Design creativity out of the box

Software: Several programs on the market give savvy beginners the tools to build Web pages with a polished look.

August 01, 2002|By Kevin Washington | Kevin Washington,SUN STAFF

If you're part Ansel Adams and part Andy Warhol, the step-by-step, beginner-oriented tools for building a Web page at AOL Hometown or Yahoo! GeoCities may not provide enough oomph for you to express yourself.

But with some cash and a willingness to immerse yourself in a manual, you can step up to dedicated Web development software.

Most of the programs offer "WYSIWYG" environments, which means you can lay out the Web pages visually so that what-you-see-is-what-you-get. No coding or knowledge of HTML (the Web's design language) is required - but users will need to spend plenty of time with the instructions.

Another advantage: By using a standalone Web site design program, you can choose whichever company you want as host for your Web site.

Among the better Web development programs we've found is Jasc Software's Namo WebEditor 5 ($150; www.namo.com). It has surprisingly solid tools for helping beginners and more experienced designers build pages.

It offers a variety of wizards that walk the user through the process, along with more than 125 megabytes of clip art and 80 templates (sample designs you can use as models to get started).

You won't need to understand JavaScript, the programming language the pros use to create rollover buttons and other interactive aspects of your page, because Namo has a wizard for that, too.

Microsoft has the king of all novice-oriented Web development programs in FrontPage 2002 ($169). More than 9 million licensed users employ its Microsoft Word-like interface. With three button clicks, you can create a slide show photo gallery on your Web page or import a map from Expedia.com.

Despite its apparent simplicity, Frontpage is powerful enough for small business owners to use without becoming experts in HTML.

For many features, FrontPage requires small programs called extensions located on your Web host's server. Not all Web hosts offer this service, so check with your host before choosing FrontPage. For information on the software, surf to www. microsoft.com/frontpage/.

Professionals who are designing Web sites with hundreds of pages often use Adobe GoLive 6.0 or Macromedia Dreamweaver MX (each $399), but a user with a little Web page-building experience can take on either program's challenges.

With either of these programs, you'll need to be patient and use every resource you can get your hands on to effectively produce Web pages. That includes becoming familiar with the program's manual, finding secondary references and using the Web to look for tutorials and online classes.

Both GoLive and Dream- weaver use a similar visual layout method that helps you to place elements accurately down to the pixel by letting you draw a content box, move it to the location on the page you where you want it and then add your content.

Adobe's GoLive optimizes images for the Web inside the program by offering tools from the company's Photo- shop image-editing programs. For more information go to www. adobe.com/web.

Dreamweaver is used by more professional Web designers than any other program. Online, its pages are more faithful to your original layout than those created with many other programs, and they have fewer shifts in text and graphic placements caused by the use of different Web browsers.

Macromedia also offers templates with Dreamweaver that beginners can use with their own content to create low-hassle, unique-looking Web sites.

If you've learned a little HTML, Dreamweaver's ability to display the code it generates side-by-side with your layout can help you understand how the language works. Surf to www.dream weaver.com to learn more.

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