I’ve been using this for a while, and I’m actually a version behind now, but I wanted to share a cool little plug-in that transforms graphic artists into web designers. How? By turning psd files into websites.
You might have heard of it, Sitegrinder has been around for a while. If you read graphic design magazines, you might have seen an ad for them in there somewhere. I actually found out about this plug-in a few years ago when I was asked to write a review for the plug-in for PSD magazine.
I just wanted to do an update on them. If you haven’t heard of them, go check them out over at MediaLab. It’s called SiteGrinder, and this is what it does: you create a website in photoshop, using layer comps (something most of us don’t use), and add some tags to your layers, then launch the plug-in and set all your links, push the build button, and you have a website. That’s the condensed version of it. However, just like building websites without SiteGrinder, there’s always some issues. You’ll have to make some corrections most likely, but those get smaller and fewer the more you use it. But for someone who knows little to nothing about web design, this plug-in makes you into a web designer.
Now they are on version 3 now. At work, we’re still running version 2. We haven’t upgraded yet because we don’t need it. When it first came out, we tested it, and didn’t like it for reasons that were on part, our fault, on another part, theirs. When it first came out, it had some bugs. I didn’t like it because it wasn’t great and wonderful as I expected, but what is. Another reason is that you have to be running the latest version of php on your web server. We were hosted at yahoo at the time. Yahoo was behind the times and were still running a php version from around 7 years ago, yet they were upgrading, but not fast enough. So we didn’t upgrade at the moment. With that said, I wish we would have. Since then, we’ve moved host over to GoDaddy, which has the newest php. (The odd part is that we switched so we could use some stuff that required the newest php, just like SiteGrinder).
But what is so great about SiteGrinder besides what I’ve told you already (and that should be enough)? You can make WordPress themes, you can make custom Facebook fan pages, you have access to Remote Content Management (*some extra plug-ns may be required). What does the Remote CMS mean? That means you can easily change certain things on your site. One thing I hated about SiteGrinder 2 was that if I needed to change anything, I had to ‘grind’ the entire site out. With the new version, this isn’t always true. Sure, sometimes you may need to, but not like like in version 2.
The price is fairly steep though, just considering the price. It’s $400 dollars just for the SiteGrinder plug-in. If you want to do WordPress themes or commerce sites, that will cost even more. However, considering the price web sites go for nowadays, you can make that back on your first site!
Another great thing about SiteGrinder is the community forum. There’s tons of learning tools there and they are usually fairly quick about responding to issues on the forums. I know they’ve helped me out in a few situations that I’ve had no clue what was going on.
Here’s the greatest thing I love about SiteGrinder – it made me a better web designer. When I first started doing what you might call “web design,” I was doing it with yahoo’s pagebuilder. Yeah, I wouldn’t call it “web design” myself. However, I found this plug-in and it changed part of my life. It made me a web designer not just because it took me from designing graphics to designing websites. It made me a better web designer (probably the better term would be web master/coder) because SiteGrinder has missed it a few times. And on version 2, I don’t feel like waiting the time it took to crank out a graphically heavy page, so it forced me in terms of not wanting to wait, into looking at code. At first, I would look at code and have no idea what it said. Then I started learning some code from books, sites, tutorials, etc because even though SiteGrinder was great, it’s not all there is. And even if you are the best SiteGrinder user and designer there is, you still need to learn coding. You need to learn html and css.
Now don’t tell that to the folks at MediaLab. They’ll disagree. But I’m telling you, the best way to be anything is to understand not just that it does something, but why it does it and how it does it. You may not need to know it in detail or in depth, I myself am lacking in my knowledge of coding, however, you need to know some things. You need to know basics. And that’s what it did. Because of it, I’ve found some great pieces of software that are great and others that I think are amazing.
I’ve started looking at iPhone app design. To design iPhone apps, you have to use a program called xCode. Great coding app that helps you generate your tags and code. I love it, but it’s for coding apps. I finally downloaded and seriously tried the free Aptana studio app and it does the same thing for web coding. It rocks. (Side note, Aptana was just bought by the fine people at Appcelerator who make the Titanium app I talked about earlier this week.
Anyway, that’s all for now. Go check it out and let me know your thoughts.