Quick and Painless Web Site Software

by Lee Underwood

NetObjects Fusion 8 gets your business on the Web for less time and money than you thought possible.

Building a Web site for your business doesn't have to be a difficult or expensive proposition. In fact, with the right software tool at your side, you can build your own site in a matter of hours without hiring a consultant or bribing your teenager to do it for you.

Designed for individuals and small businesses, Fusion version 8 NetObjects is a comprehensive application used for creating Websites. It features a WYSIWYG interface (simply put, you don't have to know HTML) while still making access to the HTML code available for anyone who wants to see or use it. Using this package, you can easily build a Website — starting from scratch — and publish it to a server with a limited amount of expertise.

Begin at the Beginning

Opening Screen
Create new, or open existing, Web sites from NetObject Fusion's Online view.
Opening the program takes you into the Online view where you create new sites or open existing ones. The program provides three ways to create a new site: the Site Wizard, templates or design-from-scratch. The Online view also includes how-to movies, access to online support, products to enhance the Web site and access the 676 page User's Guide and a 219 page Getting Started Guide, both in PDF format — no lack of documentation here.

Site Wizard
The Site Wizard is especially good for business owners who want to create a Web presence but only need to list basic information about their products or services. It lets you create a site in three easy steps. In the first step, you chose the type of site you want from 16 categories, i.e. Beauty and Fashion, Books and Publishing, or Non-Profit. In step two, select the page type — About, Contact Us, Testimonials, etc. — and the layout for each page. In the final step, you have the option of adding contact information for the site. NetObjects Fusion then automatically inserts the information into the proper pages and creates the Web pages.

Of course your site will look just like the site of anyone else who bought the program. If this is an issue for you, check out, additional SiteStyles available online for free and a SiteStyles CD with an additional 250 styles, that you can buy online for $9.95.

Starting from Scratch

The WYSIWYG interface lets you build sites even if you don't know HTML.
If you're experienced with HTML — or more daring — you can build your Web site from scratch. Using the WYSIWYG editor simplifies the process. You can create the site design and the page layouts if you like, but there are also templates and style packages to make the process easier.

While the User's Guide is very comprehensive, if you don't like reading manuals you can poke around the program and manage quite well. Clear and orderly menus, tips and explanations help you discover what each function does (if you wreak too much havoc, there's always the Undo button).

After you create the initial site, you can add all of the extras. NetObjects Fusion offers great advanced features that showcase the software's innovation. The only way to really grasp of the magnitude of this software is to get in the driver's seat and go full speed ahead.

Creating Tables

Table Wizard
Table Wizard makes it easy to add tables to your site.
The new Table Properties interface makes it easier to create tables. Just click the Table Properties tool on the Standard Menu at the top and select the Web page where you want to place the table. A properties box will appear. Here, you can specify the number of columns and rows, the cell padding and spacing, and the size of the table. You can set the width and height of the table to automatic or drag the edges of the table to the desired shape. Selecting a cell and then right clicking provides access to the cell properties. Here you can set all the details pertaining to the font (type, size, attribute, alignment, link) and the cell itself (alignment and background). Now, enter the data in the table and you're done.

Inserting Media
Many Web sites today use media presentations to enhance their presence on the Internet. NetObjects Fusion lets you add a variety of media formats such as Flash, Shockwave, QuickTime, RealVideo/Audio and others. This process is fairly simple and easy to do. It won't create metafiles for Real media, but it can provide a direct link to many different types of media for use on your site.

Built-In E-Commerce

E-Commerce Catalog Properties Editor
Add inventory and product details using the E-Commerce Catalog Properties Editor.
One of the headaches for many Web designers is trying to set up a shopping cart for a Website. NetObjects Fusion should make that task a little easier.

Setting-up an online store takes only a few minutes. Once that's done, you use the E-Commerce Catalog Properties Editor to enter inventory along with details about the products, including the sale and retail prices, weight, description, product image (including thumbnails) and related products to help increase sales.

If you need real-time, online order processing, you'll have to establish an account with an online service. The software lists ten different merchant accounts and provides a direct link online to establish the account. In addition, you can also choose a merchant from the Web host where your site will be located.

Database Integration
According to the company's press release, you can integrate databases into a Website "without the need for hand coding." I was unable to adequately test this portion of the software, but the press release states "no in-depth knowledge of database coding is required. Users can add and edit object properties, such as how database information is displayed on a page, directly in the page view."

Databases can be modified online using Microsoft Access, MySQL, or other ADODB or ODBC-compliant databases. The information is updated in real time so there is no need to re-publish the database. It's probably best to have some knowledge of relational databases to set them up (although the software provides wizards to do much of this without any prior experience).

Photo Galleries
This feature makes life easier for anyone who wants to have lots of photos on their site. Clicking on the Photo Gallery tool in the Advanced toolbar begins the process. Just name the page, select the photos, add titles and captions, and it's done. The software creates thumbnails from the pictures, positions the pictures on the page, and determines all the links and navigation automatically. You can even display the pictures in a popup window without doing any special coding. Don't like the layout? Right-click over the photos and change any of the display options. The software provides the download time for each photo.

You won't need any other image software since you can manipulate images within the program. Features include red eye removal, resizing, cropping, adding borders, shading and titles. You can also optimize and save images in .JPG, .GIF and .PNG formats.

Publishing the Site
Of course, the whole purpose of going through the design and creation process is to get the Website up on the Internet. NetObjects Fusion helps with that too. Clicking on the Publish Site icon on the Standard Menu brings up the dialog box to begin the publishing sequence. You can either publish the site locally (on your hard drive) or to any FTP, SFTP (stands for secure FTP), or WebDAV server.

NetObjects Fusion version 8 ($195.95; upgrade: $104.95) is a comprehensive, integrated, sophisticated yet simple, Website design package. From the individual wanting to post photos for other family members to view to the small business wanting a bold presence on the Web, NetObjects Fusion version 8 offers a complete solution to the design and creation process. Without much experience, it's possible to design a Website and have it up and running quickly.

Adapted from webreference.com.

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This article was originally published on Wednesday Jun 2nd 2004
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