Many different options exist for computer users wanting a software product they can use to design webpages with. Here are some of the most popular choices…
Text Editors: Programs designed to edit plain text (like Notepad) can be used to type and save pure HTML web page code. This option requires you to know HTML code, and is more time-consuming than automated methods. However, it is the cheapest, has the lowest system requirements, and gives you the most control over the website’s appearance and function. HTML code created by automatic programs like FrontPage also isn’t always as efficient/compact as code entered by a human.
FrontPage: One of the most well-known web development programs is FrontPage, formerly part of the Microsoft Office application suite. It allows users to design complex webpages without knowledge of HTML. It was discontinued in 2006. FrontPage 2003 can be ordered from Microsoft for $199 (or $109 for an upgrade). The system requirements are somewhat high, requiring Windows 2000/SP3 or XP, a 233MHz or faster processor, 128MB of memory (RAM), and a 800×600 or higher screen resolution. FrontPage 2000 may be preferable for users with older computers, as it has lower memory requirements, only needs a 75MHz or faster processor, and can be used with Windows 95 or later. Older versions of FrontPage can be purchased at relatively inexpensive prices on eBay.com.
DreamWeaver: A web development program offered by Adobe Systems. Like FrontPage, it has many sophisticated features. According to Adobe’s website, it “enables users to efficiently design, develop and maintain standards-based websites and applications.” However, it is expensive ($399 to buy, $199 to upgrade), and has high system requirements. The requirements include Windows 2000 or XP, 800MHz or faster processor, 256MB or more memory (RAM), and a 1024×768 or higher screen resolution. Different requirements apply to Apple Macintosh computers. DreamWeaver is also available as part of Adobe’s Studio 8 software package, which includes three other programs and costs $999 or $399 for an upgrade.
Expression Web: One of Microsoft’s new programs intended to replace FrontPage, Expression Web is capable of creating “dynamic, interactive pages” and has “built-in support for today’s modern web standards”. It is available at Amazon.com for $269.49 (with free shipping). The system requirements are greater than those of FrontPage 2003 or Dreamweaver. According to Staples.com, which offers it for $299.99, Expression Web requires a 700MHz or faster processor, 512MB+ memory, Windows XP/SP2 or Windows Server 2003/SP1, and a display resolution of 1024×768 or higher.
Free or Inexpensive: A relatively small amount of freeware software for web design/development exists, with varying levels of features and complexity. Try searching for “web design” on a free software download website like tucows.com. However, be aware that many of the programs you will find are free trial versions or require payment to gain access to some of the features. Some free web hosting services (which allow you to run a webpage for free in exchange for showing ads on it) have built-in web-based design utilities which can be used to create webpages on their service. Consider checking eBay.com for older web development software made by small brand names; you may be able to find an acceptable program for under $15.
Free Trials: Some web development software, including Dreamweaver, FrontPage, and many lesser-known products, are available in free trial versions (usually 30-60 days). The textbook “New Perspectives on Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003 Comprehensive” (Course Technology) includes a free trial CD (120 days) of FrontPage 2003.
Type-Specific: A few software utilities are available for designing particular types of websites, such as online stores or family websites. These tend to be less expensive and have lower system requirements. One example is an older product from Expert Software (more well-known for Expert Landscape and Expert Home Design) called “Family Web Site Creator.” One eBay Store seller offers it for $2.95 (plus $3 S/H). The system requirements are minimal, only needing Windows 95/98, a 486DX (predecessor of the Pentium) or faster processor, and 8MB of memory/RAM.
Word Processors: Some word processing programs, like Microsoft Word, can save documents in HTML webpage format. This is easier than entering HTML code and cheaper than buying a web development program, but has some limitations. When I tested this feature in MS Word 2002, some document features didn’t translate to HTML, like columns. According to Wikipedia.org, OpenOffice.org’s Writer program has a similar feature which can be used to edit and design webpages.
Overall, the best web development software choice depends on your computer abilities, budget, computer specifications, and the complexity of the website you desire to create.
All prices and specifications were current as of February 12th, 2007.