Cluttered and candy-coated are two ways to describe Wix, a new Flash-based website and widget creation tool that we’ve been anticipating for months. It’s also feature-rich, very well-designed, and – sorry – still in private beta.
Wix joins a multitude of browser-based website creators such as Weebly, Synthasite, and Google Pages. But it reminds me the most of Sprout, a widget-creation tool that can also be used to make websites, since both provide fluid Flash interfaces that appeal to your inner designer.
Both of these companies are blurring the line between content that’s meant to stand alone as distinct websites, and content that’s meant for syndication over blogs, social networks, and other destinations. It’s because of this obfuscation that they’ve opted to use the unspecific, yet self-referential, names “sprout” and “wix” when referring to their creations.
Whereas Sprout is mainly marketed as a tool for spreading media content, Wix most certainly appeals to a younger population that’s obsessed with expressing themselves online (call them MySpacers, if you will). Wix does have a collection of tasteful business themes, but the vast majority of its templates are for fun and fall into categories like “street art”, “emo”, “playground”, and “sexy”.
Once you pick a theme for your new website (or widget, just depending on your dimensions), you are taken to a popup Wix Editor that provides you with an overwhelming number of ways to spice up your creation. You can add shapes, clipart, photos, videos, songs and animations; you can tweak colors and set visual effects for user behavior; and you can add text paragraphs and headlines. Photos can be uploaded manually or pulled in from either Flickr or a royalty-free stock collection; videos can be embedded from YouTube; and there’s also a collection of free song clips that can be used in a range of skinnable music players.
Each wix supports multiple pages with links between them. When you want to edit a particular object on a page, you click on it and options for rotating, resizing, and positioning are revealed. A Mac OS-looking doc at the bottom of the screen also provides icons for setting effects, behaviors, animations, and more. You really need to play around with Wix to fully appreciate how much flair and how many customization options it affords.
As you work on your wix, you can hit a preview button to see what it will look like. And once you’re done with it, you can publish it either as a website hosted on the wix.com domain or as a widget to be embedded or sent to friends via email.
One of the major complaints many have about Flash is that it doesn’t allow for indexing by search engines. Wix gets around this by producing content that’s a hybrid of HTML and Flash, despite the fact that it’s editor is entirely Flash-based. This will be a huge benefit to anyone who uses Wix to set up a serious website, but it probably won’t make any difference to widget creators.
Update: Wix is giving out a couple hundred private beta invites to readers who email firstname.lastname@example.org with requests.