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Homestead’s Latest Site Builder

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Welcome Websitebuilder

Websitebuilder is the 3rd generation platform from Homestead. As of now they are running 3 platforms; the original, downloadable desktop version, Site Builder Plus an online version and the new and improved Websitebuilder that is cloud-based and responsive, meaning the site will render correctly in whatever device the viewer is using.

The drawback or the plus depending on your perspective is that the site must be re-built. The existing site can’t just be moved over to the new builder as there is too much difference in the software. For those with huge sites this can be daunting, but you are able to build the site at your own pace and your original site will still be up and editable as always.

Being a dyed-in-the-wool desktop user I was very skeptical, but I decided to give it a try because I knew that mobile sites were important and I didn’t care for the Duda option. Much to my surprise I rather liked it. There is definitely a learning curve, it’s not particularly intuitive and there were/are some bugs and things the developers neglected to add, but I stuck with it and built a site. A lengthy process, but at the end I had an updated, more modern looking site. I’ll probably re-build it as I discovered a lot the more I built, but didn’t want to spend the time to back-track. I like it far and away better than the SiteBuilder Plus option.

The Pros:

  • It’s a responsive site builder. Meaning that it will render correctly (for the most part) across all devices. No need to use a third-party like Duda to get your site mobile friendly.
  • For those who use templates the offering isn’t huge, but they present a new, fresh look to sites and the program has the capability to change anything on the template. There are no blank templates, but you can simply choose one, select all the elements and delete and you have a blank canvas.
  • Finally! Drop down menus are available.
  • It offers a ‘built-in’ blog. No more having to run back and forth between your blog and your website.
  • You can add HTML or even embed a web page.
  • Colors are easier to find/change than in the previous builder.
  • There are several photo gallery styles to choose from and of course the ability to  add a single image. They’ve included an editor that gives you the ability to add effects to your images.
  • Offers the ability to build your pages using sections. Use different backgrounds for each section, divide your information by sections and you can even create a section menu.
  • There is much to discover in the new builder. The main editing menu is where you begin and from there the designer (that’s you!) can create a great site.

MainMenu

This is just a highlight of the new and improved Websitebuilder.

Feel free to add what you’ve discovered about Homestead’s newest site builder.

Coming Up: The Cons

Does A Pretty Site Matter?

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Websites depend on several factors to be successful. Design, search engine optimization and viewer usability are the mainstays of any website. Users of the Homestead sitebuilder software need to be aware of these and design sites accordingly.

You can create a gorgeous website and fail, you can create a gaudy, but well-optimized site and fail, you can create a blah, unoptimized but fairly useable site and fail. Granted there are degrees of failure and success among any of the above, but to be more certain of success than failure you need to incorporate all three elements into a site.

  • Asthetics are very important. If a site has eye-appeal a visitor may stay long enough to find out if it also contains the information they need. Creating sites that are simplistic, uncluttered, yet attractive is an important step in site design. But this alone will not ensure that the site will ever find its place in the Internet ‘sun’. 
  • Usability is paramount when designing a website. If you create a site that visitors have a difficult time navigating or finding the information or product they were seeking you haven’t done your job. The journey through a site should be as easy for your viewer as possible. This means consistent navigation, making the purpose of your site readily apparent, providing good content and not making your visitors work at finding what they need, because they won’t.
  • Search engine optimization, without it you might as well pack up and go home. Search engines rely on textual information in order to index a site. Image based sites can often find themselves at the bottom of the pile.  Using alt text on images supplies the SE’s with information and also gives viewers who use assistive technology or those who view pages in text only an idea of what an image represents. But this isn’t going to be enough to satisfy either the viewer or the search engine. Content, content, content.  Meaningful information written for the viewer will satisfy both your visitors and the search engines.

Requests for site reviews in the Homestead Connection Forum show us time and again that webmasters aren’t providing adequate information for either type of visitor – human or search bot – particularly on the Home page. This page is the heart of a website and needs to be presented in a manner that is going to capture the interest of the viewer within 10 seconds.  Webmasters often fall prey  to clip art mania, using every cutesy, spinning, whirling, graphic available. That isn’t what a viewer is there to see, nor will it  help grab their interest – often the opposite is true. They want to know what you offer, how it will help them, what makes your product or service better, different, more helpful, than the million other sites out there offering the same product or service. They really aren’t interested in how clever you are at finding clip art or creating Flash-based pages.

Does pretty matter? Yes, but to be successful your site needs to incorporate all the three elements; good design, usability and search engine optimization.