A Review of popular Web Site Design Packages

Writing a web site is not as daunting a task as it used to be. I remember trying to write a web page for the first time with only Window’s Notepad and a sheet of paper with various commands as my companions. My first web site contained a title with some text under it followed by a picture followed by more text. It was one page long because I couldn’t understand how to link pages to each other. Over 10 years later, creating a simple web site requires little more than a bit of time and a bit of planning. There are a number of pieces of software and even web sites which “do the coding” for you. I intend to look at a few of these discussing their merits and downfalls.

This is regarded as the ultimate package for designing web sites. It’s difficult to disagree. However, as powerful as it is, is it easy for the average teacher to create and upload a web site to the Internet? In short, no. Although Dreamweaver will allow you to make the most beautiful web sites in the world, you will need to have the know how to create them. The NCTE were / are giving courses in Web Design using Dreamweaver and after a summer course, you shouldn’t have much difficulty designing a nice simple web site. The problem is that you’ll be the one left updating it as unless all your staff learn Dreamweaver, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to add their own content without you by their side. I think Dreamweaver is best left to the professionals.
I haven’t used FrontPage for quite a long time for two reasons: firstly, it’s really really expensive and secondly, I prefer Dreamweaver. However, there’s nothing wrong with Front Page – I suppose it suffers the same problems as Dreamweaver – you have to do the design work yourself. Worse yet, I don’t think there are any teacher courses for us to learn it anymore.
Website X5
This piece of software has gained huge popularity in Irish primary schools in recent times. However, like most popular things, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re much good. The premise behind WebX5 (for short) is that anyone can create a web site in just 5 steps. This much is true. If a school wishes to create a simple, old-fashioned web site, (well, not as old-fashioned as my first attempts at design), it does the job well. After choosing a template, the user can create a working web site in about an hour. The final step is the feature I like best. It’s the bit where you upload (or FTP) the changed web page onto the Internet without needing to know what “upload” or “FTP” mean. My major sticking points with WebX5 are these: 1. the web sites produced are static – there is no true interaction in them. 2. if someone wants to update the web site, they must go to the computer where the web site was created. They cannot update it from anywhere else. 3. Someone has to set up the tricky FTP bits before unleashing it on the rest of the school. I suppose it’s worth noting that the creators of Website X5 chose not to use their own product to design their web site.
Now, I think I’m entitled to be a little biased but I found my web design solution. I think WordPress is the best web design solution ever. I have lots of reasons to why. Most of these reasons stem from the fact that I have designed lots of school web sites over the years and the only time other teachers have updated a site I’ve designed (regularly) without any help from me, was when I used WordPress as the backend. There are two main flavours of WordPress – WordPress.com and WordPress.org. For teachers the former is the one to go for initially. In 2 steps (yes 2) you can have a working web site without knowing any web design skills at all. You simply go on to WordPress.com and sign up for an account (step 1). Once you’ve done that and logged in, you can choose the template you’d like (step 2). You now have a working web site ready for you to fill in with information. But there’s more good news:- you don’t need to be on the same computer all the time the edit your site. Today you can start your site in school, tomorrow at home and the next day on a beach in Lanzarote! In fact, while you are updating the web site, one of your colleagues can be doing the same somewhere else in the world and it won’t matter. WordPress works completely online. Anseo.net uses WordPress as its backend. It took me less than 30 seconds to set up the web site and I’ve been updating it regularly since. I’ve probably updated it in several different counties at this stage on several different computers. If I could fault it a little, I suppose you could argue that uploading images can take a bit of practice but it’s the same with every package. Aside from this, you won’t find easier and better looking than WordPress as your school’s web site solution.

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