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Old 02-06-2007, 06:17 PM   #1
Daine
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Default Newbie designer recommendations

Hi all,

First an aside...
I have to admit that the folding of the CIS forum and my daily life kind of coincided so I am not here too often but each time I do come by, I am glad to see a lot of the folks are still here.

A close friend of mine wants to learn enough to put together a site for himself. It is happening now because he will soon be operated on and will have multiple weeks of down time where he won't be able to do much more than work on a PC so the timing, for better or worse, is right.

So, what I told him is that there are a multitude of programs one can use, Dreamweaver, NetObjects Fusion, Front Page, etc.
That I am partial to my old version (3) of Dreamweaver as it does what I need and is respected to produce pretty clean results. Results that work pretty well across browsers.
At the same time I briefly described the options of basic HTML, Tables, Layers and CSS. And that it is possible to obtain some pretty good style sheets for a fairly low cost.

Now mind you, my ability pretty much stopped at basic sites designed using tables and as I said Dreamweaver 3. I have virtually no clue to the advancements and changes in the web design world since then.

So, should I have him consider some other program besides DW?
Are the purchasable style sheets a good idea for him. Actually, are they worth looking at in general?
Any other suggestions?

Thanks, Daine
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Old 02-06-2007, 07:04 PM   #2
don Arnoldy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daine View Post
I am not here too often but each time I do come by, I am glad to see a lot of the folks are still here.
Its good to see you back.

Since your friend
  • wants to put together 1 site
  • has "multiple weeks of down time"
I would suggest that he take those multiple weeks, and learn how to hand code his site.

A text processor (like word pad) a browser --both of which he should already have installed--and a good book on CSS will make those weeks pass very quickly <G>.

   
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Old 02-07-2007, 04:37 AM   #3
Daine
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Default Newbie designer recommendations cont.

Quote:
Originally Posted by don Arnoldy View Post
Since your friend
  • wants to put together 1 site
  • has "multiple weeks of down time"
I would suggest that he take those multiple weeks, and learn how to hand code his site.

A text processor (like word pad) a browser --both of which he should already have installed--and a good book on CSS will make those weeks pass very quickly <G>.
Yea, the time would go by quickly but boy, you are one for punishment

Seriously, is that realistic?
Quite honestly, knowing what I know about how much work site construction is and the need for some gratification of getting results, I would not do that myself, and didn't.
That said, I fully realize that truly knowing the base line functions of HTML is the best way but for someone that will only occasionally be tinkering?

As I have done nothing with CSS, I have no feeling for the balance between learning curve and results against the desired end product but to take your comment further, your feeling is that CSS is the way to go?

Looking at it another way...
He is a bright guy but not a computer or design geek. With that in mind, how long do you think it would take to get comfortable with that way of working before one would have "useable" results?

Daine
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Old 02-07-2007, 04:58 AM   #4
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I'd say DW is still the best for managing a big site - but not necessarily the best for learning the nuts and bolts, as it has too many clever features to learn!

I recently downloaded the freeware PSpad (from http://www.pspad.com) as a lightweight editor for odd pages on my laptop. It colour codes the HTML nicely, so might be a better alternative to NotePad! Your friend could view the source of pages he likes, and copy that into PSPad to see how it works, for instance.

CSS is very definitely the way to go: it's now been around so long there's really no excuse to ignore it! For coding CSS, there is nothing to beat TopStyle - you can get a free version from http://www.bradsoft.com/topstyle/tslite/index.asp

Armed with those two, a copy of Firefox for previewing, and a basic book or two, he should be well on the way to learning the basics of the physical construction. It's the look and feel, and information design aspects, that are much harder to learn. But looking at what works in other sites is a good way to start.
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Old 02-07-2007, 05:41 AM   #5
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How large or complex is his site?

Using CSS makes it much easier to work with multiple pages — generally, one stylesheet can do for all, and any change is transmitted instantly to all the pages. (Or he could have supplemental stylesheets for odd pages with different requirements.)

Learning enough to create the first page using XHTML and CSS might take two or three days. After that, the pages need content, mostly.

If his site is complex or requires many frequent changes, he might want to move later to software that does site management (or just use those functions in Dreamweaver). Or use some other solution altogether (maybe WordPress or, more ambitiously, Joomla).

But no matter what, his knowledge of XHTML and CSS will help him troubleshoot his pages. And learning it is a lot of fun.

   
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Old 02-07-2007, 06:22 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ktinkel View Post
How large or complex is his site?

Using CSS makes it much easier to work with multiple pages — generally, one stylesheet can do for all, and any change is transmitted instantly to all the pages. (Or he could have supplemental stylesheets for odd pages with different requirements.)

Learning enough to create the first page using XHTML and CSS might take two or three days. After that, the pages need content, mostly.

If his site is complex or requires many frequent changes, he might want to move later to software that does site management (or just use those functions in Dreamweaver). Or use some other solution altogether (maybe WordPress or, more ambitiously, Joomla).

But no matter what, his knowledge of XHTML and CSS will help him troubleshoot his pages. And learning it is a lot of fun.
Well the size and structure is not yet clear, we just talked about it last night but I told him that the first step was to draw it out on paper to get a physical representation of what and where.

That said, I don't expect it will be large, likely just a few pages. Home page, a previous projects/client page, a work sample page, resume page and perhaps a photo album of job sites.

I think anything "more" than DW would be over kill but the question would be, what version of DW is enough? I am still at ver 3.
And can you suggest a good on-line primer for XHTML?
I could use it too

Daine
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Old 02-07-2007, 06:34 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LoisWakeman View Post
I recently downloaded the freeware PSpad (from http://www.pspad.com) as a lightweight editor for odd pages on my laptop.
Does it also have some sort of WYSIWYG?
I know it is sort of cheating but it does make some aspects easier and more clear.

Quote:
Armed with those two, a copy of Firefox for previewing, and a basic book or two, he should be well on the way to learning the basics of the physical construction. It's the look and feel, and information design aspects, that are much harder to learn.
Well quite honestly, I have never felt that "good" design was something you could learn. Certainly you can learn aspects like usability, standards and lots of tricks but the basic instinct of what looks good is, well, an instinct. Which by the way, I am barely passable with

I will have a look at topstyle and obviously I will be sending him here but that said, what would be the suggestion for a book and perhaps a info website?

Daine
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Old 02-07-2007, 06:57 AM   #8
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If getting into CSS (almost mandatory these days) have your friend download firefox and then install the css plugin (sorry can't remember the name at the moment). This allows you to view in the browser the various css elements and info that make up a css page.
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Old 02-07-2007, 07:42 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daine View Post
Well the size and structure is not yet clear, we just talked about it last night but I told him that the first step was to draw it out on paper to get a physical representation of what and where.

That said, I don't expect it will be large, likely just a few pages. Home page, a previous projects/client page, a work sample page, resume page and perhaps a photo album of job sites.

I think anything "more" than DW would be over kill but the question would be, what version of DW is enough? I am still at ver 3.
That strikes me as the ideal size for a hand-coded site, and an ideal learning experience. Truly. It is about what I learned with, in fact.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Daine
And can you suggest a good on-line primer for XHTML?
I could use it too
Not a coherent one, no. I used an older edition of Elizabeth Castro’s HTML, XHTL, & CSS, Sixth Edition, and she has a companion web site with all the examples and updates after printing. It has a sort of cookbook format that holds your hand somewhat if you want, and is also a good reference. (The link is to her site; you can usually get a discount on the book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.)

You can also take a look at some examples from her 5th Edition, which also covers XHTML. But I am not sure it would suffice as a primer.

Once he/you get your feet wet, there are many web sites that may help, but few offer anything like primers. And of course there are several members here who love to talk about and help troubleshoot CSS and web sites.

   
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Old 02-07-2007, 07:49 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daine View Post
Does it also have some sort of WYSIWYG?
I know it is sort of cheating but it does make some aspects easier and more clear.
It’s not that WYSIWYG web tools are cheating so much as they are (or can be) misleading.

There is no WYSIWYG for web pages. The objective is to create pages that work properly with different browsers on different platforms, set up any way the visitors want them: portrait or landscape-view, say; with their own default background colors; their own preferred fonts and font sizes; etc.

This pretty much ensures that there will be many different ways of viewing what you put on the web. Your goal cannot be to control the view — users have too many ways (and often good reason) to subvert that!

I find that Dreamweaver and GoLive both make you think you are in control of the page view.

Besides that, if it doesn’t work out, you may still need to dig into XHTML and CSS to unravel it, which brings you back to Square One: Learn them first.

   
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