Part Three: Updating your Web Presence Series
Transitioning From Old Websites Built Using Tables to Tableless CSS
In my last article A Website Review – How Does Your Site Compare? I proposed a plan to evaluate your web presence based on competitive analysis and after following it you should have determined if you can update your site or if you need to start from scratch. As with most web projects you have a number of options that we will explore. Today we will look at building websites with stand alone editors.
Today, let’s start with older sites that need to be re-created from scratch using stand alone web editors. Web sites built using tables need to be re-done as soon as possible because the current generation of Web browsers (particularly mobile) do not work all that well with much of the old tables based site technology. And what’s the point of your site being found if the browser can’t display it?
Tables based sites cannot be “converted” to tableless CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to meet the current W3 Web standards so a new website needs to be constructed. Recreating your site may sound difficult especially if you have a lot of pages, but consider it a necessary business process that needs to be addressed if you want your website to display properly on the internet.
Per article #2; you should have a list of sites you would like to compete with and a punch list of improvements in design, functionality and content.
Website Re-creation Scenario 1: You built your existing site in any version of Microsoft FrontPage, or other ancient web editor, and need to build a new site and you are a PC user.
Microsoft Expression Web:
Microsoft FrontPage used tables for page layout and is no longer a viable tool. Microsoft support for Office 2003 and FrontPage ended in April 2009. Fortunately, Microsoft has built an excellent successor to FrontPage: Microsoft Expression Web. This pro quality Web development tool lists for $149 (Expression Studio 4 Web Professional) and if you are a student or teacher you can buy the academic version for as little as $69.
Older versions of Expression web will work as well and many on-line software stores sell versions 1, 2 and 3 at a substantial discount. Newer versions have more features. If you are primarily a user of Microsoft Software on a PC I highly recommend Expression Web. It is both a great visual and code editor and it is every bit as capable as Adobe Dreamweaver.
Expression Studio 4 Web Professional has Superpreview. This feature helps you to test your website for browser compatibility by viewing your site through the lens of different browsers and versions to make sure they are compatible. This is a very valuable tool. Because of web browser security patches, doing a preview in browser from your web editor is becoming increasingly problematic. Previewing a “local” web while you are working on it in Internet Explorer has become an exercise in frustration. Frequently you will make an edit and then preview the page, only to see the page without your edit or even a broken page layout. Expression Web Superview gives you the ability to accurately preview your sites without having to publish to a Webserver as well as test and troubleshoot in multiple browsers.
What about Microsoft SharePoint Designer?
A Microsoft Office 2007 component: SharePoint Designer has all of the functionality of the first version of Expression Web and in addition to being free, is an excellent way to move to tableless CSS design from FrontPage or other obsolete web editors. Most of the educational materiel and information referenced as “Expression Web” applies to SharePoint Designer 2007 and any tableless CSS web templates for Expression Web will work in SharePoint Designer 2007 (PixelMill has some great tableless CSS templates available).
Note: Microsoft SharePoint 2010 will not work as a standard website editor, as it has become a tool dedicated to building SharePoint sites.
SharePoint can be used to build highly functional websites, but they are much more costly and complex to build than a standard website. For example: http://www.ferrari.com has been developed in Microsoft SharePoint 2010.
Are design templates available for Expression Web and SharePoint Designer?
PixelMill has some great tableless CSS templates available for Microsoft Expression Web / SharePoint Designer 2007. From very simple to graphically complex, you will find a design suited to every project.
Web Hosting for Expression Web and SharePoint:
When it comes to hosting, you can use the FTP function of Expression Web to publish to a UNIX or Linux Webserver, although you will lose some of the advanced functionality that you would have by hosting on Microsoft IIS Webserver. Your best bet is to host Expression Web sites on Microsoft IIS Webserver and Adobe Dreamweaver sites on some version of Mac, UNIX or Linux with Apache Webserver. Those are the “native” environments for both editors and you have fewer headaches and more options to easily add functionality if you stick to this plan.
If you are not going to be using .aspx and making database connections to your site, any bargain web hosting company will probably be fine. If you need to connect up to Microsoft’s SQL server to dynamically generate web pages you will need a company that provides good tech support for Expression web users. I like Hostway in Chicago http://www.hostway.com/
SharePoint hosting is very much a specialty and one of the best hosting companies is FPWeb http://www.fpweb.net/sharepoint-hosting/2010/. Another interesting hosting option Is Microsoft’s new “Cloud Computing” service, Office 365 http://www.microsoft.com/office365, which delivers Exchange Link, SharePoint and Office as a subscription service. For only $6 per seat per month you get Exchange messaging and shared calendaring, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft OneNote, Microsoft PowerPoint, Link for online meetings and messaging as well as the power of SharePoint.
SharePoint as a service at Office 365 will help you to build an extensible shared work environment as well as Web pages for intranet, extranet and public access. Office 365 is in Beta test as of June 2011 and it should go into full commercial deployment in summer/fall 2011.
Expression Web Training:
Great Expression Web online video training can be found at http://www.lynda.com. For only $25/month you get a tremendous amount of detailed info that is easy to understand and not overwhelming.
Website Re-creation Scenario 2:
You built your existing site in any version of Microsoft FrontPage, or other ancient web editor (on PC, Mac or *NIX), you need to build a new site and you now are using an Apple, UNIX or some version of Linux… Adobe Dreamweaver is your best choice for a new Web Editor.
Dreamweaver is the main competitor to Microsoft Expression Web. While both are highly functional visual and code editing tools, they each have their advantages. Expression Web has extensive “large object oriented” coding tools and is more biased towards programmers and database architects than Dreamweaver. Adobe counters with better creative tools than Microsoft.
Dreamweaver has a very high level of integration with PhotoShop/Flash. Microsoft’s Flash competitor, Silverlight, will never have the market share that Flash has developed. For example, Youtube uses the Adobe Flash .flv video format. If you are a fan of open source software like php and MySQL then Adobe Dreamweaver should be your web editor of choice.
Web Hosting for Dreamweaver:
When it comes to hosting, your best bet is to host Adobe Dreamweaver sites on some version of Mac, UNIX or Linux using the Apache Webserver. This is the “native” environments for Dreamweaver and you will have fewer headaches and more options to easily add functionality if you go with Apache.
Lynda.com also offers excellent online video training for Adobe Dreamweaver
Soon to follow:
In our next article we will weigh the advantages and disadvantages of hosted web development platforms like WordPress and online site building tools like Weebly and SquareSpace. Considering the amount of free training, support, and functionality available, these options become very appealing to quickly and easily get a website built.
Are they the best solutions out there? Join us next time to see…
If you are transitioning from Microsoft FrontPage, versions of Adobe Dreamweaver prior to 8 or other obsolete web editors, please click on the following link for a list of resources, including a link for the free SharePoint 2007 download: http://www.pixelmill.com/transition/