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Freeway Pro, Site Grinder...?

Discussion in 'Website Design Forum:' started by Esh, Dec 28, 2010.

  1. Esh

    Esh Member

    Has anyone any experience of using Softpress Freeway Pro, SiteGrinder, or any other 'non HTML' web design software?
    I've been using WebPlus X4 to design websites, which while this is awesome to a degree, I'd like to try other programmes. I've seen a few sample websites from Freeway, and they look pretty good. I've been learning HTML/CSS and am attending a few courses in the new year, but until then, I'm stuck with this WYSIWYG programmes? Any other such programmes? Thanks
  2. dedwardp

    dedwardp Member

    The only software I've ever used for a site would be Dreamweaver, I have taken a look at Site Grinder in the past but I never gave it enough time to look at it properly and really work out how to use it. It sounded promising when I downloaded it but, as I say, I never gave it a chance or looked at it enough.

    I really only use code and so haven't really bothered with any software, but the one I have used before is Dreamweaver.
  3. SparkCreative

    SparkCreative Member

    Yeah, I use Freeway and I love it. You can do pretty much anything on it nowadays and from what I've heard from people who know about those things, the code it generates isn't too bad.

    Here's the most recent site I made with it:

    Welcome to Eos Interiors

    Oh, and my site too.
  4. socreative

    socreative Member

    with tables and image maps? yeah, right
  5. Esh

    Esh Member

    Thanks guys...nice website Spark Creative.
  6. Corrosive

    Corrosive Moderator Staff Member

    @Esh there is no substitute that I know of that allows you to avoid the hand code learning curve. Save any money you'd spend on software and download Notepad ++ for free and tuck in to some good tutorials for the HTML and CSS basics. Try these; 38 Great Tutorials To Convert PSD To HTML/CSS | DesignBeep for starters

    Invest in knowledge not shortcuts.
  7. Corrosive

    Corrosive Moderator Staff Member

    Text in images, inline styles, no external (and so cached) stylesheet, tables, image maps for links. Whoever the 'people who know about these things' are you've spoken to don't know squat about coding a good layout. It just flies in the face of everything you need to be competitive online nowadays. It is the usual story with WYSIWYG, on the face of it, it looks great but there is some seriously nasty stuff lurking just below the surface...
  8. Esh

    Esh Member

    Thanks for that. My intention is to be able to code properly in the long run hence starting with the html etc, so these tutorials should be helpful. I was looking for other programs to use until I get to that stage though. To be fair though, I've come across quite a lot of people who use non-coding software and they and their clients don't have a problem. It's usually web developers who make a fuss about it! Apart from the more obvious SEO reasons (some of which can be done in WYSIWYG editors), I'm trying to figure out why its a big deal if the end result is good? Even though the designers/developers are using difference methods/software (which they've taken the time to learn, if the result is the same/similar, isn't it just like the Adobe/non-Adobe argument? Any enlightenment? This isn't an ignorant reply I'm genuinely interested. You can tell I'm only a learner at web stuff!
  9. Esh

    Esh Member

    Another dumb question. Regarding the 'nasty stuff lurking behind the scenes'...So long as the site can get good ranking on search engines/listings etc, the person viewing doesn't see the code, it's only developers who tend to go and view the code on sites, so why does this matter so much?
  10. Corrosive

    Corrosive Moderator Staff Member

    That's a fair point. Truth is that a website can indeed look great to the untrained eye but, to a professional, the work will look very poor indeed. I guess the closest analogy would be buying a car. I know nothing about mechanics so shiny bodywork, clean interior etc might be the only visual clues I'd have as to the quality of the vehicle. I wouldn't have a clue if the brakes were worn down or the big end about to give up on me, but a trained mechanic would.

    True that clients often don't know good code from bad but that is why they trust the professional to do a good job in the same way that I trust the professionals who service my car for me. Just because clients don't have a problem isn't a reason to cut corners and do a half-arsed job. In fact it is even more reason to do a good job.

    I guess this is somewhat self preservation on our part. If I take the time to handcode a layout that does everything the right way and then someone undercuts me by hacking out a web page in quarter of the time using save for web in Photoshop for instance then I'm going to get defensive. And that is as honest as I can be about it! Cowboy builders will upset those who build properly for exactly the same reasons. Doing a bad code job is exactly the same thing!

    We are forever picking up clients who have had bad build jobs done. In fact we had one a couple of weeks ago who had his website built using an online editor (name escapes me now). It was all absolute positioning and the like. He had fallen out with the guy who built it and wanted some updates. He was ever so upset when we told him it needed totally rebuilding because moving anything would make it topple like a house of cards.

    SEO is a BIG reason for this. Online is competitive (and become increasingly so). Build quality, speed of download, flexibility etc is all really important for surviving online. Those sites on the Freeway Pro demo page have inline styles and so not cached for quick download times, nested tables that don't clearly separate style from content so Search Engines struggle to sort the wheat from the chaff and so on. Using the right tools and tags for the job is essential for helping SEs make sense of a page. I must say I'm not aware of the Adobe/Non-Adobe argument. HTML and CSS is just that when it all boils down to it. It doesn't matter one jot about what programme is used to code it as long as the quality is good.

    Anyway, don't just take my word for it; What Beautiful HTML Code Looks Like | CSS-Tricks

    Hope that helps and I totally understand why you have asked these questions. I was asking the same ones three years ago!
  11. Corrosive

    Corrosive Moderator Staff Member

    That's really the point. To get good rankings with poor code is much harder than with good code. Try reading the Google blogs. They are very enlightening and code quality is really important.
  12. SparkCreative

    SparkCreative Member

    Really? That's interesting. Still, the sites all work, look fine, the clients are happy and none of that stuff actually affects what you're seeing does it? I'm not arguing that the nuts and bolts could be improved, but it works for me. I never said it was perfect.

    In what way is it 'not competitive'? Always willing to learn.
  13. dedwardp

    dedwardp Member

    I think the biggest issues with using tables for layouts comes in that they can be inflexible when testing cross-browser and tabular data also increases page loading times which is a measurement for competitiveness.

    Likewise, the search engines will respond better to leaner code. Having the css styles inlined on the page makes the code bulkier and means that it has to work through it with each page rather than caching an external file.

    The leaner code will perform better in the search engines and so with SEO being pretty important to a site I guess it can be argued that efficient code will improve the competitiveness in this aspect as well.
  14. SparkCreative

    SparkCreative Member

    Ok, thanks for the info.
    Is there any way to improve that with sites built in Freeway, or is it just a problem I'm gonna have to live with?

    As you can see, I don't put together massively complicated stuff, and the clients I do it for aren't usually so bothered by SEO - they use their sites more as a point of contact. When I need anything more complicated, I call in one of you coding people, just like I'd hope you guys would call on a graphic designer to make your sites more visually appealing and typographically correct.

    I've started building sites in Wordpress lately - I'm assuming they're better in terms of code?
  15. dedwardp

    dedwardp Member

    I think what you're saying is completely fair enough though to be honest with you - as you say, it isn't an important aspect of the site to them and so how it looks on the outside is the most important part in a case like that, in which case it's a good job.

    I have no experience of Freeway but if there is an option to edit the code directly then yes, if you know how to code and so on you would be able to then edit and brush up what it has generated for you.

    Again, I haven't personally used Wordpress but it is very popular and, as far as I know, I would imagine it to be a lot cleaner - this could depend on whether or not themes used have been put together validly and so on I guess, but I can't say for sure.
  16. SparkCreative

    SparkCreative Member

    Cheers for the advice. Yeah you can directly edit the code in Freeway, but that would kind of defeat the object cos I'd need to get someone else in to do it.
  17. Corrosive

    Corrosive Moderator Staff Member

    OK, I see that @dedwardp has answered a lot of this and I respect that your clients are happy and their websites are a visual point of reference and not SEO/Google beaters but I'll try and explain some stuff without sounding too much like a tw*t!

    Looking at the home page of Welcome to Eos Interiors as an example.

    All the CSS styles are in the head tags. Most CSS websites will have an external stylesheet so that, 1. it can be cached and reused by the browser to lessen loading times and 2 any changes to styles on one page will affect all of those styles in the site. Say your client says 'I want h1 tags to be 16px and red'. One change in the CSS and they all are. The way yours is you'd have to hand do them.

    You have a lot of inline styles as well such as
    <div id="PageDiv" style="position:relative; min-height:100%; margin:auto; width:1050px">
    This also is against the principals of modern web design as your content and styles are mixed. The goal is to take the stylesheet away and be left with a document that still makes sense.

    You've used tables for layout which went out of fashion in 2004. Each tag in HTML has a specific purpose. Tables are for tabular data (think spreadsheet). This harks back to the days when the web was used by Tim Berners Lee and the guys at the UN to pass round the results of experiments in a universal language and format. Thus tables were fine. Then business wanted to use the web and layouts got more complex. Instead of using tables (and hacks) to make layouts the div was invented. So you are using the wrong tool for the job.

    You have images in your layout called 'clear.gif'. Exactly what puspose do they serve other than to increase server calls and so download speed? Your content (images and text) should all have a meaning to the web page/document. Those gifs are simply there because a machine coded the website and didn't know how to create your layout correctly. Think about users who are partially sighted or blind and use screen readers. Will that image in the content make sense to them? No.

    Which brings me neatly onto the content. The home page is the number one target page for getting your SEO spot on. Where is the HTML text? There isn't any. That means Search Engines see it is a blank page. You need to use header tags (h1 to h6) and paragraphs and have some actual text. You clearly want search engines to find the site as you have stuffed the head tags full of keywords but are those actually in the text? Well, no, because there isn't any.

    You've also generated javascript rollovers for the menu but these won't work with javascript disabled and there is no text for the links so, again, a user with a screen reader has absolutely no idea what your links are or where they go! This should have been coded with an unordered list of links/text and maybe some CSS sprites for the rollover effect which would work with or without javascript enabled. No text in links also means the website owner misses out on some extra SEO 'grunt'.

    I am also really curious about your work flow with this. If a customer wants a change do you have to redo the whole page?

    Those are a few pointers anyway. The fact is that coding is as much an art form as the designing and you wouldn't let a machine do your designs would you? Code needs a human touch and a lot of understanding about what is good and bad practice and what makes a good website tick.

    I'm sorry that I have probably gone on far too much and I don't want a 'crusade for good code' or anything like that. I think your designs are really striking and you have a fantastic eye for a layout. But that machine generated code really does suck.

    Hope that helps :)
  18. SparkCreative

    SparkCreative Member

    haha no that's exactly what I was after.

    I'm aware of the HTML text issue, and so were they, but they weren't too bothered - just wanted it to look nice. I guess I could add a footer. Alt text doesn't really cut it I think.

    As for most of the other issues, they seem to be issues with the way Freeway generates the code. It's useful info for me because I can decide if it's the way I want to move forward, or whether I'd be better teaming up with someone more expert who can deal with the coding side for me.

    Workflow wise, if they want a change, yes I have to redo the whole page, but that's really really simple in Freeway - just like changing an element on a page layout. Then I just re-up that part of the site.

    I appreciate the idea of a campaign for good code - it's probably the kind of thing that would irritate me if I was in your shoes, just like bad typography gets on my nerves when I see it from people claiming to be 'designers'.

  19. dedwardp

    dedwardp Member

    I think instances such as this example are the ones where you can just about get away with it like this because, as you've said, it is suitable enough for what they want and still easy enough to update using the software.

    Other cases it wouldn't be suitable but as much as I would agree with what Corrosive says, I also think that there are occasions where it isn't the end of the world for it to be done like this one so as you've highlighted, as long as you can decide on an appropriate option on a per job basis I don't think there should be a mountain of problems really.
  20. socreative

    socreative Member

    You shouldn't be using shit like sitegrinder if you position yourself as a professional. And as a "professional" you should know that and also know reasons of why you shouldn't be using it.

    You may get a way with a few clients who don't know anything about web design but more experienced ones will laugh at the site that you quickly knocked off using sitegrinder. The choice is yours

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