Making site building easier

Hetzner South Africa has been hosting local websites since 1999 and has recently launched a new tool to make it easier for people to build their own sites and to add content to them.

The browser-based SiteBuilder tool is available at an extra charge with all the Hetzner hosting packages, and I was given the opportunity to fiddle with it for a while. You’re given the option of using SiteBuilder when you log onto your website’s control panel and, when you click the button, you’re first warned that it will overwrite any website that you may have made on your own and uploaded.

Building a website with it is a pretty simple seven-step process which includes specifying the category the site will fall into; personal, business, or whatever, and then choosing a design from a fairly large range of options. The design can then be personalised with a logo and the choice of text colour and typeface.

The next step involves creating the actual pages in the website including top level pages, such as Contacts or About Us pages, and sub-pages below the main ones. SiteBuilder creates buttons on each top level page which link to the all the others and, beneath them, you can create sub-pages which link back only to their main page.

An example of this might be if you had a top-level products page and a sub-page for each product which link back to the main product page. You can create a number of different sorts of pages including ordinary pages, blogs, web forums, photo albums, search pages, and quite a few other types.

The next step is to add content to the pages and this is done by selecting the page you want to add to, clicking on sample text already on the page and pasting your text into the space. Text and pictures are contained in blocks called paragraphs and each page comes with at least two, but you can put any number of additional ones on the page, if want them.

You can adjust the settings of the website and, for example, add a description and keywords that will help people to find the site, once the search engines have classified it. The last step is publish the web pages to the live site so that they will be visible to visitors of to the site.

You can create new pages and add them to the site or edit existing pages at any time. The changes can be saved and you can continue working until you’re completely happy, but the changes are not carried over to the live website until you publish them again.

I initially had problems with SiteBuilder and experienced a couple of crashes and difficulties with uploading picture files. I was using the Firefox browser and things improved markedly when I switched over Internet Explorer.

On the plus side, I think that SiteBuilder would actually make it easier for an inexperienced person to create a website and, with the many design choices available, to make it look pretty decent. I think that most people would be able to work out how to create a site with it, but I must say that its interface could stand a lot of improvement.

It is quite powerful in many ways but is lacking some really basic amenities like the ability to adjust the size of a picture or choose whether it should be positioned left, right, or centred on the page. You can test drive the system for free by going to and clicking on the SiteBuilder link on the front page.

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