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The Magic of WYSIWYG: Web Design Software For Users of Every Level

written by: Niki Fears•edited by: Robin L.•updated: 9/26/2008

A look at what WYSIWYG web editors are and what some of the best software is for easily building great web sites.

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    Web design and development has come a long way since the early days when everything had to be hand coded, line by line. The time, headaches, and large amounts of caffine consumption that was required to build standard web sites has turned into a process that is a lot more user friendly through the use of WYSIWYG web building utilities which allow almost anyone, of various skill levels, to build a web site for personal or professional use.

    What is WYSIWYG?

    The term WYSIWYG stands for a type of visual editing known as “What You See Is What You Get”. Essentially what this means is that instead of designing a web site using complex code, you are visually creating the site through various built in components or drag and drop features that are very similar to the sort of tools that you are familiar with from standard desktop publishing software. This way, you know exactly what your web site will look like as you are building it.

    WYSIWYG web editors can range from the very simple and basic with fill in the blank type of set up to more powerful, feature rich software that gives you complete control over your web site and includes all of the bells and whistles such as form builder and easy roll over image editing.

    Where Can You Find WYSIWYG Web Editing Software:

    Finding WYSIWYG web design programs is very simple. Many web hosts already provide a site builder service as part of their hosting package. Homestead and Freewebs are two great examples of this (see more information about their site builders below). You can also buy stand a lone software that will allow you to upload to any host. The features, skill level requirements and prices can range on these programs from very basic beginner level software at around $20 to more powerful, advanced user programs that can run for around $100.

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    Some Great Choices for WYSIWYG Web Builders

    For Basic Users:

    If you are new to web building and just want something that is very simple and basic that you can learn quickly, there are a couple of great choices available.

    The host Freewebs includes an easy to use site builder with their hosting that allows you to choose from a number of templates and colors then customize the background, text, and insert images. It also includes a form builder and additional elements that you can add to enhance your site such as a hit counter and mailing list. The Freewebs site builder does not give you true drag and drop ability as far as the page layout goes; everything is in a fixed position. But it does give you a simple way to create a great looking web site even with their free package, although they do have additional features available with their paid subscriptions.

    Perfect Website Creator, by Cosmi Software is another great choices for beginners. It gives you more control over the exact layout of your page but does not include any of the bells and whistles of some other software; however you can insert your own html script to give your site more functionality. This program runs for around $20.

    Intermediate to Advanced:

    For those who want more features but are still looking for something with a relatively small learning curve, Web Easy 7 by Avanquest may be a good choice. It is very user friendly but gives you a few more options such as ecommerce tools, a flash builder, and a library of templates and graphics. The professional version will run around $50.

    Homestead is another web hosting company that provides an excellent site builder program. In fact, it is one of the easiest to use and most versatile options out there. You can choose from hundreds of templates and simply replace the text, or for the adventurous user Homestead's site builder, which is an Intuit program, is full of features such as an easy form builder, polls, maps, mailing list, time and date script, shopping carts, and much more. It gives you great drag and drop control and you can insert scripts for any of the hand coding that the more advanced user would like to do. The down side is that some Vista users may have trouble with the software and you will have to have an older copy of Microsofts Java Virtual Machine in order for the program to work. They do; however, have a site builder lite version that can run online without the download but it does not give you the same features or usability. The program is included with the hosting service which can run from $5 a month for a basic 5 page web site, up to $50 a month for full eCommerce website with more features. The average account is $20 per month.

    Another options for more advanced users looking for featured loaded programs that are powerful and give you lots of creative freedom is Serif's WebPlus X2. You can learn the program fairly quickly with its user friendly controls and gives you tons of customizable options as well as a handful of templates to work with. Interactive components such as forums and blogs as well as tons of other features are available at the click of a mouse. The list price is around $80 and it is well worth the money.

    No matter what you skills or budget you can find a great WYSIWYG program to help you build the website that you need and you will be amazed and how easy it can be and how much fun you will have.