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Best Choice to Replace Front Page

    Question

  • Greetings, I have a small company that provides safety information and training. I maintain about 20 websites (5 pages) and with the help of two programming consultants have designed an online application that delivers documents and keeps records. I have built the safety websites with Front Page and had the consultants build the applications. I am not a programmer or a designer. My expertise is in content. However, Front Page has allowed me to build and maintain hundreds of pages of content. I am looking for a simple application to replace Front Page and wondered if Expression would be too difficult for me to use. I want to be able to access the pages online, remove content, add content, and edit links. I will use the consultants to improve the functionality and straiten out anything I mess up. However, the less problems I create the better. So, my question is, should I continue to use Front Page or switch to Expression? Maybe I should look at Coffee Cup or another program? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks
    Monday, September 14, 2009 6:06 PM

All replies

  • It depends on the age of your copy of FrontPage, but assuming it's reasonably recent (2002, 2003) I think you will find Expression Web's look and feel closest to FrontPage. That will make your transition easiest.

    However, I would not go to EW3 until the fall service pack is available. If you want to start sooner, get your hands on EW2.
    Will
    Baltimore, MD USA - www.fastie.com
    Monday, September 14, 2009 6:35 PM
  • My suggestion is to get the trial versions of Expresion Web and the other editors you are considering. You may also want to get the free SharePoint Designer (which is roughly equivilent to EW 1 plus all the FP bots) and see which one is easiest for you to transition to. Just be aware that eventually support for the FPSE will go away if you use any of the bots that require them on the server.
    MS MVP Expression Tutorials & Help http://by-expression.com and online instructor led Expression Classes
    Monday, September 14, 2009 7:37 PM
  • I was intially "intimated" by EW because I thougt that FP 2003 was the end all.  I was afraid the I would have to learn html and css and I did.  However I came from FP 2003 , EW 1, 2, and now 3 which btw comes with EWdesign and encoder now at a really good price.  You will hear of all the "bugs" that EW 3 has well all evolving programs will.  But I remain hopeful that with all the people that use EW that these bugs are being made know and dealt with only to be replaced by new bugs in newer versions.  But that is the way of development eleswise we would all be sitting in front of little screens with cursors waiting for the 5" disc to retrieve date.  Or worse yet figgering things out with a pencil and paper.  I would go with the trial versions and try them out.   Bottom line its your money and your projects that will be out there.

    Good Luck,

    Mike E
    "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe." -- Albert Einstein
    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 7:50 PM
  • Hi,

    Keeping FP is not a long term option.  Support is disappearing, and there will come a day when you will not be able to find hosting with FP extensions.   The answer to your question really has more to do with the changing nature of web design then it does with the programs.   The current design choice includes, at the very least, CSS.   EW has some of the same feel as FP, but it is a program that is designed to provide CSS support.    The real question is how long you are wiling to mantain websites that do not contain the current design mindset.   If you feel you want to stay current, then FW will give as close to FP experince as you will get.  
    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 8:24 PM
  • Front Page 2003 has worked well enough for the last 6 years for those of us who are not experienced in scripting.  I have relied on it heavily but Front Page is no longer being sold and eventually the FP extensions will not be available on shared web hosts that offer microsoft products

    Microsoft has split the Front Page product into SharePoint Designer (SharePoint version 3 is not widely support by shared hosting companies) and Expression Web.  Expression Web abandons those who need a form generator, navigation toolbars and the like (they require heavy scripting in EW). 

    I have had up to 28 domains hosted (personal and for several businesses) - all using Front Page Forms - I now have to find alternate solution in a skill area that in only being to be developed.

    The lost ease and functionality that was in FrontPage effects some of the businesses as the Front Page extensions and software fade away.  The sites I have helped set range from personal, to sole proprietorship, to businesses of 25 to 150 employees.  The larger businesses can afford and do use professional web developers / designers - others cannot - and I am neither.  Most of these users will never buy Expression to replace FrontPage because of the skills needed in the replacement product.

    Microsoft has seemingly abandoned the lower end of the web food chain. The suggested alternatives such as Microsoft Publisher or others are too limited or to complex to replace FrontPage

    It's true about FrontPage:
    - A FP form can be set up in 15 minutes
    - More complicated forms with validations etc can be set up in an hour
    - Mom and pop businesses can afford some level of low cost hosting (and the low cost and the ease of supporting FP themselves or asking a computer savvy friend to help)
    - these small business will never learn scripting
    - these small business cannot afford professional web developer contracts and / or the cost of paying developer rates every time simple changes needs to be made.
    - a fully functional, basic FP site can be set up in a day or two.

    Microsoft Expression is a terrific start to compete with Adobe but it requires considerable conversion of Front Page sites if you use functions like themes, forms, navigation bars (aka 'bots').  There is a complete lack of ease to replace these functions (were are wizards to set up these functions utilizing other MS products such as .net 3.5?). 

    Personally, I cannot continue to support the number of sites that I have because of the omission of this 'ease'.  Expression is a good tool for developers and designers but for rest of us it is a mountain to climb that may be too high.

    I've climbed the mountain a bit and converted one site of thousands of pages - it's taken me months to do it - and some of the functionality of the old FP site are still missing. On the plus side, I've been able to encode some new features like silverlight videos.




    Wednesday, September 16, 2009 8:12 AM
  • Proganize,

    You hit the nail on the head but don't expect much sympathy here. Mostly FPer's are told to stop whinning and such. Funny thing is that "whinning" is just another form of customer feedback so you have to hope that no matter what some people think that someone at MS is listening.    

    I agree with you regarding lost functionality and feel that Microsoft really let down its long standing FP customer base for many of the reasons you mentioned.

    I have been learning EW-2 and have been disappointed with the lost features and having to now use third party providers to make up for Microsofts failures in that regard. I will not consider EW-3 because a number of issues (many pointed out on this blog) and I do not want to subject myself to more frustration then I have to.

    Maybe if they fix all the problems in EW-3 or by the time they get to EW-4 it might be worth a look. Notice on this blog how many in the know suggest not trying EW-3 until its patched. I have a contact in a large firm who said EW-3 is not permitted because they do not want to waste resources because of bugs and other issues. A co-worker of mine can not get EW-3 to run and gave up. This forum is full of complaints too. 

    I read on another forum that Adobe is working on a product for the FrontPage customers that it seems like Microsoft is abandoning. Now if they can see a market and write code to provide the functionality desired and make it standards compliant then you have to wonder about what is MS thinking? That will be a funny turn of events and if they do it I am sure many people will RUN not walk to buy it. Microsofts poor judgement has created a market for them.

    Bob

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:59 AM
  • When I first started using FrontPage back in the '90s, I initially took advantage of the built-in, FP-specific features. The first one I tried was the Photo Gallery. It was certainly easy to use and very easy to maintain. But what it offered in ease of adoption hid its lack of flexibility, both in appearance and function. When the first client complained on those grounds, I had no choice but to explore other options. It was a valuable, early lesson that forced me to look at the full extent of Web capabilities, not the limited set that FP offered.

    Meanwhile, through successive interations of FP Microsoft did not significantly improve any of those features. In effect, it was stuck in maintenance mode for features that it could not abandon. So the same limited, inflexible solutions were propagated for years. It is possible Microsoft might have improved them, but it would have had to create its own comprehensive framework to provide a huge range of features. By FP2003, it was clear the tide was turning because Microsoft was under intense criticism for what many thought was the company's attempt to co-opt the Web. Calls for non-proprietary (meaning non-Microsoft) standards abounded.

    Microsoft's ultimate response was two-fold. First, it did build a framework that embraced the Web; it is called .NET (specifically, ASP.NET for the Web). That's a developer's framework, of course, not a casual Web designer's framework. It provides ultimate power but no canned functionality. Second, it decided to evolve FrontPage into a tool that catered more fully to Web standards. There were many calls for this, including mine; credit Microsoft for responding.

    So the question is, could Microsoft have provided a clean migration path for WYSIWYG Web designers to make the transition from FP to EW?

    Yes and no. Through the extension architecture (unfortunately missing in EW3), Microsoft could have crafted many of the features that were built in to FP as EW add-ins. It would have been tricky; in the past, these features were accessed through FP but serviced through the Front Page Server Extensions (FPSE). Because FPSE was a bone of contention among those clammoring for standards, it was no surprise that Microsoft announed an end to that product. Therefore, something like the photo gallery would have required both the developer-side tools to create the gallery AND, more important, some kind of server-side code to process them. With FPSE gone, specific solutions would have been required.

    And that's the "no" part. Microsoft would have had to decide how to write the server-side code. A Microsoft language would have been the obvious choice, but that would have required a Windows server. Using any of the other choices (e.g., PHP, PERL, etc.) would have placed Microsoft in a difficult market position. In short, the company's choices here were bad and bad.

    Because all the choices were bad, Microsoft did a rational thing from its perspective - it chose the least expensive course. That meant dropping FPSE and as a consequence dumping all the FP Web bots. In the same vein, it beefed up EW support for ASP.NET and its related technologies.

    So, what's the answer?

    Of all the bots provided by FPSE and supported by FP, the most useful is probably forms (I consider most of the rest antiquated). Confronted by the realization that I would not use any FP bots, I set out to find a forms solution that I could learn once and use repeatedly. For me, that solution was HTML forms (not hard to create once understood) with PHP code on the server side. I chose PHP because I discovered that almost every hosting company was offering it whether on Linux or Windows servers, making it likely that the language would have a long life.

    Using examples found on the Web and several books, I crafted a small PHP form responder that took the contents of a form and sent an email. My form responder is less than one page of code. It validates and protects against hijacks without using Captchas. It is easily customized depending upon the wishes of the clients. Using this structure, I can usually craft a "contact us" form for a new client's Web site in about an hour, a process that is mostly cut and paste plus working the form into the new site's design.

    Yes, it's true that I am a programmer and that this was relatively easy for me. Nonetheless, I have created a re-usable component that has now served me well for years and allowed me to provide these basic forms at a very low cost. I am able to market to small businesses because I have such components in my arsenal. Yes, it would have been nice if these features had been built in to EW, but with my components I am able to get the maximum flexibility to customize to meet the client's wishes, something much harder to do with generic components.

    Any options if you're not a programmer? Honestly, not many. However, there are some Web resources that can do some of the heavy lifting for you. One example creates both an HTML and PHP page for handling a form. See The Site Wizard's Feedback Form Generator.

    I beleive that EW is on the right track notwithstanding some travails. Once the extension architecture is back in place, hopefully for good, I believe you will see third-party add-ins emerge to provide handy automation. Perhaps there will even be a forms generator.

    Will
    Baltimore, MD USA - www.fastie.com
    Wednesday, September 16, 2009 12:41 PM
  • It's true about FrontPage:
    - A FP form can be set up in 15 minutes

    - More complicated forms with validations etc can be set up in an hour

    Using a form generator you can set up a form in less than 5 and include validation in less than 15.

    - Mom and pop businesses can afford some level of low cost hosting (and the low cost and the ease of supporting FP themselves or asking a computer savvy friend to help)
    - these small business will never learn scripting

    Every low cost hosting I know of offers some sort of sitebuilder that isn't much worse than FP as used by those same novices (aka click-click on buttons without knowing or caring what the coding looks like.

    - a fully functional, basic FP site can be set up in a day or two.

    Many people here who are novices have set up fully functioning sites in less than 2 days by following along with my Basic Website tutorial. Then modifying the graphics to suit their needs. Finishing off by adding a form from one of the sources above or using one of the templates (either a free one like some I offer on my site or a purchased one with a form already in it.) If the content is ready along with whatever graphics are being used I can set one up in less than 2 hours.

    Needless to say that I don't buy the idea that Expression Web is too hard for a novice to use. One of my client's is a school PTO. Yes, I did create the original design (but it could just as easily have started as a $39 purchased template) but the person who maintained the site for 2 years didn't know how to set up Outlook to get mail, didn't know how to create a style in Word, heck she didn't even know how to add a heading to a Word doc. She did know how to type and what buttons to push on her computer to open Outlook, reply, surf the web but not a whole lot more.

    In less than 3 hours she could not only maintain the PTO website but she could also configure an email account in Outlook, turn on junk mail filter, use the junk mail filter, create rules to separate out her PTO email from her personal email, create headers in both Word and Expression Web, add links to the menu, add content by either typing directly in EW or bringing it in from Word or Outlook (much of the content came from committe chairs and other PTO members) without a bunch of Word ____.

    I'll admit that I did get the occasional help call but posting on this forum would have been equally effective. They did pay me for some complex stuff related to the school's fundraising auction and logging volunteer hours but that's not something a typical mom & pop would be doing anyway.

    - these small business cannot afford professional web developer contracts and / or the cost of paying developer rates every time simple changes needs to be made.

    Who says they would need a designer (developers write server side code, designer are those who would be making most of the content changes) for every simple change? As I mentioned above, many of my clients maintain their own sites and do so using Expression Web or something like Content Seed and only come back to me when they need complex changes or are ready to change their site's look and feel completely. FWIW, I know folks who do content changes and minor changes for $40-50 an hour. In some parts of the country there are those who do so for $25. My rates on the other hand are something that a mom & pop wouldn't want to pay for content or simple changes I'll grant you that.

    Sorry but you aren't getting any sympathy from me on any of the items mentioned. Yes, it will be fantastic when MS gets their act together on extensibility but even now there are menu add-ons available for a reasonable price ($49-$79) that work inside of EW (not 3 yet but hopefully when the service pack comes out), or other third party tools not integrated directly but easy enough to add using copy/paste like:

    There are many others that are available commercially like Vista Buttons, Sothink and others that provide full support for their products.

    I got started on the web over 15 years ago when I replaced a round robin we had between friends sharing pictures of their kids with a website so folks didn't have to wait months to get the "new" pictures.  That was back on Prodigy Internet's beta program. (Something I am so thankful predates the internet archive.) If you think today's web software is complex, there were no forms processor available back then unless you had very expensive hosting and could write cgi/perl. Today any half way decent host has forms processors or a copy/paste script available in their support area telling you exactly what you need to send forms from sites hosted on their servers. Even with the generators you may have to modify slightly for different hosting companies to comply with their anti spam policies (for instance on godaddy you have to send through a specific server using an account configured in your hosting control panel.) FP forms processing has no anti-spam in it at all which is one reason it has been deprecated.


    MS MVP Expression Tutorials & Help http://by-expression.com and online instructor led Expression Classes
    Wednesday, September 16, 2009 2:11 PM

  • I read on another forum that Adobe is working on a product for the FrontPage customers that it seems like Microsoft is abandoning. Now if they can see a market and write code to provide the functionality desired and make it standards compliant then you have to wonder about what is MS thinking? That will be a funny turn of events and if they do it I am sure many people will RUN not walk to buy it. Microsofts poor judgement has created a market for them.

    Bob


    Bob,

    Would you mind telling me what product that is supposed to be? Adobe has "Contribute" but I think Content Seed is both better and cheaper. They also have "InContext" which is a hosted solution for content editing that they haven't announced pricing for yet so I'm hesitant to recommend or implement it. They just acquired BizCatalyst which is one of the best hosted eCommerce applications I've ever seen and may well use in the future. In addition to BizCatalyst they acquired Good Barry which is another content management system, better than Contribute being more full featured but I haven't looked at it in a year though I was impressed with the demos I saw at AdobeMAX last year.

    I have very good relations with Adobe so I generally know what they are working on when it comes to web applications and I can't think of a single Adobe project that would be for "Frontpage" users abandoned by MS. In fact, Adobe dropped ASP.NET applications from CS4 so it doesn't seem to me that they are trying to compete with Microsoft (something I think was a mistake just like you think dropping FP features was a mistake on Microsoft's part.)
    MS MVP Expression Tutorials & Help http://by-expression.com and online instructor led Expression Classes
    Wednesday, September 16, 2009 2:16 PM