Do you need a website for your business? Are you looking to put pictures up on the web for family members to see? Would you like your resume to be web-accessible? These are all great reasons to start your own website. Getting a professional web designer can be expensive, though, so you may want to consider doing it yourself. There are several web design software packages available, so you may want to evaluate which is best suited to your needs before you buy one.
- Evaluate how much hand coding you can do, such as HTML, CSS, and XML. Sometimes things look a little off when you are in "Design Mode" in a web design package. If you know HTML, then you can switch over to "Code Mode" and fix it. If you are adept in HTML coding, you may want to consider Macromedia Homesite, a code-only editor that is packaged with Macromedia Dreamweaver. If you are looking for a no-fuss code editor, this may be the package for you. While packages like Dreamweaver help you build Style Sheets (bits of code that keep the look of your website consistent on each page), if you really want to be specific about the placement of elements on your site, you may want to learn to code in CSS in order to create the look you have in mind. While MS FrontPage handles CSS and XML well, Dreamweaver is a nicely integrated software package for all elements of design.
- Find out what kind of server your hosting is on. When you signed up for your website hosting package, did it say "Windows" or "Unix?" If it said "Windows," did it have FrontPage Extensions? If that is the case, then you can use the full capabilities of MS FrontPage such as Forms, etc. If you want to add forms to your website and don't know how to code them yourself in CGI, then you will want to choose MS FrontPage and make sure your hosting has FrontPage extensions on a Windows Hosting package. If you are signed up on a Unix plan, then Macromedia Dreamweaver may be your better choice.
- Will you be incorporating other elements into your site? Will you have a Flash movie on your site? While both packages can handle Flash, Dreamweaver is fully integrated with Flash. You will have a better sense of how your final site will look while you are in Design Mode.
- Do you want to use a template? FrontPage has many color-coordinated templates ready for you to simply input your text like you would in MS Word. If you know Word, but do not know much about web design, then this is an option to consider while evaluating your web design software purchase.
- Try all of them! All of the Macromedia packages mentioned have a fully-functional, limited-time evaluation edition available on their respective websites. This way, you can try your hand at each and find out which package you are most comfortable with before you spend money on one.
Designing your own website can be lots of fun, and can save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Web design is also a way to develop programming skills as your website grows. Have fun and be creative, and your website will look great!