Tech

Xara Web Designer 365 Makes It Easy

7.29.2016

Xara Web Designer 365 Makes It Easy
The Xara interface with a right-click dialog.

Having a web presence can be tough, and keeping it updated can be even tougher. If you’re looking for a simple yet powerful Web design software that doesn’t require a knowledge of coding, then Xara Web Designer 365 Premium may be your solution.

To find out more, I dove into Xara Web Designer 365 Premium for several hours to design a single-page Supersite, which the company explains is an alternative way of publishing a website that provides instant navigation between pages along with animated page transitions. I’m not new to website coding, but I think Xara Designer will appeal greatly to those who are. Let me give you some reasons why.

Xara Web Designer 365 Premium is WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) web design software. That means you don’t need to know code. You can design your entire site visually, dragging and dropping photos, creating text wherever you want, and adjusting layers. You can work from scratch or rely on templates. While working on your site, you can see a live preview at any time.

One  convenient aspect of Xara Web Designer 365 Premium is its extensive online content catalog with a wide variety of media and templates so you don’t have to start from scratch. You can browse stock photos, symbols, website themes, single-page websites, social media content, and more. The templates come pre-loaded with filler images and text, so it’s a simple matter of replacing it with your own information. I appreciated how the social media templates show you the “safe areas” of the image (where it won’t be covered by other elements). My Google+ profile is currently sporting a Xara-designed cover photo (below).

While designing in Xara Web Designer 365 Premium, I found the layout reminiscent of Photoshop and appreciated several essentials in the vertical toolbar, like the camera icon (to replace photos), and the T icon (to edit text). If you're happy with the layout of the template you select, it won’t take long to get a site up and running. And you can add custom elements, too, like photo grids and slideshows. Several of the components I wanted to edit were locked into a group, but I only had to right-click and ungroup before I could access the Replace Photo dialog. If you  add elements to a template, be aware that you’ll need to right-click and select Website variants > Share with all variants in order for the items to be added to your site if you’ve selected a template that has desktop and mobile versions.

While you’re designing a site, the Xara Web Designer 365 preview feature will show you how it looks, and you can even see and rollover actions and animations.

When uploading to Xara’s Web hosting, you can register a domain name, specify a domain name you already own, or  use the Xara hosting subdomain provided to you. The software will upload to the root folder of the subdomain unless you specify a subfolder, as I did. Check out the live version of the site I created. Other upload options include Magix Online World and FTP (any other Web host). Xara hosting, includes 512 MB of hosting with your purchase, plus a free 2GB upgrade your first year.

I could write a book about all the different features in Xara Web Designer 365 Premium, but depending on your level of experience and goals, it may not be relevant. Just know that Xara Web Designer 365 Premium can get you up and running with a custom designed website in just one day.

Here are a few additional features I think are noteworthy:

  • Sticky objects: For instance, you can create a navigation bar that stays at the top of the screen as you scroll past the fold
  • Stretching backgrounds: Make the photo cover the whole width and/or height of the browser
  • Liquid text flow: Easy text wraparound when doing layouts with text and images
  • Embedded fonts (and access to Google’s font library): You’re not stuck using web-safe fonts
  • Slideshow style presentations: See example 
  • Graphic creation tools: Freehand and quickshape drawing tools for extra customization, for example
  • Support for retina screens
  • Google Analytics and Google Sitemaps, ability to add HTML code for keywording
  • Xara community: Including forums, newsletters, tutorials, and other resources
  • Cloud features: Edit your site from different locations without having to have the software installed
  • Update service: Rolling updates between major releases

I think Xara Web Designer 365 Premium has potential. It’s easy to create a fully functional website with the software, and you have the choice of keeping things simple or get really hands-on in the customization. From an SEO and compatibility standpoint, Xara Web Designer 365 Premium delivers cross-browser-compatible, W3C-compliant websites that adhere to CSS standards, and you can incorporate Google Analytics and Google XML sitemaps into your site, or even add HTML code to the head or body of the pages. So, from a Web design standpoint, it should accommodate not only the website novice but someone who wants to get a little more into the code aspect of things.

Does Xara Web Designer 365 allow you to quickly get a website up and running? Yes. Is it easy to import your own images? Yes. Are the designs flexible? Yes, depending on how much time you want to invest in tweaking options. Its major restriction? Xara is for Windows only.

System requirements:

  • Microsoft Windows Vista | 7 | 8 | 10, 32-bit or 64-bit
  • Intel Celeron or AMD Sempron or newer
  • 500MB of RAM
  • 300MB of available hard-disk space

See the website design I put together for this Xara Web Designer 365 review.

Both versions of Xara Web Designer 365 include 500MB of web space. Premium  includes a free one-year upgrade with 2GB of space and a free top-level domain name. Xara Web Designer 365 is $49.99, and Xara Web Designer 365 Premium is $99.99. 

xara.com

Betsy Finn, M.Photog.,Cr. is a Michigan portrait photographer.

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