Serif WebPlus Starter Edition is free software that takes the pain out of web page design. Installation is a cinch, but we're not fans of programs that by default sneak installations of search and toolbars into our web browser.
Starter Edition is stuffed full of contextual help and templates, so the tyranny of the blank page need afflict aspirant web designers for only a short period. When you launch the program, around that blank page you'll find five panes.
On the left are tutorials, styles and fonts, below you can add elements such as navigation bars, galleries and media, and on the right are options including colour and styles, as well as your site structure. You can rearrange this workspace as you see fit.
We opted to use a 'ready-to-go template'. Opening the Startup Wizard, we found several layout styles and page layouts, and a plethora of colour schemes.
The latter is a nice touch, helping the nascent designer from wandering too far into Geocities territory.
You select a page or pages, and edit the content. It is as simple as that. Editing is no more complicated than using a DTP program: highlight and edit text, drag-and-drop elements, place images. You can import text and images, too. Anyone with a passing knowledge of Word will find 'web design' easy, and the more confident can build pages from scratch.
So why wouldn't first-time web builders choose WebPlus Starter Edition over a hosted, pay-for service such as Mr Site, BaseKit or 1&1? Well, the number of templates is limited, and there’s no e-commerce option. But the principle difference is in publishing.
Use a hosted service and you pay a fee, choose a URL and press 'publish'. Use a standalone builder such as WebPlus and you have to purchase a domain name and set up FTP web space via a web-hosting service, or a connected web server (most ISPs won't allow you to host a website). This is no criticism of WebPlus, but factor in the extra cost and time before choosing your software.
Once you have web space and a URL, publishing from WebPlus Starter Edition is typically straightforward, with a step-by-step guide.