Internet

The tools for creating a web page

What software do I need to create a web page?

Like ISPs, while surfing the web can be virtually free (just visit MacDonalds or a public library), software for building a web page also varies significantly in price. A visit to your local software shop will give you an idea of the cost.

A commercial quality software to build web pages can vary between $A20 and $A500 (usually the overpriced Adobe software). And if there are special add-on tools available, the cost could well exceed $A500!

A particularly good commercial web page designing software worth purchasing if you intend to do a lot of web page designing for clients is Macromedia Dreamweaver 3.0 (now absorbed into the Adobe software bundles). The beauty about using this software is that:

  • it is relatively easy to use while carrying a range of professional web page designing features;
  • it will not disrupt your carefully-structured HTML file even if you make custom changes to the HTML tags in source mode;
  • it will not add any silly proprietary information or unnecessary HTML tags into your file if you don't want it;
  • it will show you what the page looks like under different Internet browser conditions; and
  • it will make a good effort to keep your HTML tags consistent and compatible with the most popular Internet browsers.

But it is expensive to purchase. Probably the overheads at Adobe are reaching a ridiculous level and we all have to pay for it. Either that, or Adobe is too hungry for profit.

Any free software to do the same job?

Well almost! If you want to have web page creation software that does practically everything except wash the dishes, you will have to settle on purchasing one main commercial software to do the job properly. Or several mid-range and probably better web page designing tools now available as of 2012.

On the freeware front, as of 2004, the best HTML editing software available for PC users was Web Scrapbook. Here is a program so cleverly designed that even a child can use it. And its animated character guides you (with voice instuctions) through the steps of creating a good web page.

Alternatively, you could try Allaire Homesite 4.5 at http://www.allaire.com/. The advantage of this HTML editor is that it will not generate unnecessary HTML tags to bloat your files, which is a common problem for most commercial HTML editors like Adobe PageMill (now defunct) and Microsoft FrontPage.

Or try the "lite" (full-working) freeware version of ixla Web Easy. Although it does not come with more than 50,000 ready-to-use images and a wide range of Web site templates for you to modify to suit your own needs (terrible isn't it?!) as does the full retail version of this software package, what you do get is pretty good stuff for something that is freeware and costs absolutely nothing. To download the freeware version, visit http://www.ixla.com/.

Or how about Selida, a freeware text-based HTML editor with WYSIWYG design screen, HTML tag colouring and all the other useful features. You can download a copy from http://www.amaryllis.8m.com/.

If you are itching to try out some of the more advanced features like CGI, frames, Java, Javascript, DHTML, and automatic image sizing, give Arachnophilia (http://www.arachnoid.com/) and First Page 2000 (http://www.evrsoft.com/) a bit of a spin. Both are free and provide the option to play around with the more advanced features of web page designing on a PC.

First Page 2000 is nice for seeing a preview of your web page at the same time as you change an HTML tag. This approach makes life easier when it comes to designing web pages.

Or what about TSW WebCoder International 2 (for PC)? This HTML editor offers WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editing, which is unusual for a freeware software package, and is packed with too many features to cover in this section.

For Mac users, the range of freely available software was pretty dismal as of 2004. The only good quality freeware HTML editor for the Macintosh at the time would have been Netscape Navigator Gold 3.x or Netscape Communicator 4.x. But as of 2012, the range of good web page designing software has increased.

We recommend you don't go entire freeware as the software will always have something missing that you wished you could have. Then you have to resort to other freeware tools until you get to a point where you could have a dozen different freeware tools to perform all the various different things you need to build a web page. However, at the other extreme, it is too expensive to go the Adobe way for a web page designing tool that has virtually everything you need but is an absolute bugger to learn the complexities that Adobe had come up with.

The best tools you should go for are The Escapers' Flux 3.2.60 or higher, Tumult Hype 1.0.5 or higher, and Chameleon's Pixelmator 2.0.1 or higher.

Touted as a "Dreamweaver killer" by the developers, The Escapers' Flux software tool is a particularly competent web page designing tool for the price the developer is asking of $89 (on special days, but usually $117) at MacUpdate.com. As the developer said:

"Flux is an advanced XHTML and CSS web design software. You can do Web 2.0, AJAX, and most other buzzword-compliant things."

Flux give you the require WYSIWYG when viewing your polished web page design in real-time. It can also allow you to code the web page directly and the software will not attempt to change your coding format or move the codes around. If you don't want to code, just drag and drop what you need to create a good web page. And you are shown all the possible combinations and permutations of every XHTML (including HTML 5 video capabilities) and CSS tag so you can insert them into your web page and know you have the latest web page designing technologies for a high quality result. Web Kit support included as standard.

Here is what one user had to say about Flux:

"This web design app is very cool, very different from all the others. It allows you to change the design of ANY existing website since it can work with the HTML and CSS code that is already there. Yes, it has no file format of its own and does not rely on special formatting, structure or comments placed inside the HTML. This feature alone makes Flux priceless IMHO. And the code it creates itself is very clean — just as you would write it by hand.

The second great feature is that you can in fact write the code by hand, inside Flux, but you can also use drag and drop and mouse manipulation — and you can jump between the two styles in a second, whenever it pleases you. This is the second great thing about Flux that I haven't seen elsewhere in such a powerful and seamless way.

The third positive thing I want to say is that everything else is, IMHO, done right, too. Flux looks and feels like a real Mac app, since it is a real Mac app. Including Javascript and scripted actions into your HTML is also nicely supported (it even ships with common libraries like DoJo and jQuery and stuff like Flowplayer, and you can add more). It can work directly over FTP and SFTP, supports creation of Wordpress and concrete5 themes, and so on." (Source: http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/25386/flux.)

For people who are fairly confident with HTML and CSS coding, Flux should be fine. But if you want something even simply and still give you the ability to edit HTML and add many of the latest and most powerful web technology features to your web page, the alternative would be Taco HTML Edit 3.0.3 or higher.

As for Chameleon's Pixelmator 2, this is really the best alternative for people who do not have Adobe Photoshop. If you already own Adobe Photoshop, don't bother with Pixelmator. If you don't have Adobe Photoshop, you'll get a particularly powerful image editing tool through Pixelmator for $29.95.

Here is how the developer explained his software:

"Pixelmator is a layer-based image editor. You can quickly create layers from your photos, other pictures, from selections or even your iSight. Yes, Pixelmator can add a layer to your composition directly from your Mac's little camera. Not only can you link and arrange added layers, but Pixelmator allows you to blend layers, change their opacity, create clipping masks or even add layer masks to hide some portions of layer.

It even has iSight compatibility so you can have it take a picture and add it as a layer for editing." (Source: http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/25879/pixelmator.)

In the case of Tumult Hype, this is a particularly good animation graphics tool. If you ever wanted to having moving graphics on a web page and make them interactive, this is the tool to have. And costs only $29.99.

If you need a little more convincing on the right web tools as of 2012, this user has it down to a tea:

"Here's my advice for making the best, top-notch, professional websites on the planet fast and for little money. Use the programs "Flux," "Hype," and "Pixelmator" in conjunction. With that trio, you've got the equivalent of about $1,000.00 worth of the unbelievably overpriced Adobe software - for about $165.00!!! I personally think the results are even better than with the Adobe equivalents, and they're a heck of a lot more fun to use. Even for experienced designers, using Adobe software is torture. I personally want web development and design to be an enjoyable experience myself, and it should be. Trust me, that's the magical trio - Flux, Hype, and Pixelmator. I'd personally have Coda there as well, but it's not at all necessary." (Source: http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/25386/flux.)

Leaving aside these web page designing tools, sometimes you need to access some free ready-made graphics just to save on time in designing your own graphics. If this is you, then there are places where you can incorporate free graphics into your web pages. A good place to find a variety of links to free graphic sites is to try http://www.freegraphics.com/. As of April 2000, there should be well over 125 links to choose from.

Or another good place to find some free graphics is a place called The Free Site, located at http://www.thefreesite.com/freegraphics.htm.

Perhaps you would like to create a free rectangular graphic banner to help advertise your page on other people's web sites? There is a place called The Free Banner Generator Web site at http://www.coder.com/creations/banner/. And another one for you to try is at http://www.crecon.com/banners.html known as the Instant Online Banner Creator Web site. Make the most of these automated banner creation services by typing the words you want to appear in your banner and select the style you like to see, and before you know it, you'll have a professional-looking advert to send to your friends or place inside your web pages.

If you need to have non-static graphics in your web pages such as animations, graphic rollovers, interactive calculators and so on, make a visit to http://www.javascripts.com/toc.cfm. Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to be a Javascript programmer to make your pages come to life and look fancy. There should be numerous ready-made javascripts to incorporate into your pages at this site. And if you want to create your own javascripts, the site should offer a tutorial for beginners on this useful little programming language.

To optimise your graphics for speed and to hunt down broken links in your web site, use a program like linkbot available at http://www.linkbot.com/.

To check for errors in your web site, there are free HTML validation services online. Go to one of these services, enter the URL for your web site and your email address to receive messages (and probably junk email as well) of any HTML errors it finds. Then you can quickly correct the errors. Some validation services are so sophisticated, they will even pick up spelling errors. Some of the better HTML validation services are shown below:

Dr Watson
http://watson.addy.com/

HTML Chek
http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~churchh/htmlchek.htm

Dr HTML
http://www2.imagiware.com/RxHTML/

Bobby
http://www.cast.org/bobby/

NetMechanic
http://www.netmechanic.com/

Web Site Garage
http://websitegarage.netscape.com/

For a list of other checkers, go to http://www.flfsoft.com/html/html_validators.html.

Once your web pages are created, you may wish to see how they look on different browsers. Try the free service, http://www.anybrowser.com/ under the "SiteViewer" tool.

Finally, once your site is up and running, you are well advised to join the free service at http://www.netwhistle.com/. Sometimes your internet provider may make your web site unavailable at certain times for whatever reason. To see whether people can access your web site, visit the above site. Netwhistle will, at predefined intervals, check to see if your web pages are really up and running.

Serious about your web site? Or do you think your web site is the best thing since sliced bread (yeah right)? You may find NeuStar's Webmetrics a useful addition to your arsenal of web tools. Webmetrics is a US-based company claiming to provide detailed site and transaction monitoring. You'll receive stats about availability of your web site, performance-related issues relating to your ISP hosting your web site and how this compares with other ISPs in the world, how often visitors go to your web site, where in your web site they go to and their origin (perhaps by country or IP address). It probably also provides useful information to other companies as they determine just how much of a competition your web site is compared to theirs for a good price.

NOTE: If you are hosting your web site through a local ISP, it is likely the ISP will have already provided you with site monitoring tools as part of your web hosting package.