Summary of eHow articles for January

State Fair Sights Cowpokes

Two young cowpokes at the State Fair last summer caught my eye. At eHow, I’m still working through the various free web design tools and writing how-tos for them. And Tribbit is really cool if you’ve never heard of it. Here’s what I wrote in January.

A new CSS layout paradigm?

A CSS layout that does not rely on DIV, FLOAT, CLEAR nor structural HACK! from TJK Design is a new concept put to the test on numerous browsers. I don’t want to spoil the surprise and tell you how it’s done, but it’s an original idea you should take a look at. It may not be the best solution, but I feel sure it will shake up the CSS layout paradigm as people get into the idea and test/refine it.

A Look at SynthaSite

The final free web page building tool I know about is SynthaSite. This will end the series about free online web building tools that include Weebly, SiteKreator, and Webnode.

I’ve been writing corresponding how-to articles about each of these tools for eHow. If you are interested in exploring these sites from a personal use prospective and want to see screen shots and step by step instructions, visit my eHow page.

To summarize the free online tools, I found Weebly to be the easiest and most beginner friendly. Weebly has a huge array of widgets to add Google maps, RSS feeds, Flickr images and other content to a page. I found the site for today, SynthaSite (still in Beta), to also be very easy for a beginner. But SynthaSite has some features that would appeal to someone with a bit of knowledge of both HTML and CSS. Therefore, it was my favorite among the four. None are perfect and none come close to achieving results anything like you would expect from a professional designer and developer.

SynthaSite is free for everything. It uses a drag and drop interface. You drag text areas, images, and columns into a page. There are many page designs to choose from. The pages are posted free with a URL leading to a subdomain at Or you can choose to download the pages and publish them elsewhere.

Each thing you add as a widget to a page opens up a Properties panel where you can do some CSS if you like. Right now it’s only setting top, right, bottom and left margins for text and images. Although I think the Properties panel should offer a way to add alt text to an image, it does not. To be fair, none of the other sites I tested let you add alt text either. But SynthaSite’s more sophisticated options with its Properties panel would work well for this, and seems like a logical addition to the interface. SynthaSite has an HTML widget that will accept any HTML (and inline style rules) you might want to add that way.

Since I went ahead and published a demo test site, I was able to do some testing. SynthaSite did much better on HTML and CSS validation tests than the other sites tested in this series.

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A Look at SiteKreator

I’m on a streak, testing out all the free online web page building tools. The lastest is SiteKreator.

My overall impression of SiteKreator is that the free version is very limited when compared with Webnode and Weebly. To get services you may want you have to pay anywhere from $20 to $40 a month. For that kind of money, you’d be better off doing it the old fashioned, pre-Web 2.0 way by creating the site from scratch.

SiteKreator is a bit different in approach from the others. It isn’t drag and drop. It uses tiny (tiny!) icons with drop down menus. The M icon lets you add menu items (and therefore, new pages). The A icon lets you add areas that may contain text, images, or files. When you have an area on a page, you use a T icon to edit or add to the area. The control panel is revealed by clicking a P icon. Page properties and your account info are under the P icon.

Although I played around with it quite a while, I didn’t actually go ahead and activate the account. (You must respond to an email to activate.) Therefore, I cannot give you any information about how well the page performed in the browser when published and whether it could pass any validation tests. Based on a few runs through the validator with the Sample pages they provide, I’m fairly safe in saying that they would not perform well. Realistically, however, someone wanting a free tool with a URL coming from free hosting probably doesn’t care about HTML purity or accessibility.

Several days ago I saw a blog post that said SiteKreator was a Dreamweaver killer. There is no danger of that.

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A look at Webnode

I received some email (Apparently, I had comments shut off for some posts. I think I’ve fixed that.) after my previous post about Weebly that encouraged me to take a look at Webnode. The email from Nicholas even suggested I take a look at this post by a teacher who enthusiastically endorsed Webnode.

I did take a look. Here’s what I think.

Webnode provides a powerful set of online tools that allow you to create a website absolutely free. The site can be published free on a subdomain at webnode, or it can be published to a domain of your own. To publish on your own domain, a novice web page creator going to Webnode would need a basic understanding of FTP settings and DNS information prior to signing on with Webnode. If you don’t already own a domain name, Webnode will arrange the purchase.

If you wanted to create a website, but couldn’t afford to buy an expensive tool like Dreamweaver, Webnode would be an alternative. That said, I found it to have a steep learning curve. The interface was not obviously intuitive—at least to my mind. Any template you pick has a predetermined set of pages that have to either be edited or deleted. There’s already a variety of content on the suggested pages that must be either edited or deleted so that your own content and images can be added. You can add your own template, which implies that you already have web design experience and tools at hand. You can also edit the CSS files, which implies that you already have CSS experience. It seems to me that anyone wanting to create a website using online drag and drop tools would be lacking in such background experience, but maybe I’m misunderstanding who the target audience is for this site.

Webnode gives you email and stats, RSS, and handy widgets like PayPal options, maps, image galleries and other handy drag and drop goodies. It has a lot to offer, but demands a lot of effort from the user.

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Related Posts: Weebly, Site Kreator, SynthaSite

A Look at Weebly

I recently tried out Weebly. It’s a site that offers drag and drop web page creation, along with free hosting of the pages you create. You can publish the pages you create on a domain of your own choosing.

They offer a blog among the choices as to what you can make with their interface, but if you add a blog to a site, it must be hosted at Weebly to work.

I was trying it out because I was writing a how-to article about it for eHow. I made a test web site, which reflects my quickly done effort while testing for the eHow article.

It is easy. Very easy. But if you run an HTML validator on the test site I made, you find 48 validation errors on the first page. The blog, where I didn’t go as wild dragging and dropping widgets and elements onto the page only (only?) has HTML 22 errors.

I didn’t make an effort to create anything real that I would use. I just tried out the elements to see if they fulfilled the promise of letting an inexperienced user create and publish their own information in a web page. Weebly does that. However, I don’t think it provides any useful fodder for education in web design. If you are teaching programming and want to look at a smoothly working example of a web 2.0 site, it could be instructive.

Are sites like Weebly going to eliminate the need for instruction and education in web design by making it so simple to get published on the web that even a kid could do it? I don’t think so. They have a place, a niche. For example, if you were getting married and wanted a short-term, fast and easy site to store information about the wedding and its related events, maps, gift registration sites, and such info, Weebly would be a solution. But Weebly is limited. Which means a solid grounding in the web development nuts and bolts is still necessary for most web site creators.

ADDENDUM: July 27, 2010. Weebly made news today with a new drag and drop image editor called Image Perfect. You can read about it at TechCrunch.

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Related Posts: SynthaSite, SiteKreator, and Webnode

Useful links for the New Year

  • Innovative Minds Don’t Think Alike, a NY Times article, talks about why even the most expert of people need to bring in fresh perpective from outside their “box” when innovative thinking is needed. Very interesting ideas on how the brain works. I posted a few thoughts of my own about this at BlogHer.
  • Adding Avatars and Gravatars to Your WordPress Blog gives you step by step instructions from Lorelle.
  • Time Magazine says these are the best 50 websites made in 2007. What do you think?
  • Indexed asks a pertinent question about the way culture intersects with education in “Cause, effect, or both?”