Are You A
Closet FrontPage User?
By Mark Daoust
In webmaster circles, fessing up to being a FrontPage user is akin to inviting your mother as your date to your senior prom: you just don't do it. In fact, admitting that you simply use a WYSIWIG editor can often be enough for experienced webmasters to quietly chuckle, look at you with a "someday you'll learn" look, and give you a nice pat on the back encouraging you to keep learning. 'Real' webmasters know three things: 1) Hand coding is the only way to make a website look nice, 2) The more your web programming looks like the screen from "The Matrix", the better your website will be, and 3) that FrontPage was actually programmed by Beelzebub himself.
The stigma that has been placed on WYSIWIG editors, especially FrontPage, is not without cause; there are legitīmate reasons to avoid these web design programs. But the hatred for these programs is also largely unfair and website owners who are using these programs should not necessarily be ashamed to admit that they did not take the time to pour through the W3C's lengthy, and frankly quite boring, recommendations for proper HTML coding. There are, dare I say, legitīmate times when using an editor like FrontPage is the best option.
Hand Coding Is Actually the Best
Now that I have ventured out on a limb and actually admitted to there being legitīmate reasons a person could use FrontPage or any other WYSIWIG editor, let me add an absolute necessary disclaimer. All this talk about creating W3C compliant code, learning proper CSS and HTML, and learning how to separate the design of your website from the HTML of your website is valid. In fact, it should ultimately be the goal of every website owner to have their website validate with W3C standards (Why? Chëck out the web standards movement to see why it is so important).
Here is the real letdown: there is virtually no way that you will create a W3C compliant website using FrontPage, and it is doubtful that any WYSIWIG editor will achieve this for you. Dreamweaver has made tremendous strides in the past year in creating more compliant code, but they are not perfect yet either. If you are going to reach that Shangri-la of web development, hand coding and learning HTML and CSS are the only paths that will lead you there.
The funny thing about all this is that once you become adept at designing websites using nothing but a hand-coded website with your design controlled by CSS and the structure handled by the HTML, you may just find that hand coding a website is actually much easier than fiddling around with a FrontPage or Dreamweaver. In fact, you may just become one of those webmaster 'snobs' who looks sympathetically at all the poor FrontPage-handicapped website owners.
Your Website is More Than a Website
Very few web businesses are actually about the website. Sure, the website is an integral part of your business possibly an absolutely necessary part of your business. Ultimately, however, your website is a tool of your business. Amazon.com, as an example, is known for their website. But when we describe what Amazon.com does, the typical response is to say that they sell books. Google is known for being a website. But when asked what Google does, the typical response is that they help us find websites that we are looking for. Site Reference is inseparable from its website, but when asked what we do, our response is that we publish articles and provide forums to help website owners succeed in the online world (OK, the last example is not in the same class as the first two...we're getting there).
The point of all this is to emphasize that ultimately we are running a business, and a business, no matter how web-centric, is going to have more needs than just those of the website. As a web business owner you are inevitably faced with many different aspects of your business which