Thursday, 26 April 2007

Site building software

It's hard work building a website with software that works like a word processor, such as Nvu. Although this is great for producing one page, and easy to use for anyone familiar with WYSIWYG applications like Microsoft Word, it has serious disadvantages for dealing with anything beyond a few pages.

Serious site development software includes Ken Evoy's tremendously popular Site Build It! aimed primarily at producing medium sized commercial websites, and XSitePro, suitable for producing as many smaller websites as you like. These packages are very popular with good reason. Each provides a wide range of hugely useful functions that make producing and managing high quality websites that make money.

Both of the big two packages provide some degree of automation of the development of a website, such as XSitePro's nice feature of turning a long text document in to an online book in one go, complete with navigation links on every page, but there is other software around that takes the process further. It is necessary to be very careful using software like Targeted traffic or Traffic Hurricane, which are capable of producing thousands of pages of search engine oriented pages. If used without major editing of all of the output pages, the use of this sort of software will get you banned from using adsense, and from the google search engine database, and smaller search engines and providers of context dependent advertising are likely to follow. Some have reported using this sort of software to produce a shell of a website and then edit the pages beyond recognition to avoid any accusations of doorway pages, search engine scraping, etc., but I'm not sure it's worth the trouble, and the risk.

HyperVRE is a rather more respectable package, aimed at producing smallish content-based sites automatically. The basic idea of HyperVRE is to pick a theme, find public domain (or, in the paid version, any other source, including private label documents) around that theme and automatically generate a decent looking website, with context dependent advertising, affiliate marketing, and text link advertising.

HyperVRE has some nice ideas, such as the inclusion of RSS feeds to pages to add some freshness, a facility to include random snippets of other pages within a page to allow a reader to wander through the site. However it is rough and ready in some respects, has a few things that are more bugs than features. I think of HyperVRE as a toy rather than a tool for developing serious websites, although at least one person has made $9000 a month with websites produced with it. It is possible to produce something which looks like a website very quickly. But the organisation of the site is chaotic. To make it into a website that is well-organised would be a lot more work, and probably better done using other software.

With the hindsight of experience, I think for someone aiming to produce a real business rather than grab a few quick pennies before the roof falls in, XSitePro is best for building small websites, and Site Build It may be worth considering for a single larger site, especially for someone who would not feel concerned about being able to use scripts not included and produce multiple domains (without paying additional $300 a year).

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