Let’s imagine the scenario: you are a designer, well versed in Photoshop and you wanted to convert that great design of yours into a concrete web site. How can you do this in the easiest possible way?
You have two solutions: Learn HTML (you probably need to know PHP as well) and code it up yourself, or pay a coder to do it for you. With Basekit, there is now a third solution – import in your .psd file and get it to convert your design to a standard compliant template.
BaseKit is developed by a UK based company and it allows you to create website quickly and easily. Think of it like an online Dreamweaver, but easier to handle and more powerful. There is little or no HTML knowledge required to code up your website. All it needs is a bit of your creativity.
Basekit is currently in beta testing and only available for invited members. To get started, you have to sign up as a beta tester and wait patiently for your invitation email.
Once you have received the email, you can proceed to register your account. Here is where you will choose a sub-domain for your account. This sub-domain will be the site where all your webpages are served.
Creating your first design
When you first login, it will prompt you if you want to import your psd file or to create a site based on their existing template.
Importing your psd file is the fastest way to get your site running. For the casual users or non-Photoshop users, you can choose the custom made template from the site library. There are no ways for you to create your own template, so you have to make do with the limited templates in the library. Hopefully in the future, they will add in more templates and also provide you with the tools to create your own template (not from psd files)
Next, you will arrive at your workspace where the main editing area and the toolbars are nicely lay out.
The left hand column is split into upper and lower cells. The upper cell is the page management area where you add new pages, change the template, change the settings for each page etc. The bottom cell contains all the widgets that you are going to use for your site. This is where BaseKit really shines. There is a widget for almost every web components – Navigational menu, RSS feed, Twitter widget, text box, comments area, Flickr, Search bar, Google Maps, videos, forms and many many more. All you need to do is to drag and drop the widgets in the desired position. Gone are the days where you need to do extensive coding.
There is no full HTML mode, but you can edit the HTML components for the content of each widget. You can also change the style or the CSS of the widget. This is of course, if you are proficient enough to edit it.
At any point of time, you can click on the Preview button to see how it looks like on actual browser. When you are done with your design, click the Publish button to make it live on your site.
Other Powerful features
Basekit does more than just creating a page. It also comes with plenty of powerful features essential for a professional site.
In the Manage area, you can customize the your site’s name and the SEO title, description and keyword for your page (the SEO settings is also available for individual page). It is also integrated with Google Analytics so you can plug in your code and get it to track your traffic immediately.
The availability of database is another useful feature that surprises me. You can easily create a database and add row and data into it. If you want, you can also import your spreadsheet into the database. One thing though, I haven’t figure out how to integrate the database into the front end. At the moment, the site editor doesn’t seem to support dynamic coding.
When you first sign up for the beta, you will be given the trial package for which you have 30 days to try out the software. If you want to continue, you can subscribe to the premium package at 10 pounds (about US$15) per month. I am not sure if the BaseKit team has started accepting payment since this is still in beta version.
Hosting of site
A good thing about BaseKit is that you don’t have to worry about your hosting. All the files are kept and run on the BaseKit server (running on Amazon S3). You don’t have to worry about any hosting or site maintenance. This justifies the premium subscription which is about the same price that you pay for a basic web hosting plan, minus the site building software. One caveat though, you are not allowed to export your site (or files) out at the moment. I am not sure if this is a permanent measure, but if you are thinking of switching site in the future, this is not going to be useful at all.
Also, if you are using your own domain name, you have to insert a CNAME record to point to the the BaseKit server.
If you are planning to start a blog, then WordPress would be a much better choice. But if you want a simple static website (or a corporate site) and you don’t want to meddle with any coding, then BaseKit is a great choice for you.