It works for 99% of our visiters
March 17, 2009 3:30 PM   Subscribe

I made what I think is a great website for my company using Microsoft FrontPage. However, I have received a few complaints about accessibility and am wondering how to proceed.

I know Frontpage is a terrible product in terms of standards compliance, but it got the job done (I thought) and it allowed me to make a 20+ page website quickly and according to my design, making me look like a hero around the office. My boss and coworkers are also pleased with the website and it allows me to frequently update our site as we see fit.

Since our site has gone live we have received a few complaints, specifically that it does not work in Firefox and on handheld browsers and that increasing the font size (for easier reading) "breaks" the website.

We looked to webdesign firms and professionals, but we quoted in the neighborhood of $4,000 (this is for local NYC firms) which is sadly out of our range.

Is there a better program I should be using or are there settings I should use in Frontpage or Expression web? Is there any way for me to "strip" the website of IE specific coding? Is is feasible for someone or something to clean up the website code for a reasonable price?
posted by 2bucksplus to Technology (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Can you give us a link to the site? It's hard to make any suggestions without one.
posted by ocherdraco at 3:31 PM on March 17, 2009

Sounds like a job for Projects.
posted by nitsuj at 3:37 PM on March 17, 2009

Er, when I said "Projects," I meant, of course, Jobs. Sigh.
posted by nitsuj at 3:37 PM on March 17, 2009

Some tips:

1) starting with the obvious, test the webpage in firefox as you're building it! If something doesn't look right, you'll know what you need to fix

2) use the w3c validator Pages are much more likely to work cross-browser and cross-platform if they're valid HTML

3) Do you have the most recent version of Frontpage? I remember hearing that the new versions actually produced HTML-compliant code, which goes a long way towards ensuring compatibility.
posted by chrisamiller at 3:38 PM on March 17, 2009

Do you know how to write HTML code by hand? If so, then there are many free and open source web design software programs. Hand-coding is the way to go because you get total control over the code as well as clean code. Have a look at this list: I am a web designer myself and I use Dreamweaver, TextWrangler (for Mac), HTML Kit and Amaya.

If your company is willing to fork over for it, Dreamweaver is the industry standard when it comes to web design. It has both a code-view and WYSIWYG mode. Dreamweaver is dedicated to web standards compliance.

When you make websites in the future, it is very important to test out your site in ALL popular browsers. Just because the design looks fine and dandy on your computer, it does NOT mean it will look good for other users. You should be sure to download all browsers (at the minimum: IE, Firefox and Opera) and test out your site in each of them as you're developing it.

Yes, there is a way to make an IE-only stylesheet. See these links: and

Since your page has 20+ pages, I suggest you use a content management system for your site, if you're not already. The ones I'd recommend right off the bat would be WordPress ( or Joomla ( Both have good documentation as to how to make standards-compliant templates and they would save you plenty of time in the long run because you can apply one single template to your entire site. Good luck!
posted by starpoint at 3:44 PM on March 17, 2009

it got the job done

Well... no, it didn't. If the site only works for people using IE, then your "it works for 99% of our visitors" is a bit optimistic. Try less than half, and falling.

When people say "frontpage is a terrible product," this is what they are talking about. It doesn't make websites; it makes things that sort of vaguely pretend to look like websites. (This is why there are web developers, and why they cost money. There's skill and expertise involved, it's not just a matter of finding the magic "make this work in all browsers" button.)

If this site is the public face of your company, I'd suggest biting the bullet and hiring some real web developers; this is one of those you get what you pay for situations. You don't have to stick with NYC firms, you'll likely be able to find lower prices if you cast your net a little wider.

If you're determined to DIY, Dreamweaver is definitely a step in the right direction, though as others have suggested you might be better off using a CMS (which will kill two birds with one stone: content updates will be simpler, and you'll be able to use existing templates either as is or as a basis for your own customization.)
posted by ook at 3:56 PM on March 17, 2009 [8 favorites]

hahahahah... it doesn't work on Firefox? Didn't you even test it in Firefox? You do realize that your website breaks on more than 40% of peoples computers?

Here is a tip. When you are developing the site, use Firefox exclusively. IE does not follow the standards, so if you design for it, it won't work in any other browsers. If you design for Firefox (or any other browser except IE), it will work in all the browsers, with perhaps minimal problems in IE6.

You might want to consider using the WYSIWYG editor that comes bundled with Seamonkey. Seamonkey is free. You also should look into using wordpress, if you think you can handle that.

Not supporting Firefox definitely does not make you look like a hero. It makes you look like... well, I'll be nice, but suffice it to say that people are laughing at how bad that is. If 99% of your visitors are using IE, that is because YOUR SITE DOESN'T WORK in Firefox. Why would anyone use a website that doesn't work? If you make a website that only works in Opera 4 beta, you will magically find that 99% of your visitors are using this extremely rare browser that is 6 versions behind the current release and was only ever used by employees of Opera. Wow, what a coincidence!

More details about how you are going to set up this site are needed. It sounds like you are expecting to use a program which automatically upload to your website. If you're willing to use an FTP client, you'll have more options. If you have the right kind of hosting, you'll be able to install all kinds of CMS systems such as Joomla, Drupal, Wordpress, etc... automatically, and then just do all your editing directly off the net.
posted by brenton at 4:32 PM on March 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

If there were an easy, cheap way to make good web sites, everybody would do it.
posted by amtho at 5:00 PM on March 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

Try less than half, and falling.

While the poster's 99% claim is probably inaccurate, quoting numbers from w3Schools out-of-context is equally so. From their own disclaimer:

"W3Schools is a website for people with an interest for web technologies. These people are more interested in using alternative browsers than the average user. The average user tends to use Internet Explorer, since it comes preinstalled with Windows. Most do not seek out other browsers.

"These facts indicate that the browser figures above are not 100% realistic. Other web sites have statistics showing that Internet Explorer is used by at least 80% of the users."
posted by GeekAnimator at 5:01 PM on March 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm afraid there may not be an easy solution. It's possible someone could add a few hacks and improve the compatibility enough to get by, but chances are the markup and CSS are fundamentally flawed and messy.

Any web developer is going to be wary and quote for a complete rebuild outside of Frontpage, also allowing extra for you setting off the special Client With Broken Site They Did Themselves alarm.

The only constructive, inexpensive option I can think of is for you to find a small firm or freelancer with solid skills in hand-coding widely-compatible, accessible sites, paying them a couple of hundred dollars or so to just have a look at the site and informally chat about possible solutions. After that you'll be better-informed and know whether you'd like to work with them to fix the site.
posted by malevolent at 5:13 PM on March 17, 2009

Seconding the point that you do not have to use NYC web designers just because YOU are in NYC. The web is much broader than that.
posted by megatherium at 5:38 PM on March 17, 2009

There are definitely ways to clean up the code to make your site work on other browsers and to address your other issues. You might be able to do it yourself by learning a little bit about html code and doing some modifications. However, it will likely mean spending time figuring stuff out, testing the site in other browsers like Firefox, Opera and Safari, working around some of the IE-specific issues, testing at different resolutions and sizes of fonts, perhaps even creating a separate CSS stylesheet for mobile users, etc, etc. It's doable, yes, but perhaps not the most efficient use of your time and resources. Also, if there are any additions that need to be made to the site in the future, that is likely to complicate things and add more issues. You might be able to get a professional to help you - with the caveats that malevolent added.

Disregard the snark and unwarranted snickering by some people (/raises eyebrows in brenton's direction). You made a common mistake, and thousands of people before you have made the same one. FrontPage works, sort of, but isn't really up to snuff when it comes to the demands put on cross-browser compatibility. It's really not made to deal with the variety of devices used to access web pages today and all the variables that adds to the equation. You did OK with what you have, solving the company's need in the short term, but you have - unfortunately - run into the exact reason that FrontPage doesn't really work. Dreamweaver will do a much better job, if your company can pay for it.

However, I think you really do want to consider going the CMS route instead. WordPress (WP) would work really well for you, I think, as it's easy to use and very flexible for a small site of 20+ pages like you are talking about. While you will hear people talk about it as a blogging platform, it can easily be used to make a non-blog website as well. It is customizable, adds a lot of good features, and gives you lots of flexibility. Most importantly, though, it solves all your current problems out of the box. And it's free, it just takes some additional work on your end.

If you figured out FrontPage, I have no doubt that you can figure out how to set up a WP install as well. You can use any one of the really good free themes out there to create a very nice looking site, and you can reuse the design elements that you have already created. Or, should you wish to commission a Wordpress theme that mimics your current website, that should be pretty easy and not too costly as well. You have done most of the really important work - figuring out the content and the structure of the site - already. Take what you have and build on it. I'm sure you will eventually come up with something that you can be proud of AND that will work without the pesky problems you are seeing right now. Good luck!
posted by gemmy at 6:02 PM on March 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

I was going to suggest using Wordpress too, but it looks like gemmy beat me too it. There are some Wordpress tutorials here:

Free Wordpress Tutorials on iThemes

I've never used it, but Squarespace looks like it might work, as well?
posted by backwards guitar at 6:25 PM on March 17, 2009

GeekAnimator has a good point; I should've looked for better general-population statistics rather than just using the first ones I happened to google up. Mea culpa.

But still: so you're only locking out 20-30% of your users, instead of 50%. That's still an awful lot of users.
posted by ook at 7:33 PM on March 17, 2009

What version of Frontpage are you using? Depending on the version, it may give you different options as far as compatibility and standards compliance when exporting/saving the site.

Please post the version you're using and we'll try to help you track down where these settings are, or just Google for them.
posted by qvtqht at 8:19 PM on March 17, 2009

The latest version of FrontPage is called Expressions Web. Allegedly, it is more standards-compliant.

Nthing suggestions to give it to a professional to sort out. If you truly can't afford to pay someone, look into local colleges. Call up a professor, ask if a class or student could take it on as a project for college credit.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:52 AM on March 18, 2009

I endorse the suggestion to use Jobs. A few years ago (before Jobs was a feature) I reached out to a mefite to design a website for a company I was working for. I had been tasked with finding a web designer by the partners. It was a nightmare. They selected websites in their industry as examples of what they liked (websites that cost $50,000 or more) and balked when local web designers (In the NYC metro area) were coming back with scaled down but as similar as possible proposals for $10,000 - $15,000

The mefite was coming in with proposals for $5,000 - $7,500.

Of course the company wound up using a hideous template website. My time would have been better spent banging my head against the wall. One 30ish partner (graduate degree, licensed profession) did not know what a "blog" was.

I wound up hiring the mefite to create a website for me and it was (and continues to be) a 100% positive experience.
posted by mlis at 11:10 PM on March 18, 2009

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