Intuitive Web Design with Wix and Webzai

Joe Hewitson

Publishing web sites to the internet has traditionally boiled down to a collaboration between two, often very different camps. On the one hand you’ve got the web developers who find their comfort between dizzying style sheets and unnecessarily complicated JavaScript includes. While the other camp, web designers, prefer the creative confines of a Photoshop canvas.

So what happens when web designers find themselves without adequate options to support the back end of their designs? Well, aside from taking a crash course in HTML5 and hoping for the best, there are two platforms that exist for this very reason. They are Wix and Webzai. So how do they compare?

A web forge for the web designer

Both Wix and Webzai set out to remove the need for programming knowledge from website creation and instead allow designers to focus completely on aesthetics. Fortunately, both platforms excel at this task by taking care of the nitty gritty coding details on the fly and behind the scenes. What’s left is a creative canvas that allows web designers to mold websites in a fashion much more friendly to their natural way of thinking.

Wix and Webzai each start you off on the road to web building by choosing from a list of both free and paid templates. These templates, being the necessary evil of codeless web site construction, will provide the elements which you, the designer, will be able to mold into a finished product.

On each platform the templates are broken down into logical categories for their intended use. Things like business, technology, entertainment, etc. Once a template is chosen, a quick click on the “Edit” button will bring you to the bread and butter of these two platforms: the design view. A difference in presentation: although Wix and Webzai use the same formula to usher the user towards a published web site, it’s when you enter the design view that the two platforms begin to diverge. Take a look for yourself:

Wix
Wix design view

Webzai
Webzai Design View

The first thing you’ll likely notice is how much more simple and clean the Wix interface is. The design canvas occupies almost the entire screen save for the top toolbar and quick navigation options on the side.

Webzai on the other hand takes a decidedly different approach by attempting to give you as many design options as possible within quick reach. While this may appear to just add clutter, anyone familiar with the available tools will likely be more productive with this setup.

Same goal, similar approach

Aside from the distinct interfaces, each platform offers the same basic tools for shoehorning a template into a custom website. A given template will be broken down into logical pages such as home, about, contact, etc.

Each page is composed of any amount of web elements from simple images and text boxes to more complicated widgets like slide shows and chat boxes.

Though the chosen template will define the basic layout of the site, you’re free to drag elements around the canvas, change colors, upload images, and even add or delete pages. All of this, I might add, is being done without the slightest hint of HTML or any other web language for that matter.

Both Wix and Webzai have the added convienence of automatically optimizing your site for responsive web design. In Wix, you can quickly and easily view your mobile page by clicking the iPhone looking icon. From this mobile view you can govern what content should and should not be viewable on a mobile device and adjust the layout accordingly.

On the Webzai side of the fence things get a little more involved. Webzai doesn’t really differentiate between desktop and mobile in the design view. Instead, the design canvas has user customizable screen sizes in the ruler toolbar. By clicking on these “screens”, you can quickly jump between screen sizes showing the effects of your responsive layout and allowing you to move elements around as needed.

The finishing touch

After all the tweaking of layouts and uploading of custom images, each of these platforms provides simple ways to publish your work. By default, each user is assigned a private subdomain from which they can view their web pages in the wild for free (with obligatory Wix and Webzai ads). Websites are hosted on their own servers and can be published in seconds.

Should you desire your own domain, both Wix and Webzai will gladly link your new creation with any domain, though in the case of Wix, a premium account is required. It should also be noted here that a premium account is required on both services to remove ads.

One could think of these two tools as a sort of realtime web design platform. You can essentially create websites from the same perspective you would browse them.

While the absence of any web language prevents true customization, the available tools and widgets are certainly impressive. In the end, users looking for a simple solution to publish their designs on the web without writing a lick of code would be well served by either of these platforms.

After all, the biggest difference might just be purely aesthetic, but I suppose as a designer you’re probably into that kind of thing right?

Both Wix and Webzai can be tried for free by simply navigating to their respective sites.

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  • Webzai

    Hi Joe

    Webzai team here.
    Wanted to thank SitePoint and yourself for writing about us, we appreciate it.
    We love talking to our users, their feedback is what makes Webzai the awesome platform that it is.
    We also love getting new ideas and suggestions so feel free to contact us at support@webzai.com.

  • John Faulds

    I can’t believe I’m reading an article on a site dedicated to web design promoting services that aim to take web designers out of the site-building equation. :?

    • Anonymous

      My impression is that they’re both more about taking developers and code out of the equation. Whether they are good for that, and whether that is a good or a bad thing, is what I’d like to know. We’ve had comments from pro designers asking why we don’t cover tools like this that “empower” designers and “free them from code”. If SitePoint just ignored these tools, we wouldn’t be doing our job.

  • hckmmt

    Promoted post.

    • Anonymous

      What do you mean?

  • Skyedge

    He meant this post was a mere marketing/promotional one

    • Anonymous

      That’s what I thought, and that’s complete … rubbish. This article is a response to a comment on another design artycile that said, “There are these great online platforms like Wix or Webzai that let you create landing pages/websites. These platforms have all the features to create the same landing page you described in your example (and much better ones) in minutes, and, instead of a PSD you get an actual website. I really think designers (especially web designers) should start looking outside of their Photoshop bubble and make use of some of some of the other available (free) tools.”

      Fair enough. So I commissioned one of our writers – a designer – to take a look. These are his thoughts, paid for by SitePoint alone. No agenda, no promo, no sponsorship.

  • Ben

    @John, I don’t think these platforms are replacing web designers, they’re a great tool that helps us to do our job better, especially now that some of them (Webzai as I can see) are becoming more advanced than the run of the mill “Edit-a-template” model of yesteryear. If anything it reduces reliance on a programmer and stremlines things.

  • Anonymous

    So how do they compare to something like Dreamweaver? Did you take a look under the hood after the project was done? It seems software like those have to add a lot of bloat whereas a custom solution, maybe leaner.

  • BarbAck

    How do these platforms perform in terms of SEO? Are the resulting pages accessible to screen readers?

  • Chris

    I knew this day would come…

  • Anonymous

    If you decide to leave their services, can you take your design/website with you?

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been using Wix with my high school students for a while, but didn’t know about Webzai.

  • Ronnie

    I think these types of web sites are perfect for someone starting out, they’re low budget and easy enough to get up and running. They do have certain restrictions. These people will come to the web designer when they have the budget and want something customized. Joe, how do they compare in loading speed? That’s the only real drawback I’ve seen (other than domain name) is loading – some are painfully slow.

  • shrinkray

    I understand why these systems exist and they do serve a purpose, making the web accessible and inexpensive for non-technical business owners. As a freelancer I hate losing business to sites such as this. Often my customers are looking for something more customized where we’re tying in ecommerce or providing a product configurator. I haven’t looked at these apps very closely but I’m guessing they provide a level of web presence. They may serve me in another way in which someone wants to move from Wix or Webzai into a fuller service website.

  • Yazmin

    Funny you guys wrote about Wix today. My friend was trying to set up a Wix website last week and just gave up, because she felt it was too complicated for her. Granted, she’s not a designer or web person, but you it seems you definitely need a sense of design or Photoshop-like interfaces to use this tool.

  • Mike

    I’ve noticed that Webzai gives you a free website if you’re designer.
    Check this link out :http://www.webzai.com/free-website-designers

  • Marj

    Wix refuses to support IE8, and I don’t just mean that the visitor’s experience is degraded, I mean that the visitor’s browser is crippled by JavaScript stack overflow errors. Wix flat-out refuse to consider that this is a bad thing and just say that if you choose html5 templates then they refuse to talk about its impact on IE8. My view – AVOID WIX – their support attitude stinks.

  • NickW

    I think these tools do a great job for three reasons:
    1) they help entrepreneurs market test their ideas within realistic budgets and short deadlines. Once they have established that their money making idea has legs, they can then feel more confident about committing more investment into their marketing, possibly including a professionally designed and developed site.
    2) It allows them to quickly gain some knowledge of rudimentary web technology, revealing the learning curve required to get beyond the limitations of what such tools can produce, and thus helps them to decide whether they should dedicate more of their own personal time to developing their website themselves, or whether they should be using that time to direct their marketing channels and managing the company.
    3) We find customers that come to us after developing their initial site using tools like these have a much better understanding of what is involved in web design at the next level up, and aren’t shocked so much at the cost of professional web design.

    • yuda

      Spot on Nick!
      All 3 points are valid and true from my own experience – so in a funny way I actually enjoy having these services around, even if they sort-of compete with the services I offer.
      Often I offer clients “why won’t you try out Wix (or even wordpress.com) first, and see if this is enough for you?”. Not only does this emphasize my self-confident in my skills the service I offer, it also helps the big-gun clients realize the things you can’t achieve with Wix etc., and dilutes the smaller-nagging ones…

  • Anonymous

    @yuda, that is just stupid. What kind of business owner sends potential clients away to their competitors. Sort-of compete? There is no competition when you just send business away. I take all projects both small and great. It is the smaller clients that tend to give me the most referral business.

  • Ronnie

    Yuda is right – it’s easier to work with clients who are ure they need your service. Your time is better spent after dilution. I’d like to hear about speed of loading for these two services.

  • Cid C.

    This is Cid from Webydo, I wanted to say great article, and also agree Wix and Webzai are doing a great job in the way of DIY website builders. And @Nick W., we couldn’t agree more, that it’s these platforms like these that are shaping the future of the web design industry. The question is will the future be in the hands of the web design professionals or in the hands of armatures, who can create a websites without any knowledge of design or coding.

    For pro developers there are platforms like WordPress. For people who don’t know how to code there are platforms like Wix & Webzai, however pro web designers can’t really use these B2C platforms as they don’t provide them with sufficient features to create a standalone website for their clients.
    This is where platforms like Webydo and Adobe Muse are paving the way for professional designers. On Webydo for instance, a web designer has the option to start designing from a template and also create from a blank canvas. There are loads of B2B features like “bill my clients”, “build your brand” and more. Moreover, you have 2 separate platforms- DMS (design management system) & CMS (content management system) where the designers’ clients can edit content freely without tampering with the design elements.
    Adobe Muse is a wonderful software as well, however, in order to create a complete, business website a designer might have the use of a developer. Another downside is that this is a desktop application and not online one.

    Hope that this helps contribute to the discussion and open the eyes of designers looking for new creative outlets.

    Cid
    Webydo Team
    community@webydo.com

  • Anonymous

    Hi, The Webzai Team again

    We just wanted to clear up a few things.

    Firstly, we had no idea about this article. One of our clients sent us a link to it. If we did, we would have made sure to point out the very significant differences between Webzai and Wix.

    Secondly, we have no intention of competing with web designers, they are our target audience. Our platform is intended to be used as a tool to make their work faster and easier. We offer a lot of designer oriented features such as free layout site editor, responsive design and soon a white labelled studio option.

    Thirdly, to address the questions some people had:

    1) About SEO, we offer the complete set of SEO features ( HTML tags, rel, canonicals, keywords, title, description etc.). We even let you put your own code into the HTML and design your own 404 page.

    2) We currently do not have an export feature but it is in our feature development roadmap.

    3) Our websites are not resource heavy and we support older browsers (webpages run on IE7, the editor on IE8).

    We really love getting input from designers and working with them to better our platform, so please feel free to drop us an email at support@webzai.com.

  • Mak

    As a media arts instructor I am all for web templates but the problem is when they break who fixes them? People have a tendency to get lazy if they do not have to code and then find themselves in real trouble when something goes wrong. Just sayin’