What is the best and/or most efficient website design software these days?
February 27, 2006 6:48 AM   Subscribe

What is the best and/or most efficient website design software these days?

Here at the office we're (finally) ready to dump our old Microsoft Frontpage-based website and move on to something better. The problem is that with so many options out there I'm conflicted on just what software to suggest. I'm looking for advice on just which website editor is worth the time and money these days.

As far as funtionality goes, we want to be able to link our still-in-development project database to the new site so that when users check on project information the latest data is displayed on the site (project budgets, contact person, etc.). Our first idea was to just build a database in Microsoft Access and use Frontpage to bridge everything, but I'd much rather go in a different direction.

Any advice for me? What are the favorite web design software packages these days? How about linking a database to a website?
posted by Servo5678 to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
Best answer: Worth the time and money: Spend 6 weeks learning XHTML and CSS, so that when something goes wonky on your site you can fix it. Understanding the concepts behind web design and development will help you to build better sitse.

Acceptable Cheating: Dreamweaver 8 and a code editor like Notepad++

Best case: Both.
posted by softlord at 7:15 AM on February 27, 2006

posted by softlord at 7:17 AM on February 27, 2006

Best answer: You definitely shouldn't use Access if your web site will have a lot of traffic. SQL Server would be a much better choice. FrontPage is going to be discontinued and replaced by SharePoint Designer 2007, so (suckiness aside) it's not a good solution.

I'd use Dreamweaver for web designers/developers, and Contribute for content editors. Dreamweaver can use ASP, PHP, ColdFusion, etc., to connect to databases.

You can integrate Dreamweaver with Contribute and manage database content.

Dreamweaver's code is quite good these days. Contribute is really easy for nontechnical people to use, you can set up templates in Dreamweaver to control how the site looks in Contribute, and Contribute's pretty cheap.

And I agree with softlord; even though Dreamweaver writes pretty good code, it's important to know HTML and CSS so you understand how everything fits together.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:29 AM on February 27, 2006

Emacs is nice but jEdit has an easier learning curve. Otherwise, I second softlord's answer. Especially the first paragraph.

Dreamweaver is possibly useful as a site management application and its check-out/locking can be useful in a multi-developer environment but I have never found it to save me time or energy as compared to a good text editor combined with CVS. In my experience it generates the closest thing to clean/compliant code of any of the web IDEs but it's still crufty and in the hands of someone who wasn't already knowledgable about standards this advantage decreases noticably. And don't get me started with their library of embeddable JavaScript...

So, the answer you want to hear is Dreamweaver. The answer you should hear is spend the time/money to hire or grow your own domain expert and then turn them loose with freely available text editors.

Disclaimer: I am one who has made a living as a domain expert in the past. I am one who has mostly left the domain because employers seem to insist that software can compensate for lack of ability. You may notice my obvious bias. Take that for what it is worth.
posted by Fezboy! at 7:47 AM on February 27, 2006

DreamWeaver is the IDE for you- it'll manage your db connectivity nicely for you. Recommendations for various plain-vanilla text editors are nice and all, but it sounds like you're not nearly ready for that.

Access, FWIW, sounds like it's "good enough" for your purpose (a client extranet)- and I say this as someone who loathes Access. When you move up to publicly-accessible data-driven stuff, look to another db server.
posted by mkultra at 7:52 AM on February 27, 2006

posted by delmoi at 8:36 AM on February 27, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for your answers so far. I'm taking a look at the Dreamweaver trial version right now and so far I like what I see.

Here's a little more clarification on what we're doing in the office. The office website was set up for Frontpage before I started here, so I've basically been stuck with it all this time. Now that it's being discontinued there's support in the office for moving to something else. I've been editing the office website by hand in both Frontpage and Notepad for quite some time, but after years and years it's becoming bloated and a pain to edit.

The database connection is supposed to solve some of the problem. I'd be the only one with web editing access since I'm the only one here who knows HTML, Javascript, and what-not. The project managers need to be able to enter data into the database and then the website should display the latest data when a user loads the corresponding project info page.

I have some familiarity with Access, but have never done a major project with it. I've also never worked with ASP or PHP and I believe this is a good excuse to finally learn. I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty with code, but obviously I'd prefer something relatively easy to work with on a daily basis.
posted by Servo5678 at 8:39 AM on February 27, 2006

i would learn php and build a little front end for a mysql database, its really easy and you could build them a small data entry page for them. the nice thing is php and mysql are free.
posted by stilgar at 9:31 AM on February 27, 2006

Dreamweaver has become a really great tool. It does a nice job with PHP and MySQL, and I've used it on sites to create Movable Type templates (it can insert the template tags for you) and overall the whole site creation/maintenance process is pretty painless.
posted by anildash at 9:14 PM on February 27, 2006

Yeah, delmoi beat me to the Comedy Notepad Option (and I hang my head in shame for actually having had the idea).

My first question to AskMe was about this (code-centric), and had many helpful answers.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:30 PM on February 27, 2006

You definitely shouldn't use Access if your web site will have a lot of traffic. SQL Server would be a much better choice.

Note that you don't need the full (and stupid expensive) version of SQL, which will have client-licence fees attached. Use the Express edition, which a free download, redistributable, and CAL-free (if you must use MS product for your purposes).
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:38 PM on February 27, 2006

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