Web creation made simple

In the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about building websites and playing with another couple of online tools for doing so.

The first of these is known as Tank and was brought to my attention by Alan Alston, who is its co-founder and designer. It can be found at withtank.com and is free for anyone to use, although there are two paid options available with enhanced features.

The emphasis has been placed squarely on making Tank easy to use from sign-up to actually completing a site with it. The first screen you see when you’ve signed up is a dashboard where you can create sites or edit existing ones.

Building a site is a quick process which includes giving it a name, description, and choosing what sort of site it’ll be from a list possibilities such as business or individual. You can also elect to do your own thing and start with a single page that you can add to as required.

You then get taken to a sitemap page where you find a list of the pages in your site and you can start to put content onto them by clicking the one you want to work on. The editing page presents you with spaces for entering content for different areas of the page including the main body and the text that appears on the side of the page.

The most noteworthy thing about Tank is that, in the interests of simplicity, there are no tools for formatting the content on your page. You just type the content in and add formatting instructions yourself, which is very easily done.

A # at the beginning of a line of text, for example, means that it will display as a large heading, and two ##s mean that it will be a slightly smaller heading. You can display pictures by uploading them to the page you’re working on and then copying and pasting the unique link you’re given into the place you want the picture to display on the page.

The fact that you do not have a what-you-see-is-you-get facility does take a bit of getting used to, but you can always preview the page you’re working on by clicking the it’s name at the top of the page. Tank has its own set of formatting instructions which you can use or, if you know it, you can use standard html code as well.

The choice of layout options, or skins, is limited to three basic ones, which can be customised to a great extent by choosing your own colours logos and pictures. At the moment, you can add ordinary pages, photo galleries and blog pages which can be used for that or for posting news items.

The free sites created with Tank will have an address like sitename.withthank.com but you can, by signing up for one of the two low-cost packages available, use whatever address for your website that you want.
An added bonus is that you will be set up with Google Apps so that your organisation will not only have a website, but e-mail facilities using the address you’ve chosen, and access, for all members of the organisation, to Google’s online office suite and calendaring programs.

Tank is a very simple little tool for creating a website and adding content and may be frustrating for experienced web designers. It intended target audience, however, is likely to be more comforted than frustrated by the relatively limited range of options available.

I think Tank is pretty simple to use and, although I think that there are some minor improvements that could still be made to the interface, I think most people could use it to build a useful site.

Next week I’ll take a look at a much snazzier German web creation and hosting solution.

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4 thoughts on “Web creation made simple

  1. Still, Joomla takes what, 3 minutes to install, has thousands of templates and designs, uses proper [and editable] CSS and XML and has a large community behind it…

  2. Ben is quite correct that users with any knowledge of web design are not going to want to use tools like Tank. He’s also right that Joomla is much more potent but it is pretty intimidating. I have recently been getting to grips with it and have installed it and all the bits it needs on my local computer. I will certainly use it in anger if I ever need to build a website with a lot of articles on it. Joomla websites depend on a template which, to my mind, are still too hard for the average person (including me) to create or tweak. There are thousands of templates available and you’re fine if you find one which suits you exactly. They’re not so easy to alter and I have so far not found a tool which can simplify the process. Jimdo, another web-building tool, which I wrote about at http://allan-fishnet.blogspot.com/2008/11/websites-with-jimdo.html, has a great graphic interface for changing pages in a site. Joomla with a similar interface, would be beyond awesome.

  3. Funny that we are getting tons of users with lots of ‘web design knowledge’ – ie web designers themselves – using Tank to build sites for themselves and for their clients.

    The internet is more than large enough to cater for everyone.

  4. Perhaps I generalised too much. I’d certainly use Tank (withtank.com) if I were setting up a client who wanted a quick intro from me and then to be left alone adding to their site. The fact that it’s local would be a big selling point. I’d probably not use it if I were building and adding to a client’s site myself. Nice site redesign BTW.

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