Making site design work for you

When designing a site, should I think about using applications like Microsoft FrontPage 2000, or should I go down the HTML...

When designing a site, should I think about using applications like Microsoft FrontPage 2000, or should I go down the HTML programming route? If I use FrontPage or similar products, will they limit my site design, trap me in, or make later development more difficult?

Charles Lowe

BT stepchange.gov

"Purists would say do all your Web development in raw code, but let's be pragmatic here. Products from the likes of Microsoft, Allaire, Adobe and Macromedia, to name a few, have made Web development accessible on a massive scale and therefore have contributed to the overall success of the Web. It's similar to the reason why HTML's parent SGML (standard generalised markup language) wasn't a success; it was too complicated for the average person to master. These products have opened up the Web to all, including SMEs who may not have the skills or resources to train or employ programmers.

My advice would be gain some knowledge of HTML, an appreciation at least, but there's no need to become an expert programmer. Selecting a GUI-based application will not limit your design, in most cases it will liberate you to do more innovative and functional Web developments. Those who argue you must learn HTML completely, will suggest you need to learn XML, JavaScript, database design and so on, so where do you stop?

Some products will trap you in. Especially in the area of being tied into designing for specific browsers, but there are a multitude of development products that create clean, independent HTML code and applications that enable you to create powerful JavaScript by using wizards. These applications are getting better all the time, so my advice is that you won't get trapped in if you carefully select your development products.

Using a product like Microsoft FrontPage or Macromedia Dreamweaver shouldn't make later development more difficult, but an appreciation of what these applications are doing is not a bad thing. It also comes down to your overall Web strategy, something that all organisations should have, regardless of size. Be flexible but know where you want to go and make product selections for Web development based on this.

A multitude of products are available to help you manage, scale, integrate and automate your business on the Web.

Finally think of Web development like driving a car. You have to master the controls but you don't have to understand the many technologies that propel you in the direction you want to go."

  • www.adobe.com/
  • www.allaire.com/
  • www.macromedia.com/
  • www.microsoft.com/

    Roger Till

    E-Centre

    If you use raw HTML you will have lots of flexibility, but as your website grows you will need to manage your Web pages carefully and develop your own ways of doing that. As the manager of a small to medium-sized company, I think you've got enough to do already without needing to get into that.

    If you use Front Page you will get help with the management of your Web pages. You may ultimately become restricted in what you can achieve, but it will be easier to do. There are also a whole range of software products out there to help you create simple websites for selling your products, obtainable from software companies or the ISPs.

    But is all this a false economy? Do you yourself do all the design work yourself for the paper-based brochures, manuals and other publicity materials that you produce? I suspect you use a design company and concentrate on honing the business messages you want to present. I think the same approach will serve you best with your website. It may cost more in the short term, but get help from a professional designer so that you can concentrate on the business matters you understand best - ensuring that the site does the right things for your company.

    Neil Barrett

    IRM

    My view on this comes from the security perspective. In the first stage of any attack against a reasonably well-protected website, the hacker will focus on attempting to find weaknesses in the way that the HTML code has been written. This might include things like actual coding errors - that allow access to what should be hidden or protected functions - or mistakes in things like publicising absolute directory paths, user names and the like.

    For this reason, I would tend to persuade people to use the route of tried and tested development products rather than the route of DIY - unless you really are good at secure coding.

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