Sparkle for the professionals

Thank you for the reply Scott.

That is what I’ll be doing. If people are happy with their WordPress sites they can stick to them. But I will be delivering beautiful looking sites and I’ll be making them all on Sparkle.

Regards,
Hennie

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Hi @Anti0606, just wanted to add the point of view of our motivation to create Sparkle.

What we have seen over the years is a flattening and standardization of web design. It’s so much so it has become kind of a meme:

To me it’s pretty clear the reason is the complexity of web standards, and the huge surface area of different technologies you need to know to walk the (very) thin line of standards, performance, mobile optimization, browser compatibility and bugs. Mobile and minimalism kind of pushed everybody in a corner with a limiting design canon.

All the necessary knowledge, the new rule of the road and the mantra I think convinced everybody that code is the only way to go. But with the market rules at work, most web shops only buy a pre-built theme that solves the technical problems, never using any of the web flexibility. Some people still built custom HTML and CSS, but the testing required for a one-shot project means it will be a very expensive proposition. This leaves beautiful bespoke designs as something only for very high end websites.

So this is the problem we set out to resolve: take care of the technical issues, take web coding off the table for as many scenarios and use cases as possible. It’s something that has happened for most other fields, as the Webflow founder aptly tweeted:

What we’re working on is that bottom-right rectangle, and it’s mind boggling that anybody would insist that’s the only way to do it.

But how far is Sparkle in the realization of this grand vision?

For some things, it’s already perfect. This is what makes Sparkle great already today for who mainly builds websites with static content.

For other things we have have a ways to go. We are very very, very aware of what Sparkle doesn’t do. And for some things you might find the best solution is a very specific wordpress plugin, which means you have to use the whole wordpress sinking ship.

But we are 100% committed to bringing everything we can to the realm of visual editing. And not in the sense some “no code” tools do it, where you might not be writing CSS directly, but their “GUI” is essentially a table of CSS properties.

So does this make Sparkle good for “professional” use? I would say that “probably not” is the best approximation, but not because of any issue Sparkle might have, just because there is an amazing variety of needs and most of them are solved with a some custom coding here and there.

That said you will find that there’s a very long tail of people who are fine with what Sparkle has to offer, and every Sparkle update raises the bar of what you can do, entirely visually.

We are, as always, very open to suggestions. Smaller suggestions, that might be quick to add and maybe make you more productive, or big picture suggestions, that we might take longer to add but raise the bar and give you a more capable tool long term.

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Thank you for the reply,

What you have said is unfortunately a reality. When it comes to the graphic design industry there is always a trend and at the rate things are going trends are difficult to keep up with, every year there is a new design trend and people are moving towards that. And some of them unfortunately do require coding, one that I’ve seen being used a lot by designers who code their sites from the ground up are the guys build vector based images that people are able to interact with because there is a lot of CSS that goes into making the image interact with your cursor. That is definitely a nice to have but to work that into any application would be difficult to do. Being new to Web design I have not had any issues with what Sparkle is able to deliver, I do understand that the “making vectors respond using CSS” is definitely not something that would be a small undertaking because it would have to allow the designer some form of input with what is happening at the back end. But I still feel that Sparkle is the best with regards to me as a designer and not a coder, because it does allow me to put my ideas to the test in a setting that I understand, as a designer I am used to looking at my designs as I create them (so my live preview of sorts) and Sparkle does the same, I am able to design and as I design I am able to see my website at work.

It is daunting heading into a field where I am by no means even close to being called a professional. I have a love for design and I have decided to embark on this journey and embrace the world that is the Web. And so far Sparkle has made it a pleasant journey. Now the challenge is to get all the WordPress lovers over to a Sparkle built site.

Thanks again for the reply Duncan.

Regards,
Hennie

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I agree totally with you Duncan. I guess one point is also the missing ability of a lot of people using their own imagination or creativity. Think there’s only little of it. On the other side it’s “awesome” to become a “web designer” “photographer” or any other kind of creativist.
Therefor people just think: “I am what I’ll be able to create”. No matter if hundreds or thousands of other “creativists” just do exact the same.

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I’m going to jump in and say that even though @duncan said “probably not”, I am running an agency and all our sites are moving to Sparkle. About 30 sites so far. And every client who comes to us, they are talking about Wordpress and we quickly talk them out of it.

We’re talking about companies like large billion-dollar manufacturing companies all the way down to local plumbers.

Duncan and his team have solved problems for me that plagued me in Wordpress for years and it changed my whole agency.

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@WebRoyal, I’m with you on this and totally agree! :slight_smile:

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My thoughts are as an IT professional since the dinosaur era is that “simple” websites are what the customer wants, nice to look at, simple to use.
When the websites become “bouncy”, that is when the client starts getting chewed off.
Not demeaning Sparkle, I think it’s great, but Sparkle lets you create a great functional website that your customer finds good to use, rather than an “arty farty” pretty dynamic site that your creatives ( who don’t buy things) like
Provocative I know, but in my view a realistic view of people wanting to browse / buy / hire

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While I run 5 websites for my own businesses, I use it to do restaurant websites - new place opens up, I mention that I do simple websites and the fee is $500…in food.

That works, try it.

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I run an ad agency and most of our sites are very simple, and don’t have a lot of features. They work! Sparkle is the best tool for this type of site. (Not that you CAN’T have features with sparkle, just that it makes simple, functional sites very easy to use and develop,)

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Great website! Lots of inspiration. Thanks.
-W

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@Woodrow, Thank you! :slight_smile:

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As stated by @H173 don’t ever lose sight of the user - that’s who you are building the website for.

Good content, well presented and working well on mobile, tablet and desktop is what works. Sparkle delivers that, so yes professionals can use Sparkle. The fact that a professional may also need to be fluent in HTML, CSS and various scripting languages for the ultra-bespoke website does not detract from what Sparkle does so well.

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I used Rapidweaver for many years, but got tired of all the 3rd party updates and revisions and costs. I then moved to Weebly (for my less demanding customers). But since becoming part of Square Weebly has drawbacks too. Now, I’m heading to Sparkle. So far, I’m VERY impressed! I have ten sites I’m hoping to convert to Sparkle.

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@thehuhman, That is fantastic news! :slight_smile:

I think it is a matter of packaging the simplicity of Sparkle to the client, although it is scary in handing over the Sparkle file… gulp! The majority of my clients leave it up to me, but I have now a couple of clients that I have been guiding to do their own updates with the Sparkle document we share via iCloud.

In that time I have learned how to further refine my layout so to make it “kids-proof” minimising things that could go wrong… but all in all it has been a good experience! :slight_smile:

Good luck! :)…

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I am a content creator and I use Sparkle to create websites for myself and clients. Sparkle is a pro level design tool if you incorporate it into your workflow according to its strengths. It’s limited in what it can do, but it’s very good at it.

Wordpress is top-of-mind for many people/organizations because it has the strongest brand in the web building space. CMS’s (Content Management Systems) Joomla and Drupal are the same as Wordpress but most people aren’t aware of them. Wix is trying really hard to be top-of-mind with their YouTube ad campaign.
Clients think Wordpress is cheap or even free. Anyone who has built a Wordpress site knows it’s very expensive, just a step below coding. The most expensive part of Wordpress isn’t building or hosting, it’s troubleshooting. Yet being expensive it still meets few peoples needs. I don’t know a person or organization that is happy with Wordpress.

To change the client discussion from Wordpress you need to focus on what the client wants to accomplish with the website, not the tools to be used. Well-designed websites perform a combination of three functions; entertainment, education, and revenue generation. What clients pay for is revenue, convenience, and reputation (theirs, not yours). Do you buy Apple devices for the metal and silicon, or do you buy them for what you can do with them? The so-called Apple tax is what you pay for great design.

Website building is a commodity, not website design.

A side note…for noncoding interactive vector-based designs I use Apple’s Keynote (this is what Apple uses to design/prototype their own software, even Keynote!) and Tumult’s Hype Pro. They integrate smoothly with Sparkle.

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@thetravelhikelife, I couldn’t have said it better! :slight_smile:
Especially about

Website building is a commodity, not website design.

I tried in the earlier days to use Keynote for website design mockups but I couldn’t get it to suite for the long pages a website page presents as. Sparkle has totally changed that fro me! :slight_smile:

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I do feel each and every person who has contributed to this post have made valid points. I have done a lot of research these last few days, not only with Sparkle but with my arsenal of design tools I have at my disposal. Now there are still limits with what Sparkle is able to do but I feel that for a lot of people it does meet their requirements. My main focus has always been graphic design, this is what I do as my profession, Web design is still new to me. Now the reason I say this is because some people like the little things, something as simple as an animation on their site, now Sparkle is able to animate photos through the use of effects, but it’s not able to animate a svg, but going through the Internet I have found a lot of articles with regards to how to achieve this. A paid for way of animating svg files would be to use svgator, but if you do the research you’ll find that you’ll be able to do this with applications like Illustrator and Photoshop, yes there are a lot of steps to compiling your animation but it can be done and once you are done you can export this file as a gif. So from a perspective like mine where I like to incorporate my love of graphic design into something as functional as a website Sparkle is perfect. And with regards to what people require on a site it also works really well. I think for most of us the issue isn’t that the applications we use are limited but at times it’s the imagination that is lacking, as a designer it happens at times, anybody doing art or a writer will tell you, writers block is a thing.

Just my two cents, food for thought I guess.

@Anti0606 I agree with you entirely. I think there is often confusion between design and functionality. In many respects, a fundamental part of good design is making a functional interface that people can intuitively understand. In most professional web development environments, you have designers that create the interface and you have coders that make the interface work the way the designer intended, so professional web development is a combination of talents.

Whilst products such as Sparkle are essentially a design tool, it does offer a great number of options that allow for the creation of a well designed and functional website without recourse to the coders. This is great for those who don’t have or need the professional resources to create anything more than an informative, easy to use website.

Of course, there are those who require something a little more sophisticated, such as things like carousels (maybe for product selection), or things like eCommerce or full-blown online apps, such as real-estate listings, blogs, membership registrations etc. Clearly, these functions are beyond the remit of web-design apps such as Sparkle, they will require a different skill-set to make them work. This, I guess, is what could potentially differentiate between a good web-designer and a professional web developer. If one or the other has both skill-sets, then Sparkle could be considered as a “professional” tool because it represents just one tool in the professional web-developer’s arsenal - in much the same way as Sketch, or Affinity designer/photoshop and code editor apps.

With things like animation effects, those have become an important part of mobile web development - not because they simply look impressive (in fact some of the most animated-rich sites that are not pure entertainment sites, are often some of the least visited), but more because they allow the designers to draw attention to interactive elements that wouldn’t otherwise be possible on mobiles. For example, whilst a desktop/laptop site can utilise rollover effects to indicate to users that an interactive element exists on the page, on mobiles, these effects simply don’t show up because the device cannot detect a “finger hover”. So, a pulsating button or link element can often be deployed to draw attention and encourage interaction.

Where animation becomes a little superfluous is where it’s used simply because it’s there. It doesn’t add anything to the design or function of the web page. However, a good designer can effectively deploy animation to add to the overall experience of USING the web page, rather than just looking at it. I often come across sites where there appears to be little of interest on the page - in some cases almost a blank page. What isn’t immediately obvious is that page elements slide in or out or up or down as the page scrolls. This can get a little tedious and infuriating because there appears to be no logical purpose behind the animations.

But, at least Sparkle has thought of the value of including animations. However, it is still up to the designer to use them wisely to enhance the user experience. So, in answer to the original question, yes, Sparkle can be used as a professional design tool that can be utilised to create stunning web sites. But the use of Sparkle alone (along with just about any other web site creating app) does not make the developer a professional. They may well be able to create great sites but only as long as it’s within the remit of the app itself. Beyond that, the “true professional” will have to add quite a few more tools to the toolbox before considering themselves as a professional web developer. As they say, a single adjustable spanner does not make a professional mechanic!!

@francbrowne and @Anti0606 Also in full agreement with you here.

Good design will help keep people on your site once they have found it. However, functionality is an aspect of design that is often completely missed by web developers amateur and professional alike.

So, someone has found your web site, probably by an organic search, what do you want them to do now?

If you can answer this question you are well on the way to determining design criteria for your site. For example, you are a photographer with a portfolio of stunning images. Do you just want visitors to your site to gaze in awe at your website animations or gasp at your artistic skills or do you want them to purchase images or contact you to arrange a photoshoot or to do something else?

Usability testing of websites is usually only carried out by very large organisations with huge budgets. Where this has been done well it shows, or rather it doesn’t, the site just feels right and it is easy to do what you want. The thing is you do not need a big budget to perform basic usability testing just ask a friend to help.

In the example above, let’s assume the purpose of the photographer’s site is to get more commissions. To test that user functionality ask the friend to use your web site to commission you for a photoshoot at a time and place of their choosing. Then ask them if it was easy to do, could it have been clearer, was the contact information obvious? Also, did you get enough details from the user to price the commission, etc. You get the idea.

Always keep in mind the who (are your users), why (are they visiting your site), where (are your users), what (do you want the users to do), how (do your users access the site), when (do they access your site). The answers will influence the functionality and hence the design of your website and Sparkle is definitely good enough for you to produce a professional site.

Steve

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@FreewayFugitive, Well said! :slight_smile:
I always tell my clients off the bat I will be creating a website for their intended users not them.