Web Design Smart Tips:
- Never Delete a Webpage
- Links That Don't Look Like Links
- Shrink Image Sizes
- Design for the Smallest Screen Size
- Aid Those who Can't See Images
- Don't Ignore White Space
- Always Interlace your GIF(c) Images
Need help developing websites? Looking
for HTML tips and tricks? You've come to the right place.
We have many great web development tips revolving around
HTML, design, and more!
Microsoft FrontPage 2003
Web page design and editing, site management application.
By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting
Wednesday, January 28, 2004; 9:50pm EST
FrontPage has long been a comfortable place for both novices
and seasoned web designers to create their web sites.
It has always been superb at handling "site"
creation rather then just "page" creation. It
has had a history of versions that attempt to refine the
product in an evolutionary way with small improvements
in functionality and stability. Generally the changes
between versions were not breath taking and some of the
programs quirks and bugs were at times difficult to work
with. But in general it was still an application that
really made the web design process easy, and got the job
done. During the past few years however, competition came
and eventually surpassed FrontPage with more features,
stability and quality of code.
FrontPage 2003 somewhat breaks this tradition and gives
us a version we can finally say is a strong application
that is in line with competition and the expectations
of high end web designers and programmers.
We have always appreciated how FrontPage has catered to
novice users with its themes, components and "ready
to use" features, while also giving programming and
advanced features to its more seasoned user base. However
it certainly built a reputation of catering more and more
to the beginner segment as it focused more and more on
features to simplify building sites for people with little
or no knowledge of web design. FrontPage 2003 continues
to offer even more for the novices, but also adds a much
needed bag of assorted goodies and more stable operation,
that experts will love.
Installation was truly a no-brainer, like most applications
these days. Starting the application is almost instantaneous
on a decently configured workstation. When starting a
new web page or web site project it gives you a number
of predefined projects that help you get started faster.
Typically, however, we found just using the "web
with a blank home page" the way to go. But we could
imagine where some of the other templates could come in
handy in certain circumstances.
Once you have a blank page and you're ready to start designing,
the interface is clean, intuitive and offers a large design
area to work in. The drop down menus intelligently place
tool options, and toolbar buttons are clear and easy to
figure out. Text handling is clean and easy to use, however
we would have liked to see better handling of backup fonts
and having a predefined list of the most used font sets
that saves between uses of the application. Example, "Verdana,
Arial, Helvetica" rather then it only displaying
all of the single fonts on your workstation. This is since
there are a very limited number of fonts you can really
safely work with in the first place on web pages.
Open documents are represented by tabs along the top of
the workspace, and sandwiched between the workplace and
document tabs is the Quick Tag Selector. This is a great
feature that displays the tags which your page is composed
of and allows you to individually select particular page
elements with ease and modify or remove them. The workspace
is configurable to be in one of four modes "Design"
(web page only view), "Split" (web page and
code view), "Code" (code only view) and "Preview"
(view fully rendered web page). This was truly a welcome
and long overdue addition to FrontPage 2003. FrontPage
2003 also includes statistical data along the bottom status
bar for such things as estimated page loading times based
on the data transfer rate you set and resolution of the
We have always like the visual approach FrontPage has
used for its table building feature. However it has long
been plagued by horrific accuracy problems and inaccurate
rendering once in a browser. FrontPage 2003 eliminates
these problems by making it literally pixel perfect, now
it truly is easy to get table and cell sizes exactly how
you want them - and they stay that way when in a browser.
The only thing we would have liked to see would be to
see dimension sizes displayed on the table when you are
moving borders so that you can get exact pixel numbers
to work with.
Something we have long wanted in not just FrontPage but
in all applications is a more advanced Find and Replace
function. FrontPage 2003 has an incredible update to a
long ignored function that will make programming changes
infinitely easier. It allows entire blocks of code to
be searched and replaced rather then a single line - it
also allows you to define your search specifically to
HTML tags even further improving your ability to do a
successful replace across multiple documents. Such a small
change, but such a potentially big impact to improve site
wide changes for large web sites. We were also impressed
with the fact that they finally made it more easy to update
META tag information by placing the "keywords"
and "description" tag fields right up front
in the Page Properties option, instead of having to create
the tags yourself.
FrontPage continues to include its selection of "Components",
a collection of pre-made functions that FrontPage does
instead of you having to code them. The downside is that
they require something called FrontPage 2002 "Extensions"
that must reside on the server the site will be published
to. They have had a long history of being "temperamental"
at best and have a reputation of unreliability and a need
to be regularly reinstalled and maintained. The positive
side of these components is that they really do help make
tasks like doing page includes, feedback forms, counters
and even database interactions incredibly easier then
if you had to code them yourself. Microsoft stopped offering
the server side of the extensions in the 2002 revision
- but still offers the components in FrontPage 2003 that
are compatible with 2002. This is a sad development, the
components were a great idea and should have been improved
in their functionality and reliability instead of being
axed. The database component was an incredible time saver
and webmasters with absolutely no database experience
could easily build a web page that interfaced with a database
- very valuable. Components in 2003 are literally identical
to 2002, and still contain bugs. Our use of the "Include
Page" component, for example, caused application
errors which required a restart of the application to
overcome on a few occasions.
The method in which you publish your web projects to the
web server has also been improved to include more options
and a more organized interface to manage your transferring
of files between the server and your workstation.
A number of features targeted for beginners have been
improved, including the use of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)
instead of HTML in the customizable themes; the ability
to add pre-made interactive buttons to your site; and
"behaviors" which eliminate the need to write
code in order for a web page to perform certain tasks.
Advanced users will be happy with the XML support; uses
Microsoft SharePoint; HTML code "optimization"
which attempts to clean up unnecessary code and tidy its
presentation; and accessibility compliance checking.
The programming environment has been enhanced with the
use of Intellisense and a number of other features to
make programming easier. FrontPage 2003 as a result, will
complete commands as you type, offer a list of available
parameters for the command, perform auto word wrap, display
line numbers, perform automatic indentation, and more.
This level of programming assistance works when you are
JScript or ASP.NET languages. Something we truly despised
about previous versions of FrontPage was its poor handling
of inline code which it would tend to change, remove or
add to at its own discretion causing at times quite damaging
effects to web applications that were difficult to repair.
This is even after specifying in its options that you
do not want it to reformat existing code. FrontPage 2003,
during our initial testing, appears to have corrected
this issue and leaves code the way you intended it to
be. This is truly a relief and worth the upgrade alone.
Documentation included with the retail box is non-existent
with exception to a rather vague mini-booklet that is
basically a "lite" version of the reference
book they encourage you to purchase. In-program help pulls
its content from the Microsoft web site so prepare to
have a connection to the Internet available when asking
FrontPage 2003 for help. Answers to our queries generally
resolved our issues, but at times the answers were unclear
or were difficult to follow.
Overall, the pros far outweigh the cons in this release
of FrontPage. We recommend users of any previous version
to upgrade as there are numerous improvements in almost
all aspects of the program. Users new to web design or
who are considering changing from their existing web design
tools are recommended to download an evaluation copy and
try FrontPage 2003. FrontPage has always had a less steep
learning curve than its primary competitor, Macromedia
Dreamweaver, and now it is comparable in features as well.
It is also considerably less costly than Dreamweaver MX
2004 which retails for a hefty $399USD.
System requirements are a Pentium III 233MHz processor
(we recommend a Pentium 4); 128MB of memory; up to 380MB
of drive space; SVGA graphics card and display; Windows
2000, XP or above operating system. FrontPage 2003 has
a recommended retail price of $199USD for the full version
and $109USD for the upgrade. It is available immediately,
and was launched October 21, 2003.
PROS - Great workspace improvements such as tabbed documents,
tag selector and split screen mode; programming assistance
such as Intellisense; no longer damages in-line code;
great Find and Replace feature; improved accuracy of table
and cell designing; improved application stability; HTML
optimization; accessibility checking; better web publishing
and file transfer mechanism; reasonable purchase and upgrade
CONS - No improvement to the temperamental "Components"
and discontinuation of the server extensions instead of
improving them; text handling could be better; in-program
help was at times difficult to follow.
About The Author
Jon Deragon is president and founder of Visca Consulting,
a firm specializing in web site design, development and
usability for businesses of all sizes. His many years
in the technology industry has enabled him to write quality,
in-depth product reviews to assist businesses make more
informed technology purchases. He welcomes any questions
or comments you may have regarding his company's services,
this review or interest in having your company's products