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Xara Web Designer MX review

Julian Prokaza
12 Jun 2012
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
40
inc VAT

This DTP-style web design package has its limitations, but it's still a friendly and capable introduction to web design

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Specifications

Template-based content management systems like WordPress and Blogger make it quick and easy to publish a slick-looking website with next to no knowledge of HTML or CSS, but they’re ill-suited to anything that isn’t a blog. Xara Web Designer MX, on the other hand, is a web design application for novices more interested in building a more traditional static site. It's an easy-to-use program, and its DTP-like approach keeps the underlying code firmly hidden away.

Xara Web Designer MX

Starting with a blank page is seldom the best option with an application like this, but Web Designer MX does at least make it easy for novices who want to flex their design muscles. The interface is mercifully free from the floating palettes and multitude of toolbars that crowd other similar applications, and the demo web site that loads when the application is first run is a particularly neat touch. This not only explains the key tools used in building a site, but can also be edited directly to try those tools out.

Working with text and images in Web Designer MX is much the same as using a DTP application. Text can be placed anywhere on the page, and resized or reflowed by dragging its frame handle with the appropriate tool. User-definable text styles make it easy to apply a consistent style across several pages too, and pages automatically grow in length as required — just like in a word processor.

Xara Web Designer MX

Images are similarly straightforward to work with and can be dragged straight onto the page from an Explorer window. Wrapping text is only an option away and basic image-editing can be performed directly on the page with a selection of simple tools. Web Designer MX can also automatically optimise images for web use by resampling them at their current size to 96dpi and saving them either as a PNG or compressed JPEG (the settings for which can be adjusted) — a handy feature that removes the need for a separate image editor.

Deploying such web features as mouse rollovers and pop-up images means working with layers, and these behave much the same as in an image-editing application. Layers are also useful for simplifying the creation of more sophisticated page designs that incorporate background images and other common elements, but it’s at this point where a web novice would do well to investigate Web Designer MX’s range of templates.

Xara Web Designer MX

There are only 33 templates to choose from, but there’s plenty of variation in style and all have a clean, modern design. Each also comes with a dozen or so different page designs for different purposes, plus a handful of colour schemes (colours can also be edited manually). Separate page elements are also supplied, making make it easy to drop in a consistently styled button or sidebar, for example, without having to copy it from another page.

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