REVIEW: Serif Jumps The Pond With Four Creative Pro Apps

WebPlus X2: WYSIWYG or HTML?


WebPlus

Web design is a different type of work than print design—we are often working with code and we can never control how exactly the user will view our work, so we must think like an engineer or an architect. Both of these titles have been applied to web designers over the years. So I was very curious to see if WebPlus X2 would be a left-brained, analytical, code-based experience or a right-brained, creative experience where what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG). Serif has chosen to deliver the latter, and this means the user gets a web design experience that is both good and bad.


WebPlus

WebPlus X2 can create some very appealing webpages with plenty of eye candy. Click the image for a larger view.

Several WebPlus tools are familiar to users of the other three applications: the Rotate, Transparency, Warp, Filter Effects and Shadow tools are all here, plus several others like it. HTML editors usually have to rely on supporting graphics applications for these functions. Having it all in one application creates a more comfortable creative experience. I personally believe that in ten years, all web design applications will be able to create layouts without requiring users to know how to code—designers used to write PostScript code in order to create print layouts, and that’s been replaced by WYSIWYG applications like PagePlus. Designers who don’t know HTML will consider WebPlus a lifesaver.

WebPlus also makes complex web elements easy to add and implement: there are tools for adding a variety of web media (including Flash and YouTube), CAPTCHAs, file uploading interfaces, RSS feeds and RSS readers, e-commerce, search fields and more. It’s not often that an application makes drag-and-drop functions like this so easy. But users should also be warned that web design is not as easy as drag-and-drop, and while working with tools like this can put the elements on the page it can only get you so far. If you want a complete e-commerce solution, for example, WebPlus’s e-commerce tool will not get you there: it allows integration with one of three standard third-party e-commerce solutions (PayPal, RomanCart and Mal’s E-Commerce).


WebPlus

As with PagePlus, some of the tools in WebPlus X2 are usually found in graphics applications, not in HTML editors. Click the image for a larger view.

For me the true test of a professional web design application, whether it’s a pure HTML editor or a WYSIWYG application like WebPlus, is whether or not the end result uses clean code and works well for as many users as possible. Another test is whether or not a user can work with the HTML code and fix any errors or oddities. In this regard WebPlus is not very strong. It’s difficult to work with the underlying HTML in WebPlus. This can be a good thing if you’re a complete novice, but in a professional environment it’s essential. You can get to the source code but editing it is a chore and there’s a lot of tags specific to WebPlus that show up. It’s easy to test a webpage in any browser that’s installed on your system, but as far as I can tell there’s no validation against a particular spec. The Site Checker dialog box does allow “W3C validation” but I can’t tell how to check the site against, for example, the XHTML 1.1 spec or XHTML 1 Transitional spec.


WebPlus

Novice users will like the templates that ship with WebPlus X2. Click the image for a larger view.

WebPlus creates HTML 4.01 Transitional pages with CSS either inline or in the head of the webpage, but never as a separate stylesheet. I couldn’t even find “style sheet” or “CSS” in the WebPlus Help pages. Moreover, the code that WebPlus creates seems overly complex and long, which can affect download times for users. This lack of control over code is why I would not use WebPlus X2 as a professional web design application—even with a WYSIWYG application like this one, things do happen and it’s necessary sometimes to handle the HTML. I would recommend anyone who is new to web design to get a demo and give it a try. It will certainly be more comfortable than trying out Adobe Dreamweaver.

Conclusion

These four applications from across the pond do a passable job of producing professional work but there are some deficiencies that I would not tolerate in my own work. As with all things, a product that may not work for me may be perfect for others, and I think these applications (DrawPlus and PagePlus in particular) are a good fit for people learning design or creating personal projects.

DrawPlus X2
Rating: 8/10
US $99.99

PhotoPlus X2
Rating: 6/10
US $79.99

PagePlus X3 Publisher Professional
Rating: 8/10
US $99.99

WebPlus X2
Rating: 7/10
US $79.99

All products published by Serif and all prices are suggested retail prices.