Harmony: Simple but Powerful Website Building

There are plenty of ways to manage a website, from home-baked content management systems to established juggernauts like WordPress and ExpressionEngine, from free solutions like Tumblr to paid services like Squarespace. You could roll your own HTML and CSS based static site, or cook up a fully responsive site based on a content management system designed for sites with millions of articles. It’s your choice.

Harmony is throwing its hat into the ring, hoping to appeal to users that are seeking a fully-functional website builder that is powerful and simple. It’s a hosted website design and content management system that’s designed to let you focus on creation rather than the engine behind your site. Let’s take a look and see if it has what you need to power your site.

Getting Started

Harmony is a paid service with varying costs. Hosting two domains with the service costs $30 per month, and the cost continues to rise from there. As an integrated solution you’re not only paying for the system itself but also the hosting of your site.

So far as hosting goes, $30 can either seem very high or incredibly reasonable; it all comes down to what you need your website to do, and how much you’re willing to pay in order to make that happen. Fortunately it’s possible to test Harmony with a trial site. There is no time limit for how long this site can be in the trial phase, and as long as it isn’t made public you can do just about anything you want with it in order to get a feel for the system.

Adding HTML Pages, Forms, and Blogs

Where Harmony may pull ahead of some of its competition is with its sheer scope. Right out of the box Harmony has support for different HTML pages, forms, and adding distinct weblog elements. All of this is done directly through the dashboard, giving you a complete view of your entire site.

An example HTML page.

An example HTML page.

What you’d like a page to be depends on its purpose. If you’d like to build a weblog, adding a Blog to your dashboard might be all that you need in order to get going. To go a bit further, though, you’ll probably be better off using some of the other post types.

Adding content to a blog.

Adding content to a blog.

Say, for example, that you would like to have an About page. The About page is easy to create using a simple HTML page, with static markup used to create a simple but functional element. This could also be used to create a list of links to other places you can be found on the web, a project page, etc.; really the HTML page is for simple, static parts of your site that don’t require or receive constant updating.

Forms will be useful for larger companies but next to useless for a layman’s weblog. They can serve a variety of functions, but the most popular is creating a simple Contact form. Just ask for someone’s name and email and then provide them with a text field and you have yourself a working form. Useful if you’re a large (or small) corporation but probably too much if you’re a one-man shop.

Images, Files, and Data Feeds

One of the nice features of Harmony is the ability to add a custom feed to your site, with everything from standard RSS to Flickr, dribbble, and Twitter. With some sites these elements can be a pain to add, but Harmony makes it easy to incorporate them from the very beginning.

You can also host all of your assets within the service, so long as you don’t go over your data limit. These images and files are displayed in their own little section and are shown with a thumbnail, the size of the file, and when it was added to the site. You can also delete your files straight from this interface, making it easy to remove something that may have been added by accident or is no longer needed.

Competition

Harmony faces some pretty tough competition. As I said in the intro, there are many different tools available for running your own website. Harmony is but one fish in a rather large pond. For most users I think that the $30 will be a rather large barrier to entry, as that’s a full $10/month more than what someone could pay for a basic ExpressionEngine or WordPress managed site, or with Squarespace.

Managing my site with Squarespace.

Managing my site with Squarespace.

I feel that Squarespace is probably Harmony’s most direct competitor. Both make it easy to create websites, whether they are large or small in scope. Squarespace seems to have the benefit of a larger user base, and I’ve found that the visual editor and dashboard with Squarespace are more enjoyable than Harmony’s dashboard.

If all you want to do is run a simple weblog or share with friends and family, you’ll probably be better off with a free solution like Tumblr. Harmony is more for those who are interested in having a functional website with tons of control at their fingertips; Tumblr is much easier to get set up.

Conclusion

When it comes to choosing a CMS there is no cookie-cutter answer. Many people are quite fond of ExpressionEngine and WordPress (which has nothing to do with their use of camel case, I swear) due to the large user bases, plenty of existing support, and plenty of tools that extend the services.

People looking for a free option would probably be served just as well by Tumblr or Posterous as they would be with Harmony. While it tries to make everything simple and is easy to understand for someone that has spent any amount of time in a CMS dashboard, for the average person Harmony is too much.

The direct competition, as I said above, comes from Squarespace. Both are fully hosted and integrated solutions, and I prefer Squarespace’s dashboard and its iOS apps too much to switch from that service to Harmony. Still, this is a choose-your-own-flavor type of thing; I have seen people swear by Harmony, and there certainly isn’t anything overly complicated about the service.

If Harmony appeals to you and you aren’t worried about the price tag, you can’t go wrong with the free trial. Chances are that you can build the site that you’re dreaming of without too much hassle.


Summary

Harmony is a website builder that gives you control over your site with a simple, easy-to-use dashboard.

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