MX and many other WYSIWYG web design tools, which rely exclusively on RSS feeds, document frames, and linking to blogging sites for content.

Verdict:

Out of all of Serif's products, WebPlus is the one that has really hit the mark for me. It's simple to use, yet has all the tools a business or individual might need to keep a current online presence. WebPlus X6 has its quirks, but it's a great tool and well worth the money if you need to build an basic site—and maintain it with current content. If you need ecommerce or other very advanced features, you may need a more advanced program like $45 WYSIWYG Web Builder, but for most folk, WebPlus is the web … plus.

Serif WebPlus X6: Specs

  • Number of pages: Unlimited
  • Number of templates: 60, plus others downloadable
  • Mobile optimisation: Yes. Must create separate mobile pages using linked template
  • Image editor or optimisation: Both
  • Photo galleries: Yes
  • Widgets : Includes: social media feeds, forums with user accounts and logins, Flickr, Reddit, Digg, hit counter, forms RSS feed, Google AdSense, Maps
  • SEO details: Google Analytics, Google and Bing Webmaster validation, ALT and TITLE tags for images, page update frequency
  • SHOP
  • Number of items: Unlimited
  • Support for categories / sizes: Categories and options supported
  • Checkout options (e.g PayPal/Google): PayPal, Mal's, RomanCart
  • HOSTING FEATURES
  • Domain name included: Yes
  • Storage space: 2GB
  • Bandwidth/month: 25GB
  • No of email accounts: 10
  • MySQL databases: No
  • Number of pages: Unlimited
  • Number of templates: 60, plus others downloadable
  • Mobile optimisation: Yes. Must create separate mobile pages using linked template
  • Image editor or optimisation: Both
  • Photo galleries: Yes
  • Widgets : Includes: social media feeds, forums with user accounts and logins, Flickr, Reddit, Digg, hit counter, forms RSS feed, Google AdSense, Maps
  • SEO details: Google Analytics, Google and Bing Webmaster validation, ALT and TITLE tags for images, page update frequency
  • SHOP
  • Number of items: Unlimited
  • Support for categories / sizes: Categories and options supported
  • Checkout options (e.g PayPal/Google): PayPal, Mal's, RomanCart
  • HOSTING FEATURES
  • Domain name included: Yes
  • Storage space: 2GB
  • Bandwidth/month: 25GB
  • No of email accounts: 10
  • MySQL databases: No

OUR VERDICT

While WebPlus X6 might be described as old school, in comparison with the newer online offerings, there’s a lot more flexibility and many in-depth design tools available in this package. Taking some time to get to grips with what it can do pays dividends, if you want to be able to tailor a complex site to your exact needs.

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