Xara is one of the UK's oldest software developers, and since 1981 it has been associated more with drawing and illustration software than web design.
Regardless of this, its Web Designer software is now in its seventh version, and the experience the company has accrued over the years is readily evident, from its accomplished interface to the versatile tools contained within – some taken straight from Xara's excellent design software.
Double-clicking a template from the Design Gallery gave us a ready-made website that just needed us to replace the placeholder text and images. If you simply want to get a website up and running quickly, this is all you need to do.
There are quite a few templates to choose from, and they range from the insipid to the moderately attractive, and while they err more towards bland than mind-blowing, they offer a good base to begin designing a website.
Xara Web Designer 7 Premium offers plenty of scope for configuring templates to make eye-catching and unique sites that fit your vision. We particularly liked the fact that that when we changed the basic colours of the template, our website reflected the changes in real time.
Each template comes complete with a number of web pages that can be easily arranged and edited, with links in your site's navigation updating automatically. This let us concentrate on editing the layout and adding essential features rather than having to fiddle with the often frustrating details of website creation. There's also a handy tool that optimises all images on your website for use online.
Advanced features like embedded videos and Google Maps can be dragged and dropped onto a website, and the range of included ecommerce widgets – including PayPal and Google Checkout tools – is good, though in practise they just take you to a website where you download the HTML to insert yourself.
Nevertheless, with Xara's robust range of tools at our disposal, we were able to make an attractive and fully functioning ecommerce site in just over an hour.
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