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media:NYTimes.com: Building Web Pages Without the Drudgery of HTML

From: David Poehlman <poehlman1@home.com>
Date: Fri, 7 Dec 2001 00:29:10 -0500
Message-ID: <005701c17ee0$19c99560$2cf60141@mtgmry1.md.home.com>
To: "wai-ig list" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

December 6, 2001

BASICS





Building Web Pages Without the Drudgery of HTML


By J. D. BIERSDORFER


MY plane had climbed above 30,000 feet, and the Web page I was creating
on
my laptop computer was cruising along nicely, too. I was on a Midwest
Express flight to Omaha recently on my way to a wedding and giving Print
Shop Deluxe 12 by Broderbund Software a midair workout on my ThinkPad. I
didn't have to lug along any heavy Web design manuals or wrangle arcane
code
from a memory already overloaded trying to keep track of the subplots on
"Alias." I could just point and click away while grabbing chocolate-chip
cookies from Brenda the flight attendant.

Not too awfully long ago, the creation of Web pages was much more
complicated. You had to know a bit of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language),
the
system used to create Web pages; it uses typed codes and instructions to
construct the document for viewing with a Web browser. I vaguely
remembered
some of it, but my HTML was about as rusty as the Ancient Greek I
studied in
college.

There are now many ways to make a Web page, from old-fashioned hand
coding
in simple text-editor software to high-end applications that do the
coding
for you and help manage your site. Internet services like America Online
provide basic tools for members to make Web pages that can then be
stored in
the free server space that comes with the user's account.


Other Web sites, like Tripod.com and Yahoo (news/quote)'s GeoCities,
provide
free page-building templates and a place to display them in exchange for
free membership (and the freedom to pelt pop-up advertisements at anyone
who
wants to look at the resulting pages). Microsoft (news/quote) Word even
has
a Save as Web Page option under its File menu now, although the results
can
vary.

For the serious student, the Webmonkey site
(hotwired.lycos.com/webmonkey)
offers an excellent set of free online tutorials and resources for the
beginning Web author.

Programs that spare you the coding without spoiling the Web-page design
experience are often called WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)
editors,
and there are a lot of them on the market now, each promising to make
page
design and management easier. A WYSIWYG page editor will let the user
point
and click and drag and drop page elements around a blank canvas on
screen,
while it quietly composes the HMTL code underneath. Professional Web
workers
tend to scoff at these types of programs for generating clunky code, but
for
fairly straightforward pages, most of the programs are fine.

Print Shop Deluxe 12 is a Windows-based graphic design and photo-editing
program aimed at consumers and sells for about $50. It provides a
friendly
user interface and plenty of tutorials to get the novice rolling on
making
everything from a printed brochure to a Web page. It comes with a huge
assortment of templates and clip art, and the Web Page creation section
was
quite simple to use.

The program displayed a panel of buttons alongside the work area of the
screen. To add a picture, I just needed to click on the button for a
Picture
box and then select the image I wanted to use from my hard drive or one
of
the program's CD's. On the plane, I was able to create a simple Web page
in
15 minutes. The program provides a checker function to examine your
creation
for possible bugs. It also offers a handy preview feature so that you
can
see the page in your Web browser before you embarrass yourself in
public.
(Speaking of the public, unless you put a password on it, a Web page is
up
there for all to see. So you may want to be careful about publishing
certain
personal information.)

Of course, to allow others to see your Web page, you have to put it
somewhere where they can  on a Web server. This part stymies many
people,
but many Internet providers give their subscribers a few megabytes of
space
on their servers to store Web pages.

Print Shop Deluxe incorporates a Web Publishing Wizard that walked me
through most of the task of getting the page on the Web. This can be
tricky
if one is unfamiliar with File Transfer Protocol, the common method for
delivering pages from hard drive to Web, but I followed the Wizard and
typed
in things like the name of my page file and the Web address where I
wanted
to put it. And up it went.

America Online, like many other Internet providers, offers two megabytes
of
free server space per screen name to store Web pages, and the tools to
create them. Making a page with AOL, either with the current version 7.0
for
Windows or version 5.0 for Macintosh, is mind-numbingly easy. Look for
menu
items called AOL Hometown in Windows and My Web Page on the Mac side.
The
process on either platform is very template-driven  lots of
prefabricated
topical pages, ranging from My Fashion Tips Page to My Babylon 5 Fan
Page
can be found here  although there are blank slates to start with as
well.
Other popular Internet providers like MSN and Earthlink have similar
offerings.

On the other end of the spectrum, Dreamweaver 4 by Macromedia
(news/quote)
sells for about $300 and is available for both Windows and Macintosh
systems. Whereas Print Shop Deluxe and AOL took pains to keep the user
away
from frightening things like page code, Dreamweaver allows complete
control
of the HTML and just about everything else having to do with managing
and
updating the Web site created with the program.

For someone serious about making Web sites or wanting to learn more
about
HTML, JavaScript, cascading style sheets and other components of
professional Web-site design and management, Dreamweaver comes with a
toolbox of helpful gadgets. The program provides a toolbar and a blank
canvas for the user to whip up a basic page of text and photos. I was
able
to make a personal photo essay, with headline and captions, in about 20
minutes and then uploaded it to some spare space on one of my America
Online
accounts with AOL's F.T.P. tools.

FrontPage 2002, which costs about $150 and runs on Windows, is another
high-end program that gets a lot of use from business folks and other
Microsoft Office users.

The program acts much like a typical WYSIWYG editor, although I really
had
to dig around in the menus to find out how to peek at the HTML code. One
of
the things I like the most about FrontPage is the hefty collection of
precoded templates that someone making a multipage site might find
useful,
like the Frequently Asked Questions template. It looks a bit generic,
but a
FAQ page is meant to be a simple provider of basic information, and the
FrontPage template is so complete that I only had to type in my
questions
and link them to my typed answers with a click or two.

FrontPage 2002 is perhaps the best bet for people who are already heavy
users of Microsoft Office and small businesses that don't have a lot of
technical support for their Web site creation. But I liked Dreamweaver 4
the
most of all the programs I tried. It may be overkill for someone who
just
wants to put up a collection of family photos, but Dreamweaver had so
many
tutorials and educational tidbits built into it that I found I was
learning
more about how the Web works overall. Macromedia is offering a free
two-CD
set of instructional videos, templates and tutorials to those who
purchase
or upgrade the Dreamweaver program before March 31, 2002.

Now that I have tried all these programs and successfully created Web
pages,
I have no excuse left for not getting the Biersdorfer family newsletter
online in time for the holidays. I think Dreamweaver will be a great
help in
incorporating the sound files of my clawhammer banjo playing that I plan
to
put on the page to scare hackers away.

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/06/technology/circuits/06BASI.html?rd=hcm
cp?p
=041fLG041fM341pGg012000m8HSR8H3m
Received on Friday, 7 December 2001 00:29:02 GMT

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