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Serif WebPlus X5 review

Julian Prokaza
31 May 2011
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
82
inc VAT

WebPlus X5 is a well-rounded and very easy-to-use web design application that packs in a surprising number of features

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Specifications

WebPlus X5 is the latest version of this foolproof web site design application. The package is billed as a ‘business’ tool, but it’s suitable for use by anyone with small to medium web site ambitions, but who also lacks the technical know-how to realise them in raw HTML or a heavyweight application like Adobe Dreamweaver.

WebPlus X5 is very much a WYSIWYG web editor that keeps code out of sight and instead favours a drag and drop design approach. That’s not to say it places any constraints on how pages are created, and ambitious types with distinct ideas can start with a blank document and then assemble a layout from scratch using a variety of predefined web elements. Text frames, image frames, buttons and navigation bars can all be dragged onto a page from the ‘QuickBuilder Bar’ and then formatted, much like in a DTP application, using a range of toolbars, palettes and Properties dialog boxes.

WebPlus QuickBuilder

The WebPlus X5 interface mimics that of other Serif applications and makes extensive use of drag-and-drop tools for page creation and DTP-like options for formatting

Basic page structure in place, more web furniture can then be dropped into place from the Flyout toolbar that runs down the left of the WebPlus X5 window. These range from simple things like image galleries, creatively formatted text for logos, tables and embedded multimedia, to far more sophisticated content like site search tools, RSS feeds and JavaScript-powered pop-ups. WebPlus X5 also offers three e-commerce options, including PayPal, although the emphasis here is on ease of set-up rather than flexibility. Even so, the fact that WebPlus X5 can create a basic online sales site within a matter of minutes without the need to worry about any server-side set up makes this a promising application for a fledging internet business.

WebPlus search engine

WebPlus X5 can also be used to create entire structured sites using a simple tree-structured interface that provides full control over page metadata

A similar Wizard-led approach is also used to implement more sophisticated online features like forums and blogs. The learning curve does get a little steeper here, but WebPlus X5 completely does away with the need to worry about server-side PHP installs and mySQL databases. Instead, these are inserted as ‘Smart Objects’ into a site. Serif provides a 12-month WebPlus.net hosting package as part of the WebPlus X5 purchase price, but Smart Objects are stored for free on Serif's servers.

With all the necessary configuration and coding handled by WebPlus X5, the user just has to provide some relatively simple set-up information to get things going. The Help system could be a little more supportive in explaining this process, but anyone with a basic understanding of what a forum or blog is about should be able to figure things out quickly enough.

WebPlus.net doesn’t have to be used for site hosting, as WebPlus X5 can publish a site to any host via FTP (Smart Objects are still stored on Serif's servers, though). However, with WebPlus.net you get domain name registration for one .com or .co.uk address, 2GB of space and 25GB a month bandwidth and fool-proof integration with the application, which makes it very suitable for novices. After the first year hosting costs £4 a month or £40 for a year's package, which is reasonable. Smart Object bandwidth is measured separately and capped at 500MB a month, but Serif assured us that this has so far been ample for its users.

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