The Wix Web-development firm wants small business owners to put away their HTML guides and CSS tutorials. The company just launched a new editor and design toolset that produces professional-level small business websites and requires no meddling with the underlying code.
There is no shortage of drag-and-drop website builders, Eric Mason, director of strategic marketing communications freely admits. "There are a bunch of companies in this industry, and they're all trying to make it easier for people to do something online," he told Small Business Computing, referring to competing platforms like Squarespace, Weebly and Wordpress.
Moving Beyond WYSIWYG Website Publishing
Getting started on those platforms is easy enough. Pick a template; drag-and-drop elements onto a canvas; add some text and a social widget or two; and publish.
It seems simple, but users quickly run into issues with many WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) Web publishing platforms. First, fine-tuning a design often means furiously searching Google on the intricacies of HTML and CSS, explained Mason.
"They get you 60 to 70 percent of the way there, but to move things around you have to get in the code," he said of many online tools. Worse, most Web-publishing platforms are exceedingly rigid in their approach to Web layouts.
Many online Web-building tools arrange elements on a grid, forcing content into predefined, fixed positions. "They want you to drag-and-drop, but only where they tell you," said Mason.
Wix is completely code-free, said Mason. Wix also employs a layer-based technology that acts "more like PowerPoint," which lets users "drag-and-drop anything, anywhere," he said. As a result, Wix's business users can establish an online presence that rivals the slick, mobile-friendly websites of major corporations.
Facebook React in Action
"Traditionally, web application UIs [user interfaces] are built using templates or HTML directives. These templates dictate the full set of abstractions that you are allowed to use to build your UI," wrote Pete Hunt, a former Facebook engineer, in a blog post introducing the technology.
"React approaches building user interfaces differently by breaking them into components. This means React uses a real, full-featured programming language to render views," he continued.
For people that may never touch a scrap of code, React provides a more modern foundation for their websites, free of many of the constraints that often result in cookie-cutter webpages. It also means that Wix can roll out new functionality faster, which lets the company keep up with the latest trends in online user interfaces.
Functional Eye Candy for Small Business Websites
The new Wix Editor arranges content using a full-screen strip layout that users can reposition and edit to their liking. A new parallax scrolling option renders a 3D-like effect by moving foreground and background elements at different speeds, providing added depth and polish as visitors explore a Wix webpage.
Also new are full-page video backgrounds. Users can pick from several included video clips or upload their own. As demonstrated on Wix's own website, code-free Web designers can layer text, buttons, and other elements atop their video clips.
Wix users can also anchor their navigation menus and dock other elements like social widgets, so that they always stay accessible as visitors scroll down a webpage. Contextual pop-up controls keep track of a user's latest customizations, allowing them to maintain a consistent look and feel across their sites.
Finally, a mobile editor lets users tailor the smartphone experience. Whereas grid-based systems "reorder the blocks algorithmically," Wix provides a "freeform template to do whatever you want," said Mason.
Although Wix automatically generates a mobile-ready website, a small business owner may want to give the company's address and phone number more prominent placement. Wix's mobile editor lets users reposition and further tweak their designs with drag-and-drop ease.
The revamped, React-powered Wix editor is available now for new customers. While existing customers have the option to switch to the new toolset, Wix will continue to support the legacy tools.
Free Wix plans are available, although most small businesses will likely opt for the customization, support, and online storage options provided by the paid plans. The yearly unlimited subscription costs $12.42 per month.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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