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Choosing the Best Web Creation Program for You

Aug 17, 2007
Whether you're building your first or your twenty-first website, you should consider which design program is best for you. The time it takes to compare alternatives is well worth it. When choosing which program is best for you, you need to consider (1) your level of html and programming expertise and (2) the nature of your website.

What are your options? If you want to build a website yourself (or customize some templates yourself), you can choose from free online software provided by web hosting companies; source code (html) editors; or WYSIWYG editors.

Option 1 - Free Online Design Software
SiteStudio is one of the best programs in this category. This WYSIWYG website builder is very easy to use and allows you to create a simple site in less than an hour. Since the software is online, you don't need to install anything on your computer and you can access it from any computer with an internet connection. This is a good way to get your feet wet with web design. However, these programs are very limited in what design and programming options you have. And since these programs are very widespread, many website are already using the templates provided (so your website may look the same as hundreds of others). However, it is a quick and easy way to get you a web presence.

Option 2 - Source Code (HTML) Editors
A good way to learn how to build websites is to learn how to write html (hyper text markup language). The name may sound formidable, but it is a very simple programming language. There are many good online tutorials where you can design your website line by line by writing the source code. You can do this using almost any text writing program (like Notepad). You can also invest in more advanced programs that validate (check) your code as you go. This allows you to test your site before you put it online.

Notepad comes free with the MS Windows operating system and can be used with php, perl and html, and is very simple to work with. However, it is only a text editor and does not come with any extra coding or design features. You will definitely need to become familiar with html before you start using this program.

Homesite is an advanced code editor that lets you create a website with Javascript, XML, and other scripting languages. It has tools to validate, format, and reuse your code. This is a popular source code editor by Macromedia that has been around for awhile.

1st Page is a feature-packed program that's absolutely free! It operates in four different modes: easy, normal, advanced/expert, and hardcore. You can choose your interface and preferences. There are tons of javascripts and dhtml scripts already included. As far as source code editors go, this choice is a no-brainer.

Option 3 - WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) Editors
These programs allow you to create flexible and advanced websites. You can drag and drop images where you want them and preview your changes in real-time. These programs cost more than source code editors, but they can greatly speed up the design process while incorporating advanced scripting and database integration. Even if you have little web development experience, you can create an impressive website with features such as message boards, dynamic web pages, forms, visitor tracking, and streaming audio and video. The most popular WYSIWYG editors are: Microsoft Frontpage, Adobe GoLive, and Macromedia Dreamweaver.

MS Frontpage is very easy to use and may be appealing to those who are experienced in using the other MS Office products such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It has great site management features that allow you to upload and change pages even if you can't remember which pages you've altered. FTP is built right in so you only need one program to build and upload your site. You can easily import PowerPoint presentations and Excel graphs and spreadsheets into Frontpage. However, it is not very flexible and the design aspects are very limited. It has no method to validate code and often inserts garbage code into your page. This was the first WYSIWYG program I used. After creating a website that quickly surpassed 300 pages, I learned that I had to clean up the code in order for the pages to display nicely in different browsers with different screen settings. Furthermore, many features of the program will not work properly unless your web host has FrontPage server extensions installed.

Adobe GoLive shares many of the same features and the same interface as other Adobe products (such as Photoshop). GoLive offers far more sophistication than Frontpage. It has a code validator and allows you to easily work with programming environments such as Php and databases such as MySQL. It excels when developing streaming audio/video websites. It requires more time to learn than Frontpage, but it offers much more flexibility and greater control over design and programming.

Macromedia Dreamweaver is simply the best WYSIWYG editor on the market. It is the most widely used by web designers, and it supports almost every web programming environment imaginable. It has an excellent built-in reference guide and also has an autocomplete function that offers suggestions for filling in tags. It can be customized to work in many different programming environments. The code validator is excellent, and even allows you to link to a MySQL database to test your queries on the fly. I may be biased since I have used this program more than any other, but it offers exceptional flexibility with relative ease of use. There is also a large selection of reference books for Dreamweaver available at many book stores.

When choosing the best web design program for your needs, you need to evaluate your level of experience with html and the requirements of your website. If your website requires database integration or lots of other scripting (php, perl, java) then you should consider using an advanced source code editor or a WYSIWYG editor. If you don't have the time or desire to learn how to code properly, then restrict your options only to WYSIWYG editors such as Macromedia Dreamweaver. Online site builders should only be used for basic personal or community websites.
About the Author
Jason Kamara is the developer of Simple Host Finder. You can browse and compare web hosting plans from different providers to find the best match for you. Visit this free web hosting directory at http://www.simplehostfinder.com .
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