They all create HTML pages, don’t they? So what’s the difference?
Well for one thing, they don’t all create web pages the same way, and two of the programs listed here aren’t even being updated and supported any more (hint: GoLive and FrontPage are officially out of the running).
So which program is right for you?
Whether you’re looking to improve your web design skills with a new program, or you’re trying to find the best program to start with, this article will give you an overview of the pros and cons of each option.
As you read through the descriptions, consider your own background and experience. If you love Photoshop, you’ll probably prefer Adobe Dreamweaver. If you work in a Microsoft shop, you may like Microsoft Expression Web (which is designed to work with Microsoft Visual Studio.)
If you currently use FrontPage or GoLive, it’s time to think about upgrading. Really. It’s time.
Designing Web Pages with Adobe Dreamweaver
By far the most popular web design program on the market is Adobe Dreamweaver.
Latest Version: CS6
Runs on Mac and Windows Computers
This award-winning program offers high-end development tools, excellent design features, and great support for all of the latest in Internet technologies including HTML5, CSS 3, XML, PHP, AJAX, and so much more.
Dreamweaver features customizable palettes, floating dialog boxes, and toolbars, and as part of Adobe’s Creative Suite, the interface is similar to other programs in the suite, such as Photohop, Illustrator or InDesign.
This is a complex and powerful program that can be used to create advanced interactive features, including:
- Drop-down menus,
- Rollover images,
- Fluid-grid layouts
- Simple native apps for mobile devices, and
- Collapsible panels.
Useful widgets and panels extend these features, taking Dreamweaver’s capabilities far beyond what any of the other programs in this category have to offer.
Creating a very simple site in Dreamweaver is not that hard, but most people still spend several hours, if not days or weeks, learning enough to create a website that takes advantage of some of the more advanced features of this program.
If you use other Adobe programs, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, or Flash, you should definitely choose Dreamweaver. And if you used to love GoLive, it’s time to learn to appreciate what Dreamweaver does have to offer (even if you still miss some of the things GoLive used to do for you).
Full Disclosure: If you haven’t figured it out already, Dreamweaver is the program I use most of the time, and I love teaching other people to use it.
Learn more about Dreamweaver:
You can download a free 30-day trial version of Adobe Dreamweaver at www.Adobe.com/dreamweaver.
Creating Web Sites with Microsoft Expression Web
Just because I loved Dreamweaver first, doesn’t mean I don’t respect Expression Web.
Microsoft has a lot to be proud of with this relatively new professional design program.
Expression Web (available only for Windows) offers strong CSS support, and follows standards better than FrontPage ever did (FrontPage was heavily criticized by professional Web designers for creating sloppy code).
Microsoft cleaned up the code in Expression Web and you can create HTML pages, using solid XML and CSS. It also integrates well with Microsoft’s ASP.NET environment.
If you generally prefer Microsoft products and/or work with a developer who uses Visual Studio, you should appreciate the compatibility between Microsoft Visual Studio and Expression Web, especially if you work with ASP.NET.
If you are still using FrontPage, Microsoft and I both agree, it’s time to upgrade.
Learn more about Expression Web:
Download a free 30-day trial version of the latest version of Expression Web by visiting http://www.microsoft.com/expression/.
Which program is better, Dreamweaver or Expression Web?
Here are a few things to consider as you make your decision.
Dreamweaver is a much more popular program. As a result, you’ll find many more people who know how to use it and far more books and training videos to choose from if you decide to go with Dreamweaver (I’ve created quite a few myself).
Because more people use Dreamweaver, there are many extras available — you can add extensions to Dreamweaver that make it easier to add advanced features to your web sites. You can find these in the Adobe Exchange online library and store, as well as from third-party vendors.
Dreamweaver is a more ‘mature’ program, which means that programmers have had time to build and deploy a lot of cool features that you won’t find in Expression Web, such as built-in tools for creating drop-down menus and other interactive features.
If you like Photoshop, or any of the other popular Adobe Creative Suite programs, you may appreciate that Dreamweaver is designed to integrate seamlessly with the other programs in the Creative Suite, making it easier to create and integrate graphics and other elements designed in other programs in the suite.
What if your site was created with FrontPage?
FrontPage has been heavily critiqued (even mocked) by professional web designers over the years, but it was popular in its day and there are still many websites out there that were created with FrontPage.
Over the years, I’ve communicated with a number of FrontPage users who were frustrated when they learned that there is no easy way to migrate a FrontPage site to Expression Web. Indeed, the differences between the programs (FrontPage and Expression Web) are so significant that your best approach is to recreate your FrontPage web site from scratch in Expression Web.
This is not entirely Microsoft’s fault, although I don’t think they’ve done the best job of helping FrontPage users make the transition. The reality is that the way we create websites today (using HTML5, CSS 3 and Fluid Grid layouts) is so different from the way sites were created when FrontPage was developed, that Microsoft really did have to start at square one. As a result, people with sites in FrontPage have to essentially start over when they make the change from FrontPage to Expression Web.
Because there is no special advantage to using Expression Web just because you’ve used FrontPage, this is a great time for you to consider all of your options. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re committed to using a Microsoft product, upgrading to Expression Web is a fine choice.
However, I will tell you that making the change from FrontPage to Expression Web is as significant as making the change from FrontPage to Dreamweaver. I tell you this (not just to sell my training videos on Adobe Dreamweaver), but because Dreamweaver is the most popular web design program on the market and if you’re going to upgrade your websites and software, you should at least consider Dreamweaver.
Over the years, I’ve also taught Expression Web. Unfortunately, Expression Web has not become as popular as Microsoft might have hoped, and there has just not been enough demand for Expression Web training to warrant my creating more videos on that program. If you have versions 1, 2, or 3 of Expression Web, my training videos should serve you well. If you’re getting Expression Web 4, I can’t really recommend my videos, as they don’t cover all the latest features.
What about Adobe GoLive?
Adobe GoLive was a popular program among graphic designers and Adobe fans, but when Adobe acquired Dreamweaver, they stopped promoting and upgrading GoLive.
Today, Adobe encourages customers to make the switch to Dreamweaver and the company has completely phased out development of GoLive.
I know some of you GoLive fans are very disappointed about this, and I hope you’ll keep encouraging Adobe to add back the features you miss even as you start appreciating all of the cool new features Dreamweaver has to offer.
When all else fails, choose the program everyone else uses…
Although in theory you could use both Dreamweaver and Expression Web on the same site, I certainly don’t recommend it.
Both programs create decent code. However, while you can open any page created in Expression Web in Dreamweaver (and vice-versa), the subtle differences in the way each program generates code can make it problematic to go back and forth.
That general rule becomes even more important when two or more people are working on the same site.