Build a Website without HTML with XSitePro

It’s great being able to build a website without html! Having used Site Build It for just over a year, you kind of get used to putting in little bits of coding which you pick up over time. It’s like going on holiday to a foreign country; you pick up some of the lingo.

Not with XSitePro!

It’s quite relaxing (and much quicker) to simply copy and paste from Microsoft Word or Google Docs and instantly see results. If I wanted to, I could have an article live in less than 30 seconds after finishing it off in Word… but I wouldn’t because I like formatting – but that’s not the point!

What’s also great at the moment is the templates – I’m getting a few made up, but the one’s that come with it anyway look fantastic. They’re pretty simple to edit too, although all of my efforts have (in all honesty) ruined the delicate works of the Intellimon graphics designers, but with more care and understanding, I’m sure anyone could tinker with the templates.

I discovered another really useful feature – the multi-page creator. Essentially you can create as many pages as you like based on a set of keywords, single description, single page layout and design and that’s about it.

It’s tools like this which cause havoc for search engines since it’s effectively a mechanized way of creating duplicate content – it’s best used as a fast solution to create many similar pages. I setup about 50 pages with formatted headlines, all the graphics, forms and audio I needed so all I need to do now is write and/or edit the copy for each page and upload it. Much faster than doing it all from scratch!

Burning Money…

The spend so far…

  • $197 (about £120) X Site Pro 2 Software – Intellimon
  • $179.40 (about £110) X Mail Pro – also from Intellimon
  • £64.72 Electro-Host Web Hosting
  • $29.00 (about £20) Graphics

TOTAL: about £320

Still to come…

  • $49.95 (About £30) Clickbank Product Activation fee
  • $67 XSP Cheat Sheet
  • Google Adwords test fees – my future mortgage perhaps?

I’ve managed to piece together a mini site already though! X Site Pro is very easy to use; the actual content goes into a Microsoft Word-type editor where it is then formatted into the webpage. It’s quite easy to copy and paste across, although sometimes the text doesn’t quite stay the same. X Site Pro isn’t smart enough to assume what is and isn’t a headline without manually specify each headline and its appropriate tag (e.g. <h1>).

The extra functions (or ‘Wizards’) are very easy to use. I’ve already setup email forms, images, audio files and it takes barely moments. For the former, I’ve actually setup using XMail Pro which is also from Intellimon. Why? – because my mini site ambitions were fueled by watching Michael Rasmussen’s free videos: Mini Sites Profits Exposed, and in them he discusses his own email software, AutomateYourList.com.

I was browsing through the supported platforms for the forms wizard and didn’t see it listed so I started comparing prices of those that were – and XMail Pro was the same thing with a different logo. So those screencast tutorials are still useful!

I set up hosting and within minutes I heard that first ‘ta-da’ the software plays each time you hit ‘Publish’. Quite satisfying!

XSitePro makes it very easy to build websites (although I wouldn’t try and build them in 10 minutes like the video suggests!) and even easier to manage. So far a very happy customer – I’m contemplating buying all the official X Site Pro books and guides for reference at home as opposed to trawling through the help bar.

Getting Started: Buying and Trying XSitePro

Yesterday, I found a great bonus package that promised customized-to-order templates (as opposed to one with the XSP Cheat Sheet, so I’ll have to shell out for that this week…) and so I’ve ordered and downloaded the software. I’ve been so engrossed, I forgot to post – anyway, here’s the story in screenshots 🙂

Downloading-small

Downloading…

getting-startedsmall

Getting installation wizard started with XSP…

xsitepro-setsmall

So it begins! –  Template Selection

You get a confirmation email, written from Paul Smithson who is the founder of Intellimon – the company behind X Site Pro 2. The download takes quite a while, especially after adding the bonus graphical files as well.

None the less, I was able to install and unlock the software within minutes of purchasing, and with the help of the getting started video I started playing around with the software.

First impressions; it’s a pretty simple and intuitive layout – “nice and organized” as Mr Smithson says. I was able to find my way around and within moments had established a ‘Project’ and added a ‘Website’ within in that. Selecting templates took moments, although I was still downloading the bonus graphics at that point, the selection was impressive (more so that the SBI stable I’ve used so far online!).

The feature I’m pretty keen on is the WYSIWYG editor, which appears under the ‘Webpages > Design’ tab. This is very similar to Microsoft Word in layout, but after a few tinkerings and preview it doesn’t always hold the formatting when you try and preview it. A tad annoying perhaps, but I’ve only been using it a couple of minutes. WordPress.com is perhaps slightly smoother.

I’ve only browsed through some of the features so far, but a couple of things which have already caught my eye:

  • SEO advice: In the page analysis tab, XSitePro will scan your copy and make suggestions, the detail of which is far more specific than anything else I’ve seen. SBI’s Analyze It is less comprehensive and detailed, but it does go on to explain the reasons for recommendation – a blend of the two would be ideal!
  • Mobile Site Wizard: I could set up one of my sites in mobile format and even preview it on a (bad) BlackBerry graphic. Neat feature, and as an avid iPod Touch user I can understand the demand for this!
  • Site Search built in – I’ve previously used Google Adsense for Search on my sites and set to search only my site. This feature however looks more professional without ads, and some of the templates embed it into the header which is extremely useful.

Twill be fun looking through more of the tools and getting my site online; already chosen my host!

XSitePro Bonus Packages are Rubbish!

If you’ve bought expensive software, membership programs and e-products online before you’ll understand the bonus culture that circulates around the high ticket items. At $197, X Site Pro attracts enough attention from both it’s raving users and external affiliates to populate Google with plenty of bonus offers.

Get wise to this. You can typically land yourself with thousands of dollars (currency of the net) worth of goods, but remember that there ‘worth’ stated by the vendor means nothing compared to what it is worth to you. Find the best bonus package you can and get more for your money.

I’ve collated a substantial stash of PLR (private label rights) material over the last year and to be frank, most of it is trash. You can do better getting regular free advice from the experts at ProBlogger than buying ‘Build a Blog Empire’ or sign up to a free account at SEOmoz than waste hours looking at a SEO video course. And you literally can waste hours with PLR material – I have!

bonuses

PLR leaves a bitter taste in the mouth – and most of it is circulated again and again. So when looking for bonus packages, I was looking for something unique… and it was pretty disappointing. Everyone seems to be offering all the same stuff.

  • Free xsitepro headers
  • Extra XSitePro templates
  • Bumper Graphic Packs
  • PLR e-Books
  • Membership to resell stock sites

Some of this has appeal, but if you know where to look, you can get most of this free. My advice though is don’t bother and plunge your time into building your own long term business and ideas!

xsp-cheat-sheet-smallSome users however were offering a free course called the XSP Cheat Sheet, written by ozzie James Schramko to aid specifically X Site Pro webmasters with ranking at Google by giving them step-by-step instruction. I had a look at this and the case they make is quite convincing…

…but that does beg the question, what kind of help does X Site Pro give themselves on ranking well? Some of the reviews talk about the on-page optimization facilities, but link building and off-page optimization is more and more important these days.

Also, if everyone is promoting X Site Pro because it creates such gorgeous sites, why then insist on extra headers and templates? I know some people find it limiting being stuck with only a finite number of templates, but the video demo clearly showed how customizeable each aspect was.

I also use Site Build It (lots!) and I really appreciate the ‘all-under-one-roof’ concept whereby you’ve got full tutorials without the need to buy extra stuff in – even if it is a subscription service. There is a ‘Resources HQ’ for some third-party applications but otherwise it’s all there in the Action Guide, Tips and Techniques HQ and forum.

The Action Guide is even open to the public, so why not get X Site Pro users looking at that – ‘Days’ 7, 8 and 10 are particularly relevant.

Regardless, the XSP Cheat Sheet looks important, so if I can’t pick it up in a decent bonus package I’ll buy it and post a review.

…And also piece together an amazing (relevant) bonus package!

One wonders why Paul Smithson and Intellimon (creators of XSP2) doesn’t buy the rights to XSP Cheat Sheet or indeed piece together there own guides. X Site Pro 2 looks good on it’s own, but the bonus structure shows there’s clearly something missing regarding advice on marketing their “gorgeous” websites – for newbies, this could be an expensive concern.

Once I’ve found a good enough bonus package, I’m buying though – and then the story can really begin 🙂

Sneak peak inside XSitePro

Getting a look at the inner workings of a community you’re about to buy into is always great. X Site Pro have set up a message board for users (and non-users) to discuss X Site Pro, technical issues, internet marketing etc.

There’s also a ‘Knowledgebase’ where users are offered practical support and tutorials on specific questions like ‘Can I add audio to my site?’.

Both of these I found via the ‘Resources’ section on the main website – but the interesting stuff took a bit more digging. You can find the full guides available online at http://www.xsitepro.com/help/. The guides are also available as books to buy separately – http://www.lulu.com/content/2818525. Reading through a couple of articles, I discovered you can export X Site Pro files out onto Dreamweaver and Frontpage.

XSitePro allows you to create a Web site and then export it in its entirety in a folder structure that can then be loaded by most Web page editing packages such as FrontPage or Dreamweaver.

Unfortunately, FrontPage and Dreamweaver do not have the ability to be able to export and import in a single file in the same way that XSitePro can. To get round this XSitePro will put all the necessary files in a folder of your choosing. It is then an easy enough process to load FrontPage or Dreamweaver and import this.

This can be useful if you have a colleague that doesn’t have access to XSitePro and needs the files in a non-XSitePro format. It also means that when you use XSitePro you are never tied down to the one piece of software as you can quickly move anything you create from XSitePro into any other appropriate software.

When I get around to learning Dreamweaver, maybe I’ll be able to use a few shortcuts; but also potentially use X Site Pro for my Site Build It websites? The possibilities are endless.

A couple of gripes however…

Testimonials mean nothing if you can’t verify them; what’s to stop anyone from writing a series of raving user stories and posting them on their sales pages. Looking through the message boards, I can see there are countless happy clients, but it would be nice if they gave a link to the sites of the person giving the testimonial. Perhaps this could create some stick (free links for testimonials?!) – so a straight rel=”no follow” could fix that.

Also, the screenshots are pretty useless. You can see the software, but you can’t see the details. Something basic such as a pop-up slideshow showing screenshots in there true resolution – or even better – an interactive flash tour showing you around the different parts.

XSP ScreenshotThis image is copied and pasted from the ‘Screenshots’ page without the resolution changed. There’s nothing wrong – I just want more </rant>

Regardless, I hope to buy X Site Pro when I get back from a trip this week.

XSitePro Reviews – My ‘due diligence’

Like anyone else looking into buying a piece of expensive software, I checked up on plenty of XSitePro reviews to see what was what. They call it ‘due diligence’ and it’s increasingly hard on today’s internet, flooded with so much rubbish. It is often difficult to distinguish people’s motives – are they giving genuine advice or just seeking the commissions?

I searched long and hard for some serious editorial reviews – using tools such as Yahoo Site Explorer to analyze xsitepro.com’s backlinks and various online searches. I’ve come up with a list of five in-depth reviews by users of X Site Pro by reputable online firms.

#1 – About.com

If Wikipedia is the ultimate universally-edited information bank, then About.com is the ultimate expert-edited equivalent. About.com hires experts (or ‘Guides’) in each individual field who are then tasked with providing top quality content and articles about each specific field.

I follow About.com a little – I even interviewed the current ‘Guide’ for Web Design and HTML, Jennifer Kyrnin about her background and advice on my website.

Each topic is essentially a website in itself featuring a regularly updated blog, tutorials, discussions boards’ et al. I was therefore quite relieved to find an X Site Pro review on there.

Now I switched to XSite Pro as it gave me to ability to create a site quickly and easily. I often need to create a site within a couple of hours, and now I can do that

Although it is a year old, it outlines essentially the main points made on the actual website; ease of use, good looking templates and helpful learning environment. The feature of About.com that then comes into its own is the user comments. Clearly, they’ve attracted the fanatics since at the time of posting there are four exclusively five-star reviews! The review by ‘seacoastbill’ is practically a testimonial – “I literally owe the success of my business to XSitePro.” Reading what some of these long time users are writing is encouraging.

#2 – ClickNewz

ClickNewz is a large(ish) internet marketing blog and review site – although I don’t actively subscribe, I’ve commented more than a handful of times on there posts thanks to my Google Alerts subscriptions.

The review they posted actually consists mostly of a third-party writer. The author herself hasn’t used it, she confesses she has “several friends who have been using it for years” – she uses Dreamweaver or hand-codes herself. None the less, the review posted is useful, but also the comments at the bottom.

Again the comments comprise of many (mostly!) long time users testifying to X Site Pro’s ease of use – one thing I did learn. It doesn’t run natively on a Mac, but using programs such as Bootcamp, you can run it on Windows whilst using Apple software.

#3 – ExpertReviews.co.uk (aka. Computer Shopper)

ExpertReviews’ article on X Site Pro 2 is the first to unearth some more specific details. Like any gadget-review based site, detail is everything and the reviewer Craig Grannell does the typical cross-examination of the software. I’ve tempered myself to these kind of reviews. I like to keep up with the latest technology (am I a bit geeky, or is the latest touchscreen laptop quite swauve?) – TrustedReviews.com are particularly exhaustive!

The cross-examination extended so far that two reviews appeared by Craig across each domain – one in December 2008 and the other in February 2009. Both reviews were slightly different too, the earlier article is much more blunt.

The great thing about such reviews is that they uncover all the pros and cons in order to give a balanced verdict. What did show up was the coding which “sometimes caused problems in non-Microsoft browsers” (or in the earlier, more upfront article “dreadful”)  and also suggested that the software may be too advanced for newbies.

The ease-of-use note contradicts the user comments in the other reviews; users most probably have used the software longer, but then again you’re arguing with a professional reviewer – but perhaps they’ve only had a day, even just a morning to look over the software. Who’s in the right? Comments at the end!

The coding issue does seem to ring alarm bells however – those buying X Site Pro seem to be either code-illiterate or looking for a quicker option. Whatever I say may well be quite ignorant given my near complete absence of knowledge on the subject, but if a page loads right then all’s well right?

I’m an avid Firefox user and I see no problems looking over some X Site Pro portfolios – that said, those are probably not going to be the problematic cases if they’re supposed to be promoting the software! It’s also only one man’s research at one time – typically such reviews won’t disclose the details of such findings such as time, date, URL, host etc.

Overall, Computer Shopper dished out a solid four-star rating… and a three-star rating for the earlier commentary; broken down into a 4 for features, 2 for performance and 3 for value.

Funnily enough, a XSP fanatic took matters regarding the first article into his own hands and wrote an essay on how his “load of twaddle” was incorrect. Check out the rant

#4 – PC Advisor

PC Advisor is more of a recital of the processes involved in building an X Site Pro site; the review does point out the possible pitfalls of many sites looking similar with only a finite amount of templates, but each aspect is easily customizable.

The only other issue is the potential frustration for more advanced users, adept with more advanced HTML editors such as Dreamweaver or even hand-coding. As a coding-novice I don’t see this as a problem, but for those who use Dreamweaver etc. this should be taken into account – unless of course you deliberately want something simplified for quick output of webpages. This echoes some of the consumer reviews in the articles above.

Talking of consumer reviews, PC Advisor holds three five-star ratings by ordinary readers. PC Advisor structures visitor-generated reviews with duration of ownership, strengths, weaknesses and overall evaluation. None raised any negative concerns.

#5 – Associate Programs

Associate Programs is a major site discussing affiliate marketing – the X Site Pro review is spawned from users needs to produce static websites quickly. There is a little ‘marketers spin’ on it, but it is by far the most comprehensive review so far.

None the less, this little phrase sums up the essence of the review.

“I figured that what XSitePro can do, there’s nothing that my Dreamweaver can’t do. I was right about that. But here’s the problem. XSitePro does it so much better, faster and more efficiently… So much better that XSitePro is leaving Dreamweaver in the dust.”

That really underlines the core message that seems to echo across all the reviews. It isn’t as flexible as an HTML editor but it is much easier and quicker – for me, perfect!

The review also includes important information for those considering what X Site Pro 2 is and isn’t for – i.e. blogs, e-Commerce stores, forums, membership sites etc. This is important; each of the above ideas require more specific tools and ‘scripts’ – details of which I will figure out exactly another time. X Site Pro 2 and Site Build It both create ‘static’ sites, whereas blogs (like this) are constantly moving. The homepage on here will change with each post or user action, whereas a static sites’ homepage will only change when I decide to change it. I think that’s the jist of it anyway..

In Summary

The message is clear; good looking sites, quickly and easily. The problems that seem to arise though are the coding and potential frustration for complete beginners and more advanced users. None the less, it’s what I want – I should get round to buying it next week.

If you’ve seen any other decent XSitePro Reviews, please leave them in the comments section.

X Site Pro Newbie Blogs Adventure

Welcome to my blog!

I first started building websites when I was 15, when I purchased a package from Site Build It. It’s very nearly a since I started my online adventures (20th October 2008 was the official date) and I’ve learnt so much.

Engaging in online communities such as the SEOmoz Blog and Website Babble forums has been great for nurturing creativity and ideas. I’ve since purchased a dual Site Build It package which has led to the creation of www.how-to-build-a-website.co.uk which essential documents my learnings and story.

Apart from the larger scale Site Build It websites, I’ve a number of smaller ideas. The thought of using Adobe Dreamweaver frightens me – both in terms of the technical skills required, and the time taken to learn it all! I guess I’ll have to learn it at some point, but in order to fulfill my websites name – I’ll need to explore different ways of building sites!

Several evenings of searching kept ticking over the same name – X Site Pro. The software is apparently simple to use and produces pretty sites. The testimonials are raving (aren’t they always?) and there is of course a heck of a lot of ‘reviews’ by affiliates out there.

I figured that by setting up a blog to document my discoveries as they come would be more helpful to other people evaluating X Site Pro or other similar products (including Adobe Dreamweaver) and also give me a chance to try out WordPress (which incidentally, is very intuitive and easy to use!) and niche blogging.

That’s the story so far – stay tuned!