*May not be as advertised.  May not be free.  May promise badgers.

 

            Hi!  How are you on this fine weekend! Monday.  Or whatever day I’ve caught you on.  You see, I’ve lost track, and I blame the world of WYSIWYG programs.   

 

WYSIWYG has become a popular, if long, abbreviated way of advertising for click-and-drag website builders.  WYSIWYG programs (which I’ll now call WisWigs, because I can)  are meant for us poor sections of the population whose brains tend to dribble out of their ears the moment someone tries to show us the glorious ways of .html, .xtml, Java, or the rest of the long list of ways to code a website lately.

 

            Now, I’m sure some of you are going, “But DeadCat!  HTML coding is so easy.  Let me show you!”

 

            What, you really do want to see my brains dribble out of my ears?  I assure you, it isn’t pretty.  It smells funny, too.

 

 

 

            I’ve tried many times in the past to learn HTML coding.  I start staring off into space and drooling, either by reading, trying to do it hands-on, or by having someone explain it.  I am a point and click girl, hands down.  There are people who will make fun of me for this, but that’s because they’re elitist whores.  (I’m kidding.)

 

 

                                                     

 

            Anyway, back to the point: the market for WisWigs has increased dramatically since I built my first website some years ago.  At that point, the only real program I could find that I understood was FrontPage.  I make fun of myself for this, because when the only builder you can understand is a Microsoft Product, you lose geek points. 

 

FrontPage had serious issues.  FrontPage and FireFox hated each other with the burning passion of a zillionty burning suns, for example.  If you’ve ditched Internet Explorer for FireFox, which I already had, this is a Serious Problem.  The builder, on the other hand… *dreamy sigh*  The builder was… just wonderful.

 

Okay, I’m lying.  The builder was an utter pile of crap, even then.  If you had more than two images on a page, FrontPage would shit bricks trying to cope with the data.

 

Then FrontPage became Microsoft Expression Web.  Less trouble with FireFox, but much more trouble with design.  Expression Web is not a WisWig.  In fact, Expression Web doesn’t know what the fuck it is.  It looks like Microsoft tried to meld Dreamweaver and Adobe GoLive!, but imbued it with the power of suck.  After a few futile attempts of understanding this disaster, I went on the hunt for programs that would build me the site I needed without the suck or the brains-leaking.

 

 

                                                 Behold: the power of Suck.

 

 

First, I discovered Wix.com, and was blown away.  The builder they offer (completely via website, nothing to download) is hands-down incredible.  It blew me the fuck out of the water.  I was designing an absolutely brilliant website, no headache, no frustration, just gorgeous, beautiful builds, and the entire time I just wanted to hit the journal and rave to others about how fab they were. 

 

Then I went to publish, and then – only then! – did they admit that they weren’t a free site, after all.  Prices range from $4.95 to $19.95 per month.  The most basic package forces you to host via their site, but at least you don’t have to worry about ads.  If you want to host on your own site, you pay $6.95, but you’re forced to wear their advertisements.  In fact, even at the highest package, you can’t escape the ads.  But that wasn’t the dealbreaker for me – it was the bandwidth limits they enforce.  At the highest level, the bandwidth transfer rate was a mere 375 GB.  Even if you’re hosting on your own site, there are bandwidth limits.  Force forbid you ever get popular, because then you’re either paying through the ass for bandwidth fees, or you’re re-designing your site all over again when you take your business elsewhere. 

 

Pros:  Easy, beautiful interface for simplicity of use and construction.  The ultimate in WisWig builders.  Design something that looks like what you want and screenshot it, and use that template to design the real thing somewhere else.  Or, in a pinch, bribe someone else into building it for you. 

 

Cons:  Everything else.  Not a free WisWig.

 

Squarespace.com runs on the same business platform as Wix.com.  The difference is that Squarespace tells you up front that they host your site, and that it’s not free.  Even if I’m not fond of the similar bandwidth restrictions, they get mad props for being honest.  They cater mainly to folks who need blog-like sites, but don’t let that stop you.  They come across as very professional, and have been recommended by major players in the tech industry.  If you’re in need of a host that offers built-in, easy design tools at decent prices, and don’t mind their monthly fee (not horrible) then I do suggest Squarespace.  Honesty in this business will get you freakin’ everywhere.

 

Pros: Good service, custom domains available, recommended by Leo Laporte, and from what I’ve seen, no bloody ads.

 

Cons:  Teeny tiny bandwidth limits, more expensive than Wix.  Still not a free WigWis.

 

Last up – BlueVoda.  Unlike the first two, BlueVoda is a completely free downloadable program.  Once you’ve installed it on your computer, BlueVoda is stunningly easy to use, and after a few moments of orienting myself to the new control structure, I was flinging a website together in record time.  I noticed that files didn’t save in .html format, and was curious, but figured that there had to be a good reason for it.  Free program, right?  It was on my computer – there was no way they were going to sneak in a charge now.

 

            Ennnnnt!  Wrong answer!  When you go to publish your creation, a limited list of IP addresses will pop up on your screen, and you must choose one.  Why?  Enforced hosting, that’s why!  To publish your work with BlueVoda, you must host your work on their site, and the starting rate is $9.95 a month.  ($7.95 if you buy a year’s hosting.)  You can’t harvest the .html code, save the data, and publish it with another program, either.  They do special, early 2000-era Matrix-y things to it that other programs can’t read.  BlueVoda made their way onto my shit list for an extra special layer of hell in hiding the fact that their program isn’t free.

 

 

 

Not free.

 

 

            However, exploring their hosting options made my jaw drop in amazement.  Not only do they offer this fabulous construction tool, but their service seems to have no hidden fees.

 

            So, like any good DeadCat would, I hit the rest of the internet to find out what John Q. Public thinks about VodaHost.

 

            Run!  Run for your lives!  They will eat your soul!

 

            Just kidding.  In all seriousness, however, they seem to be a good host if you need a nice, simple website with no databases.  They have databases, of course, free of charge… they just don’t seem to work.  Also, I got rather suspicious that so many of their 5 star reviews read like corporate advertisements.  If you’re willing to give it a go, just try them out on a month to month basis first.  Buying a year at a time might be cheaper, but I grew leery of that after the disaster that calls itself StartLogic.

 

            Pros: Easy to understand, brilliant interface.  And, despite my introduction to their not-so-free ways, they offer unlimited bandwidth, unlimited storage, free domain registration and transfers, unlimited emails, unlimited domains, merchant tools, unlimited databases…  er…  I think I’m in love.

 

            Cons:  They charge twice as much for domain registration, so find someone else for that.  $30.00 initial setup fee.  May be lying through their teeth about the quality of their service.

 

            That’s it for now – tune in again soon and I’ll tell you about the WisWigs I’ve found that are genuinely free.

 

            They just suck.

 

 

            -the DeadCat