Serif WebPlus 8

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A not entirely successful print-oriented approach to Web design.

WebPlus is effectively a print- oriented   DTP application which outputs to HTML instead.

Serif, the company behind WebPlus, has a long pedigree producing surprisingly powerful design applications such as the popular DTP application, PagePlus. In fact when you first launch WebPlus you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d loaded PagePlus by mistake as the interfaces are virtually identical.

It’s not just the interface; the whole approach to design is very familiar. To get you started on your site, for example, you first select from the range of pre-made templates. As with Web Easy Professional these not only set a look-and-feel for your site but also include sample pages with boilerplate text. Unlike Web Easy Professional though, it’s very simple to edit the resulting layout, copy and formatting.

It’s also simple to create your own pages thanks to WebPlus’s DTP-style approach based on a Pages palette for managing pages and freeform text boxes that you can position anywhere onscreen for managing layout - you can even have text flow from one box to another. WebPlus even offers some advanced word processing functionality including a thesaurus, grammar and spell checker and AutoCorrect functionality.

WebPlus also acts very much like a DTP application when it comes to adding graphical impact. The program has reasonable drawing tools built in, complete with gradient fill and transparency support. WebPlus also supports the import of various image file formats that are automatically converted to GIF or JPEG format for web display and comes with 20,000 clipart images. Most useful of all, WebPlus automatically creates the graphical navigation bars for the pages in its templates.

WebPlus’s DTP-style approach promises to make it as simple to create a website as it is to design a print publication. In fact designing for print and for the Web are two entirely different propositions and confusing the two can quickly lead to problems. Managing your site as a single document, for example, is fine when it only contains a few pages but becomes increasingly unwieldy as it grows. WebPlus’s page-based approach to layout is also problematic as it depends on the use of CSS positioning which not all browsers support.

Even less desirable is WebPlus’s artificially fixed page size which means that if you load a large text file your copy automatically and unnecessarily flows onto another page – particularly irritating as you then have to manually add the navigation to make it accessible. Worst of all is WebPlus’s design-intensive high-impact approach. The use of full-page rather than tiling graphical backgrounds is criminally wasteful, for example, while the encouragement to rotate your text blocks leads to them being converted to bitmaps which are not only unselectable, unsearchable and download-heavy but almost unreadable!

Ease of Use
Value for Money

ratings out of 6

Tom Arah

April 2004


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