Web design has undergone a revolution in recent years. The majority of users who want to get a slick site up and running now often make use of free Web 2.0 services online, such as Wordpress. And for professional developers who wish to create a site from scratch, Adobe’s Dreamweaver is the application of choice but a difficult program for beginners.
Homepage Maker 6 is designed more for novice users, although it claims that professionals also have much to gain from using it. The interface is unusual in that it runs from a local server, so that developing dynamic sites is the same whether you are working on your PC or live on a remote site. In addition, the interface is clean and easy to use, much simpler than Dreamweaver, for example and more comparable to NetObjects Fusion. One annoyance, however, is that some sections (such as the navigation tools) have not been completely translated from German.
Support for a number of Web 2.0 technologies, such as blogs, RSS (really simple syndication) and chat does require you to be able to work with your site online or to be able to set up a server on your desktop. Nonetheless, many of the more complex elements are handled via wizards, generating the necessary scripts and HTML automatically. There is also support for an online shop; this is also handled via a wizard, but be prepared to spend some extra time setting this up as it requires SQL database support.
The WYSIWYG editor is clean and effective, and the Ultimate edition of the package includes 150 templates of varying quality, but many of which will be more than sufficient to give your site a professional look. One neat feature, which did stir our imagination, was the support for creating sites for mobile phones and PDA devices, and there are some additional elements, such as the bundled RIVA Flash Video Maker and PhotoImpact II SE packages, which will be useful for a range of users.
Homepage Maker 6 is a perfectly decent web editor, even if it’s a little hard to get too excited about it. It’s not a program for professionals, for which NetObjects Fusion 11 costs more than twice as much, but takes advantage of new technologies such as Ajax to create truly dynamic sites. For beginners, however, the bundled templates and Web 2.0 tools will be very appealing.