G Veda Vyass reviews Dynamik from Catalyst and finds that it is not so intimidating after all. It gets friendlier and exciting as you spend more time with it

 

I want a fully-functional site, and I want to design it too. I am no designer. Do I outsource it to a designer or do I handcraft it by myself? After trying out Catalyst supported by its child theme Dynamik, I am now sure that I’ll never need to find a web designer for my site.

Unlike some theme builders that are drag-and-drop, Catalyst is a point-and-click application that gives the user literally hundreds of options to design a web page.

Before I dive into the theme builder, a word of warning. Catalyst is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Once Dynamik is installed and Dynamik Options are selected, the menu throws up dozens of radio boxes and scores of drop down menus that most certainly intimidate a new user. Although the hundred options here and there make Catalyst look complex, in reality it means your job is really simple. Every tiny detail of your site is accounted for and handed to you on a platter (ahem, a menu) to design.

First, I’ll talk about the pros of Catalyst. Yes, it does take some settling time. No, it is not as intuitive as other website builders. But, once we get into it – say after three days – it is as easy as playing in your backyard, or asking Beethoven to play the Symphony. Hmmm… maybe you wouldn’t be able to bring in jazzy animations and cover your site with festoons, but take it from me, you will be very clear how to get the most out of Catalyst. It is quite hassle-free to handle and highly responsive in other devices like tablets and smart phones. Even if the site you build is SEO-ed, Catalyst offers you an opportunity to optimize your site the way you want.

The Navigation bars kick some serious stuff here. They are the ones that interact with the visitor and you just couldn’t have asked for a better interface to customize it the way you wanted to. The NavBar can be coupled as a mini-widget area, with an option to link your Twitter handle and place RSS Feeds. Adding a Search box in the NavBar is a classy touch. And, for the lazy ones out there, there is always a way out. Catalyst has a wide range of self-made Skins at your disposal to help you design. They offer you a head start, but you are now playing on ‘Amateur’ mode and not ‘World Class’.

Fonts are endless, literally. It provides a plethora of font options, and then lets you choose fonts from Google too. Customization just got redefined. Catalyst hands over the reins to you and lets you rule the entire area of the site. Change the padding for the sidebar or place a NavBar as your footer. It is like a king-sized meal made up of lots of tiny tiny condiments.

It is modestly priced at US$127 for a one-time investment and unlimited updates. On purchase, you get a 170-page manual that will run you through each and every thing that is on board. Most of the tools are self-explanatory and are extremely easy to work with.

Now that I am done with the pros, here come the cons. Catalyst does carry a few drawbacks that could easily be transformed into positives. The huge number of options it offers is more a bane than a boon initially as it naturally scares away the user. But, as one gets friendlier with the interface, the options not only get you excited, they also have a lot to show up on your web page – yes, they are really fun to use. And, one more teeny-weeny hassle you might encounter is the non-availability of a live editor. You’d be required to refresh every time you had to see the change you made in the editor. Nevertheless, it strikes sweet at places like organization and neatness of the interface.

You can get Catalyst from here: http://catalysttheme.com/