I have had endless discussions with all sorts of non-IT people about how to build their Web sites and it almost always ends with them giving up. The problem is that there are so many parts to building even a basic site, and what most of them want is the all singing, all dancing Web site with every advanced feature included and zero management overhead.
In the future I'm going to start pointing them to Synthasite, which while it can't yet do everything, has some of the best features I've seen so far in a purely Web-based Web site creation and editing system.
Synthasite is free and provides a choice of templates into which you can drop various widgets that range from the basics such as text boxes, images, two column layout, and HTML fragments (which I will not be recommending to my non-IT friends) to Google Adsense, forms from Form Assembly and Wufoo, photos from Smugmug and Flikr, and third party widget services such as Google Gadgets, Slide, and Widgetbox.
While many of the widgets do require that you have more than just a clue, even a fairly unskilled user can create a good looking and functional Web site just using the basics offered by Synthasite.
Synthasite provides overall site management as well as individual page creation and editing facilities including a method for generating site navigation more or less automatically - Synthasite more or less holds your hand through every aspect of creating a site.
What really impressed me is the integration of other services such as Form Assembly and Google Gadgets within the framework provided by Synthasite - this means that Synthasite doesn't have to re-invent the wheel and duplicate functionality that is already offered by other companies. You could think of Synthasite in part as a very clever mashup service.
When you have completed your design you can publish it using a custom subdomain of synthasite.com, redirect the DNS entries for an existing domain, or download your site in a ZIP archive to deploy on your own server (all you need is PHP support on your Web server). The download includes absolutely everything you need for your creation to work, and can be a useful way to prototype simple sites.
There are a few components missing at present most noticeably a Synthasite supported blogging feature. I checked the company's support to see whether anyone had come up with a solution, but it appears from the discussions that using an embedded external blog service results in a snapshot of your blog rather than a view that dynamically updates (that said, I didn't see any reference to using an iFrame, which should ensure that the external blog is updated at the browser).
Continuing with their mashup orientation Synthasite uses the Get Satisfaction service as a support platform.
I really like what Synthasite is doing, and better still is the potential of getting all of those non-IT people off my back.