Herald

Voss Net has released a new kind of Web-design product. Actually, it’s not a physical product at all, even if it does comes in a box. It’ll be available in high-street shops, such as Dixons and Comet, and it’s called Herald. It claims to be a complete Web-site solution in a box, but when you open it, there’s just a small manual and an access code. I’m often disappointed by the contents of big boxes; once the packaging is gone, there’s often just a CD with no manuals. But no CD – that’s a new angle. To start a Web site with Herald, you must log into the easy set-up section of the VossNet Web site. Not too hard for anyone with any Web experience, but absolute beginners could find this daunting. Next, type in the key-code to gain access. Then, after filling in name and address details, you can search for a .co.uk Web address. The cost of the domain name is included in the price of £38, though you can register an address such as this for £5, or even less from other sites. Once you’ve chosen the address, you need to select from a template. There are 80 templates, with names such as Unified Marshmallow, Out of Body Rose and Henge Ellipse Cream. This says more about the – altered – state of mind of the designers than the designs. I settled on Ethereal Sepia. Most of the templates are simply alternative colour schemes of the same design. The layout varies only slightly; all have five pages called Home Page, Products, News, Links, and Contact Us. If you can’t fit your Web site into this format, then forget it. The buttons are preset, and there’s no way to change them. The first page is set-out to include a photograph and a couple of paragraphs of text. The second page is for Products, and also allows one image. Page three is set aside for news pieces; there isn’t an obvious limit to the amount of stories posted, but no pictures are possible. The fourth page is for links to other Web sites, and nothing else. The last page is for contacting your organization, and it includes a form for brochure or sample requests. This does have a nifty map feature that takes your postcode and draws a map of the area. Unfortunately Macworld’s postcode was “not valid”, so it didn’t work for us.

OUR VERDICT

If I’d bought this from a computer superstore, I’d be sorely disappointed. This “password in a box” is little other than a marketing ploy. It will almost certainly fool most punters into thinking they’ve bought a Web site, even though the £15 per month fee – which is an outrage – is written on the box. A search of the Web shows there are many other hosting-options at a fraction of the cost. Use iTools, which is free, and one of the many domain-registration companies. You may have to have an ad banner, but it’s still better than a Herald site.

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