I had a few minutes free on Thursday, so I made a website. Ok, maybe not, but pretty close! Before I go any further, just allow me to say that I am not a web developer! In fact, it could be said, quite correctly, that I know just enough HTML to be dangerous. Anyway, the editor of a little community newspaper I write for asked if I’d mind designing a simple website for the paper so it could join the 21st Century and go online. Since I wanted to review SiteGrinder 3, the websites-made-simple plugin for Photoshop from MediaLab, I said “Sure”. Silly me. Those of you who know me and my constant complaining about how I need to update my own business site, will probably wonder why I didn’t just do that. Well, because I wanted something really simple. Really, really simple! So off I went…
I’ve been a SiteGrinder (SG) user since the very beginning, right up to the SG2 Pro. I used to have Dreamweaver and tried, really tried, to understand code. But it never really permeated my brainspace, not completely. So I absolutely LOVE that with SG, you design your site in Photoshop! Now Photoshop I know! With my own website, SG helped me manage, if not a perfect site, at least a decent one – fully compliant to W3C standards, no less. I loved SG and even if there were still some parts I didn’t really “get”, I muddled through. When I opened up the newest version, SiteGrinder 3, I was a bit dismayed. It was…different! It looked sleeker – scarier, even. But I took myself off to the SG3 Learning Center and watched some very helpful videos. Then I studied the features references, hint lists and checked out some sample files. Some things I actually had to “play” with before I really got it (I’m a visual learner – I can read text instructions all day long and all I hear is “Waa waa, waa waa waa”). Playing is no problem for SG 3 – it’s much easier to navigate than previous versions, therefore it’s easier to correct and redo.
Before I get to some features, I want to say that MediaLab sent me, along with the SG 3 plugin, the Control & Commerce add-ons. I haven’t tried the Commerce add-on, though I’ve heard from a couple of people that it simply rocked, but the Control add-on is a thing of beauty! I can now fix & tweak right in the browser window, and even add new pages using an existing page as template! Then, when I get it the way I want, I can upload the entire site directly to my server! The SG FTP is screaming fast, too, at least on my system with my files. I did a test, uploading with both the SG FTP and File Zilla and the SG FTP was nearly twice as fast.
For those of you unfamiliar with the goodness that is SiteGrinder, it is, as previously mentioned, a plugin that allows you to design a website in Photoshop (or Photoshop Elements!), ensuring you get the exact look you want – then turns it into all the, you know, stuff (some might refer to this as “code”) that makes a website! Nifty? I think so! For me, personally, it means I can be in total control of my site, from the design elements to the updating and upkeep. I don’t have to rely on anyone else designing a site I actually like as well as one that works and plays well with others, or on anyone doing the maintenance. It’s all my responsibility, from the ground up and if I don’t do a good job, it’s all on me; just the way I like it! It does require a bit of a learning curve, but if you already know your Photoshop, it’s really not that hard!
Those of you familiar with SiteGrinder’s previous versions know how great this plugin can be! SG 3 has added some really useful new features including multiple growing columns, footer support (both great features for designing blogs!), click-based support for popups (or popdown) menus, and the ability to wrap text around images, just to name a few. The build times are much faster, due to the pages being built independently which means you only need to build what you need, not the whole site every time, even gallery features! Yes, GALLERY features, such as lightbox-style support, multiple pictureboxes or thumbsheets on a single page and ecommerce support (with the Commerce add-on), random image display, even right click protection built right in! There’s some promising external media features, too, including integration with Google Docs and third party slideshow / gallery products like Lightroom and Zoomify, just to name a few and video embedding. These are just a few of the new features, but one of the best things about SG 3? If you’re all done with your design and are just tweaking, SiteGrinder 3 can now also be used as a stand-alone application!
So, you might be thinking, what would be the advantage of SiteGrinder 3? Presuming, of course, that you own (and use) Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, if you already have SiteGrinder, version 3 is a very worthwhile upgrade. Like I said, I loved SiteGrinder 2Pro, but what I loved most was that I could build the website myself; in other words, I loved it when it was done! With SiteGrinder 3, I actually found myself enjoying the process! If you’ve never had a previous version of SiteGrinder, but have a website to build/maintain, it comes down to control and money. If you have a professional web design and maintenance, you’re probably going to spend a lot of money. SiteGrinder 3 is $349 + $159 each for the Control & Commerce add-ons which, of course, are not required. If you buy SG 3 with one of the add-ons, it’s $499, and $599 for the whole suite (upgrade price from SG2 Pro is $149, $299 from SG2 Basic). That’s a one-time price for as many websites and as many changes as you can possibly make! These are introductory prices, so if you have a website, want to build a website, have a relative who wants you to build a website or want to cut down the time it takes you to maintain or change your current sites, take advantage of these prices!
One last thing you’ll be getting when you join the SiteGrinder revolution: Some really, really excellent customer service! As I stated before, I’ve been an SG customer since the beginning. I remember when they first put an ad in Photoshop User magazine and when they went to their first Photoshop World. The thing that set them apart, other than a great, innovative product, was their very personal customer service. As the company grew, I was afraid that might get lost, but it hasn’t. Not only do you get a really amazing product, you get an entire team of dedicated people that make sure your SiteGrinder experience is a great one! I think you’ll be impressed and I’d love to hear some of your thoughts and experiences with SiteGrinder!
*images used with permission from MediaLab
**This is a compensated review, but if I didn’t like it, trust me, I’d tell you!
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