What's the best WYSIWYG software for web design these days?
December 12, 2009 9:03 PM   Subscribe

What is the best WYSIWYG website builder for PCs out there these days?

My uncle is still using an archaic version of Front Page to produce his family websites. The results look OK but are unusable (hyperlinks don't work) if you are using a Mac or Firefox, which is pretty much rules out 90% of his audience.

So what is the best desktop app for designing websites on a PC these days? He doesn't know HTML, and online webapps aren't an option. It should be easy to use but produce good clean code. Help me only fix the HTML once!
posted by julen to Technology (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It should be easy to use but produce good clean code. Help me only fix the HTML once!

I've never heard of such a thing existing.
posted by Netzapper at 9:08 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Netzapper is right. WYSIWYG editors don't produce clean code.

I suggest that your uncle look into using a pre-built CMS, such as Wordpress or Movable Type. The code is clean, and you move stuff around within pre-defined parameters, so you don't really mess with the code anyway.

This is the New Way of doing things. People who don't code use pre-fab templated systems that allow you to customize them to limited degrees.
posted by bingo at 9:19 PM on December 12, 2009

Response by poster: Dang, I shouldn't have edited down my question. I apologize for being unclear. I should have known better. I am someone who has been building websites by hand since 1993 and with MT shortly after it was introduced, so I tried to find a solution using MT or WP first, but it really won't work for him, even though it's the modern/future way of doing it.

I shouldn't have used the words "clean code"* and I should have specified that I was including MovableType and WordPress in "online webapps" that won't suit his purpose. He's often offline while creating these websites, which are not bloggy. These websites are small (1 to 10 pages) and have individual looks and feels that aren't repeated. On purpose. Creating new templates and weblog instances for each one would be time consuming, especially since it'd require some serious template wrangling which would be a learning curve I don't think he's ready for.

* I know WYSIWYG editors don't produce "clean code" by your standards and mine. But they should produce websites where you click on a image surrounded by anchor and href tags and the browsers you are using (regardless of what browser it is) loads those linked pages. They don't add 200% proprietary crud that get in the way of the page working as intended.
posted by julen at 9:44 PM on December 12, 2009

Check out squarespace.com, I hear good things about those guys... their sample gallery has a lot of impressive looking sites.
posted by hummercash at 10:12 PM on December 12, 2009

Eh, I've heard that modern designers do better code then FrontPage. I tried that once and gave up in frustration after about 20 minutes back in 1999 or something.

DreamWeaver is probably the most commonly used one. You can Download a 30 day trial if you want. I haven't personally used it for much, other then tweaking existing dreamweaver projects.

You can view the HTML right alongside the WYSIWYG panel, as I recall.
posted by delmoi at 10:14 PM on December 12, 2009

Best answer: What you're looking for is a free Frontpage clone. KompoZer was originally written by the Mozilla team. It also produces truly clean code. If you don't believe me try it yourself.
posted by shii at 11:34 PM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

Seconding KompoZer!
posted by minervous at 11:46 PM on December 12, 2009

Best answer: I don't want to recommend KompoZer. I don't like it. But, yeah, it might do the trick here. It will allow him to edit existing sites without converting them to WordPress or dealing with templates, and there probably won't be much of a learning curve.

You can use HTML Tidy with it as a plug-in.

As of a couple years ago, it had problems with asp. Not sure if that's an issue, and it might have been fixed, but if it is, take a look at it.
posted by nangar at 2:43 AM on December 13, 2009

If he's using FrontPage, he will definitely produce more useful sites by switching from that to KompoZer. But he might not switch. Your problem is going to be persuading him to chuck out years of FrontPage muscle memory.
posted by flabdablet at 3:02 AM on December 13, 2009

Best answer: Have you looked at the successor to FrontPage, ExpressionWeb 3? It might be an easier move for him and by all accounts produces fairly clean code (by M$ standards).
posted by ceri richard at 4:52 AM on December 13, 2009

Evrsoft's 1stpage.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 7:24 AM on December 13, 2009

I've used Dreamweaver on both Mac and Windows for moderately hardcore web design and CBTs. It's too expensive and way overkill for your needs here. If he were on a Mac I'd recommend iWeb, but I got nothing for Windows, sorry.
posted by immlass at 8:48 AM on December 13, 2009

Exactly what code is it producing that makes hyperlinks work in some browsers/OSes but not on others? I hate WYSIWYG code as much as anyone else but I'm not understanding how hyperlinks can be broken.
posted by turkeyphant at 11:11 AM on December 13, 2009

Best answer: turkeyphant, the very first website I ever saw anybody design with FrontPage contained a vast amount of IE-specific logic and appeared to be deliberately put together in such a way as to make browsing the site with anything other than IE a third-rate experience. I'm sure none of that was turned on by the designer on purpose, because the designer was a complete newbie.

Looking at the almost impenetrable page source revealed that by default, it displayed a pre-rendered GIF of its entire contents. It had IE-specific conditional comments to turn that off and replace it with actual HTML when viewed in IE. I shit you not - it really, truly did this. So not only did links not work, but text looked abysmal.

I am quite sure there's a FrontPage way to turn all that shit off, because I have seen quite usable sites put together with it. But given its default behaviour, my immediate reaction was to file it under Broken Tools I Never Want To Use For Anything, Ever.
posted by flabdablet at 3:42 PM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the software recs! I will give him a choice of options. Also, thanks Flabdablet, for describing the problem well and pushing me along the path to find the worst problems with the pages.

The HTML gives me a headache. The a href tags are wrapped in multiple semi-broken font tags but the complex CSS it inserts on and above that (yes, it has both html 1.x and advanced CSS) includes absolute positioning and z-indexes plus front page-specific placement logic and obscure made up style commands. The code is a big ol' makes-a-person-want-to-cry mess. None of his sites have one big pre-rendered gif ... but in revisiting some of his sites, some (including the navigation!) sections are rendered as gifs, and others sections are differently screwed up: the background is visually behind text but the code treats it like it is on-top of the text, thereby preventing interaction with the text.
posted by julen at 4:49 PM on December 13, 2009

Maybe too late at this point, but for others who might stumble on this thread: Everyone I know in my program who doesn't want to learn HTML uses Seamonkey in WYSIWYG mode. I find it an exercise in frustration because I know what I'm doing, but I've seen plenty of non-tech-savvy people love it. And the code's not bad. It's not as clean as hand-code but it really isn't hard to clean.
posted by eleanna at 1:53 PM on December 14, 2009

KompoZer, for what it's worth, is a fork of Nvu which is itself a fork of the Composer component that used to be in Netscape and is now in Seamonkey. As far as I know, KompoZer is Seamonkey's composer with fewer bugs.
posted by flabdablet at 3:21 PM on December 14, 2009

seconding squarespace - seen some slick sites that used squarespace, no personal experience but i bet some google fu could be used to find more info lol
posted by knockoutking at 9:18 PM on December 27, 2009

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