We received a request for a free site analysis this week, asking us to help debug a site built in Microsoft FrontPage and wouldn’t display correctly on a Mac.
As it turned out, the site displayed incorrectly on our Macs too — none of the graphics displayed and the alignment was odd. But it also looked wrong on our Windows PC when we used Mozilla Firefox. In fact, it looked OK only in Microsoft Internet Explorer — which is not unusual. FrontPage is a problematic tool and often doesn’t work well with anything but Internet Explorer (and sometimes not even with it).
Unfortunately, we don’t work with FrontPage (precisely because it is so error-prone), so I had tell the site owner I couldn’t fix her site. We could redesign the site if she wanted, but I guessed that she was on an extremely limited budget, and she’d used FrontPage precisely because she couldn’t afford to pay for customer site design. What other options did she have?
If you’re in the same situation, I offer you the same advice I gave her: Start by choosing any web editor other than FrontPage. There are several great products out there, including NetObjects (which is relatively inexpensive but can create excellent websites) and Macromedia Dreamweaver (which is expensive and high-powered — overwhelming for a novice web designer).
There are also quality free products: Check out Amaya, which is a straightforward web editor available for free. You can find out more about it and download it here.
If you’re new to web design, or even if you’re experienced but don’t have a ton of time, you will probably also need a page design layout in which to work, so you don’t have to create a design from scratch. You can find some nice free templates at the Opensource Web Design Project.
The quality and style of the free templates varies a lot, but check out these templates in particular — they’re relatively simple but look sharp and would be flexible enough for many uses:
New designs are being added daily, so you’re likely to find something to suit any need.
But whatever you do, stay away from FrontPage!