Everyone wants their site to look like the next Amazon.com, but money talks in Web building and any feature-packed software will cost hundreds of pounds. So it's good news then that the latest NetObjects Fusion gets even better and stays around the £100 mark.
Macromedia's Dreamweaver, the market leader, will still set you back around £400 and even at the lower end of the market, Microsoft's FrontPage 2003 is £180. Fusion has cracked this middle ground of the Web design market through eight progressive versions and NetObjects Fusion 9 is the place to start Web building on a budget.
NetObjects Fusion 9 features a WYSIWYG interface, which basically means anyone familiar with a Windows package will feel right at home, immediately. However it still offers freedom to those who want to get to the guts of the code. This application is targeted at individuals and small businesses, helping them to make their first site and then take it that bit further. Using Fusion 9 it's quite easy to build a Web site starting from scratch and publish it to a server with a limited amount of expertise of either aspect of Web building.
The program opens in the Online view as it does in previous versions and, although it looks slightly different, the essential links are clear. This area is where most projects begin enabling you to open existing sites or create new ones in one of three ways. You can use the Site Wizard, open a supplied template, or design a site from scratch.
Most design packages offer limited templates that are painfully basic at times, but Fusion has carved a good reputation for excellent templates that suit all sorts of site. They range from those for a basic e-commerce site to one for displaying your gran's collection of Royal Doulton.
Using the Site Wizard, the software enables you to create a site in three easy steps. The Fusion interface is thankfully kept as clean as it was in version 8, so you won't get lost. The first step is to choose the type of site you want to build, then you pick the page type along with the layout for each page. In the final step, you enter the contact information about the site. NetObjects Fusion then automatically inserts the information into the correct pages and instantly generates the pages, which you can view offline in your Web browser.
Creating tables, inserting audio and video and even e-commerce functionality are kept simple, while the handy Photo Gallery feature is a brilliant way of displaying a picture gallery on your site without generating complicated HTML.
So how much better is version 9 over its popular predecessor? The biggest step forward is its Flash integration. Macromedia's ubiquitous Web animation tool has been crying out for full NetObjects Fusion support, and fi nally it's here. Now, with this latest version, you can add Flash banners to your site with custom text effects without leaving Fusion or needing to know any Flash programming.
You can add custom section titles and decorative end-caps to your graphical navigation, which is just perfect for some visual dressing-up, although it does seem to be limited to alignment issues. There's also a new Eyedropper tool, which is one item that shouldn't have been absent from the last version. It enables you to match colours exactly and select objects while in Design mode to ensure your colour combinations are correct. CSS usability is improved, but standalone tools still do the job better. All-in-all it's an inexpensive, easy way to build your site.