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Best alternative to XARA for web design?

Posted on 2013-01-06
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Last Modified: 2013-01-07
I need to make a web site which is relatively static but hopefully good looking, though I realize a lot of that is up to me!  I bought Xara Web Designer MX Pro, and found it fairly easy to use, but I keep having issues and find their support to be terrible.  Even their forum is difficult to use, and takes a very long time for postings to show up.  The documentation is rather odd, and some controls are duplicated within the environment.

I do need to allow for user input (a list of document numbers and to have a shopping cart that can handle PayPal.  I looked in EE for Xara postings to see if there is much support here, and found that the earliest posting was a year ago, most are several years old, so I think everyone has moved on.  I tried using WordPress and could get nowhere for a CMS program; great for blogging I guess, but not for a static web design.

So, what is recommended in the range of complexity, ease of use, and price alternatively to Xara?  Portability to Android and iOS would be a plus, but not required.
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Question by:Mike Caldwell
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9 Comments
 
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by:Dave Baldwin
Dave Baldwin earned 400 total points
ID: 38749549
A site with user input and a shopping cart with Paypal is not static and it is not simple.  Have you considered hiring a professional developer to do this?
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by:Mike Caldwell
ID: 38749612
Actually, my son is superbe, but we are partners in a web based business and I need him 100% on finishing that web site!  We have a small piece of that biz that can be done stand alone, so I want to just bring it up without him.  He has seen what I have and thinks it is ugly (he is also a graphic artist), but agrees I should go ahead and when he can he'll reskin it.  I can handle a lot of VBScript behind the web site.  The shopping cart is extremely simple; pretty sure I can just use the one provided by PayPal.  And I can write a VBS to pick up the user input.  It will then mail the list to me, and some hours later I will send the customer an email that his order is ready.  The deliverable is a link to a page with report data on it, which I can do with Word, then save as HTML and FTP.  I have already verified these steps, and maybe I should just finish out with Xara, but their documentation and controls are so odd that I thought maybe I could just start over with something else.  I already have the site, just not the input, etc.  But I lost the source files (Xara let me overwrite with a different site), so would have to recreate the popups, etc, with Xara anyway.  My son can get to it in about two months, I'm just impatient to get some revenue flowing.
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by:Rowby Goren
Rowby Goren earned 400 total points
ID: 38749774
You might consider Blogger or similar website, where you can build "site" relatively easily.  And I would think Blogger has paypal support.

I personally prefer Joomla, but that would be too big a learning curve for your needs.

So consider Blogger and similar "Free" websites.  I think Blogger lets you use your own domain if you want to -- and I assume pay some monthly fee.

Rowby
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RedLondon earned 800 total points
ID: 38750677
I use Xara Designer Pro daily, though not for web pages.  It has pretty robust file backups so I'd be surprised if you managed to lose or overwrite the .xar original file (or maybe .web for the Web Designer program, not sure - never used it, though it is similar because it's basically a cut-down version of Xara Designer Pro).

Check your equivalent path: I have dozens of automatically saved .xar files at C:\Users\RedLondon\AppData\Local\Xara\XtremePro\7.1\Backups (so substitute RedLondon for your Windows login name, XtremePro for whichever folder WebDesigner creates, then the version number).

I've never looked to see if there is an upper limit to the backups it keeps, but right now there are 346 files in there, totalling around 400MB and dating back to September (I think that's when I got this PC, so likely nothing has actually been removed).
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Expert Comment

by:RedLondon
ID: 38750689
I'd also be tempted to give Wordpress a proper shot - so long as you have PHP and MySQL features in your web hosting account, it wouldn't take someone familiar with creating a database and using FTP more than half an hour to get Wordpress installed, and there are definitely plugins that can create a form to send you an email, and I'm sure there are loads of plugins that talk with Paypal's checkout.

There are definitely mobile-friendly plugins/themes for Wordpress that will reformat the same content for mobile - something that Xara's code won't do.

In Wordpress, "posts" are for blog entries or news articles, "pages" for static pages like you're describing.  It works well for simple sites of only a few pages and always gives the flexibility of having more later, for extra content or just search engine food.
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by:Rowby Goren
ID: 38750793
Wordpress.com is the commercial version of "wordpress".  Wordpress is already installed on their site - and you can get your own domain.    My understanding is Wordpress.com does not give you as many features as your own custom install of wordpress --. but it might suffice.

Also your hosting company usually has a quick install for wordpress.  Just push a button on your control panel and wordpress would be installed.  Not all hosting companies offer push button install, but you could check.

Rowby
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by:Mike Caldwell
ID: 38751530
I think I should describe our environment.  We own our own URLs (over sixty in fact), including this one.  WordPress is available from the host.  I did start with it, and I have an 800 page book WordPress For Dummies (800 pages is for dummies????).  I tried building the CMS site with it, but I could not even find how to make the page background and surrounding background the same color without a line between.  I know that sounds trivial, but I spent several hours with the book, on line, and experimenting with the site setup and could never find the line!  So I went with Xara and all I had to do was drag the color to both locations and done.  

XARA tech support also told me to look for the backup; unfortunately I thought the datafile itself had to be titled "index", not just the first page, for it to work on line after publishing, and I pointed to the wrong directory and overwrote everything.  Looked all I could, no older versions.  So now I can bring the published site back, but lose all of the popups, etc.  And it really pisses me off when any vendor thinks he does not need to support the product, just put up a forum and let the customers do it for each other.  Even the forum barfed on my registration, and it was three days before I could post anything.  And many things have to be done over and over; no global way to take effect.  So I thought I'd look for something else.

Think I'll take a look at "Blogger", but otherwise I guess just get over Xara and stick with it.
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by:COBOLdinosaur
COBOLdinosaur earned 400 total points
ID: 38751983
old_mike

No offense intended, but based on what I see in your profile, and your posting in this thread; you do not have the skill set to do what you want to do and you need to consider hiring a professional developer.  Web design and web development are two very different skill sets.  When I see things like saving Word as HTML and using vbs it makes me cringe at the kind of minefield being created.  Are you aware that most browsers and email client will choke on word generated HTML and that most browsers do not support vbs?

When someone indicate they think a shopping cart is simple, it is clear that they do not understand the development required for a secure and safe eCommerce environment.  You will probably save yourself a lot of pain by using some professional development help.

Cd&
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Author Comment

by:Mike Caldwell
ID: 38752064
Cd, pretty sure you are right.  As stated, my son could do this in his sleep.  He is finishing up our web site that manages 100 million documents by a billion record database.  He has done web sites for large jewelry vendors, etc.  I was just trying to get a small revenue site up for a couple of months before he can get to it.

I think I have seen what I need to here, and will close out by awarding points to all suggesters.  I really appreciate the comments, including yours!

Mikie
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