Modules 3-8 MS Expression Web curriculum

by cdwise 14. January 2011 09:43

Maybe because module 3 deals more with color theory, graphics and general design layout principles that don’t vary much between print and the web explains why other than the use of circa 2000-2002 graphics styles if find it pretty good.

Logos in module 4 is another good discussion but the  navigation section falls a little short with its emphasis on buttons, image maps and slicking but how to structure your navigation is worthwhile. Then emphasis on scanning seems a bit misplaced but what disturbed me more was telling the students to right click and download images for use in their project from Yahoo and other web pages. Especially after the first module’s discussion of copyright on the web. Much of the discussion re digital photography references things that have already happened though the composition related material is a useful introduction to digital photography.

Overall the modules on graphics are the best I’ve found in the entire series.

Module 5 – Beyond the Basics with Expression Web

When I opened the first assignment in this module – Scavenger Hunt I was immediately back in negative review mode since the first question was where to find the Layer Task Pane (which was renamed in v3 to Panel from Task Pane but I digress).  Layers seem to be emphasized and styles references include MsoNormal.  Can you hear me scream when the first CSS answer is given as:

Position absolute
Width 393px
Z-index 1

Others include Font Size= 12pt and <body><div#layer3><p.MsoNormal>

I do have to admit that in flipping through the PowerPoint slides (day 2) with Module 5:  Beyond the Basics with Expression Web 4 it is ironic that on slide 14 the screenshot clearly shows Expression Web 3. If they had only stayed away from using layers and dragging to size/position using the handles in design view I’d be able to give this module reasonable marks as far as the PowerPoint goes. The Beaches website created during this week could easily and probably more quickly be done using without using a single layer. See for how the basic site should have been coded.  I looked at the completed website and noticed that longdesc was used improperly as well. It shouldn’t have been used at all on a simple image, the alt attribute was more than adequate.

The actual assignments on using CSS, creating external stylesheets and DWTs are pretty well thought out and useful if the CSS taught wasn’t to use layers and interactive buttons instead of CSS rollovers. Remember that interactive buttons are a legacy from FrontPage and as such haven’t been updated in at least 8 years. Don’t use them.

Modules 6-7

These deal with the dynamics of working in a team and workflow. At this point I’m not going to critique these sections since while important aren’t things that relate to actually learning how to create a website so much as work skills.

Module 8

This final section covers launching your site from testing through publishing, search engine optimization and maintenance. Again, I didn’t spend any real time on these sections so I can’t critique them at this time. The topic timeline for this section looks good but the devil is in the details just as in Module 7 the “advanced” version of the Beaches site suffers from many of the same issues that the basic version does, especially with its concentration on layers and interactive buttons along with longdesc being used improperly.

In summary while I think the goal was good the reuse of old outdated material and the emphasis on what looks like an easy way to layout a site (layers) makes this material less useful than it should be for the educator. Pre-written courseware is not a substitute for the instructor having hands on knowledge of the subject they are teaching. If you are going to teach web design, especially to university or lower level students make sure that you teach them web standards or you will be doing them a disservice. If they leave your class with a firm foundation in HTML & CSS basics they will be in a position to understand and be capable of creating cross browser sites. They will also be prepared for changes that will come in the future as the web evolves whether they decide to create web sites professionally or not.


Module 2 MS Expression Curriculum

by cdwise 14. January 2011 07:52

Moving on to Module 2 HTML Basics at least the PowerPoint does include common HTML elements and the critical fact that “web sites may appear differently in different browsers” Even though the browser list is still not reflecting the current browser make-up with no mention of the different rendering of IE 6, 7 & 8 or Chome/Opera while still displaying Netscape prominently.

Unfortunately, the first example given for students to copy does not include a single <p> element in the body yet shows as multiple paragraphs in the sample. In addition, as the coding lesson progress deprecated elements and attributes used solely for presentation such as <u> and <body text=”red”> are given as if they should actually be used on your web page.

Heading elements are also explained as a method of altering text size. – This is so wrong I can’t believe it is actually in a class on HTML. <u>, <body body link="#000fff vlink="#00FF00 alink="FF0000>  and other such code is taught. Even when CSS is introduced the use of font-size: 12pt and font-family with only one font listed is very bad practice. This is an actual sample of the code they use:

<body><h1>This is where the heading of the Web page might go.</h1><br>
<h2>This is where the main part of the text would go.</h2>

As is this example from the assignment as the correct way to create a web page:

<!--Student Name—>
<title>Hansel and Gretel</title>
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="mypaStyle.css" />
<img src="C:\Documents and Settings\Owner.FAMILYROOM\Desktop\S.2.7.WS_Pic.jpg" height="100" width="150" align=right alt="Our Flag"> (note the align attribute)
<h1 align=center>Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm</h1>
<h3 align=center>Student Name</h3>
<hr width=90% size=10 color="#0000FF"><br>
<p>"Hansel and Gretel" is known as a fairy tale and was written by the Brothers Grimm.</p>
(snipped remaining paragraphs & links that are outside of paragraphs with br elements) </body>

Can you believe that the above mark-up is being taught today? Ironically, while the <marquee> tag is one of those being taught the module text document brings up HTML5 in the same discussion as Encarta is given as an additional resource – with a link that leads to this page has been discontinued.

This mix of old, deprecated code and resources with the occasional reference to today’s best practices seems not only an odd mix but also one that will leave students very confused about what they should do. Besides HTML basics should be mastered before the use of web services from Module 1 are even broached.


Expression Web | Training

Module 1 MS Expression Web 4 curriculum

by cdwise 14. January 2011 06:51

After this thread on teaching Expression Web to students I figured I’d download and look at the curriculum Lori Dirks referenced. After all I hadn’t looked at the MS educational resources for v4.

My first issue was how many steps it took to download the files. Each module was a separate download link and from there it was another 3+ clicks before your download actually started. In addition, after the first few downloads I could only download one set of resources at a time despite being on a 20mps connection. It seemed to be a server issue waiting for the MS server to respond.

Starting with the overview pdf I noticed the same links were in there over and over after each module summary. I’m not sure why someone thought it was necessary. The way it was presented and the length of the links caused me to think each link was related to the module it followed not to the same two pages over and over.

They syllabus looked pretty good but my initially favorable impression went away when I opened Module 1, Day 1 to discover Photo Story 3 for Windows as the first lesson. My disappoint stemmed not from the use of Photo Story for storyboarding a website (which might after all be a reasonable thing to do) but because it starts off with import your photos, remove the black border, add titles & music.  I have no clue what the relevance of creating a slide show to playback on your computer has to do with the stated topic of Module 1 History and Future of the Web. I can only conclude, particularly from other references within the file that this was included by mistake or at least I would have if the Word doc didn’t start with that exact title followed by Day 1.

Upon opening more pages in module 1 I see that the assignment was to create a multimedia presentation using Photo Story about wikis, blogs, podcasts & webcast with the option to include Web 2.0 topics.

The PowerPoint presentation used to actually provide the lesson material seems to me to be very out of date for an application that was released summer 2010. The latest browser statistics given were for 2003. Market share is shown for Netscape (3.7%), IE 95.9% and “others” (0.4%) which is so completely out of date as to be worse than useless. Browsers such as Firefox (depending on your site topic & location 20-55% market share), Safari, Opera and Chrome each have more market share than the total “other” browsers listed. IE 7 & 8 which have considerably different rendering characteristics from IE 6 weren’t even a gleam on the horizon back in 2003. The site used as a reference for those statistics “” leads me now to a page full of advertising that looks like a domain placeholder page. Looking at the W3Schools browser stats page I see a different picture for 2003 with IE having 84.6%, Mozilla 7.2%, Netscape 2.6% and Opera 1.9%. For 2002 the IE percentage is about the same but Netscape was 8.0% and AOL (which depending on exactly when used a custom version of Netscape or IE) at 3-5%.

On the whole though the PowerPoint presentation did contain useful information if someone just removes or updates the browser stats slide. Though using blue links on a blue background is simply idiotic. Sorry but even on my color calibrated monitor there is such low contrast as to make the links virtually invisible. Putting it up on a projector would be even worse. Web 2.0 is of the same vintage as the browser information and has been superseded by “social media” in the Facebook & Twitter mode which is quite different than Web 2.0 social media. I also had to look up what “Freemium Business Model” means since it wasn’t a term I had really heard before. I’d always known that model as “advertising supported” and/or tiered services.

The only other comment I have on the slide deck is that the person using it really needs to be able to flesh out the bullet points with actual knowledge and discussion of what those bullets mean.

Day 2 & Day 3 do contain useful information, particularly the section on copyright. Too many classes don’t adequately address that everything you see on the internet is copyrighted by the site holder or whoever it is that is credit with the article/content. Permission is always needed though in a few cases the article or site itself will grant you permission to use it. So I am glad to see that covered.

Day 4 concentrates on MS Live services, something that I do not think is appropriate at this stage for students. While I have no objection to using Live services like Live Writer or Calendar why services like Live Agent or Windows Live Share (Live Sync?) are included I have no clue. Frankly, I don’t see the benefit to students or even to MS at this point in the curriculum. Ironically, the most useful thing in the Day 4 PowerPoint is the “Practice” instruction to Complete the Web Services tutorial at the W3Schools site but even that is premature. You shouldn’t be concerned about web services until you can actually create a website nor should they be concerned about creating a podcast at this stage of their learning either, especially one with background music nor if the idea is to learn about creating websites is creating a Live blog the thing to do at this time.

Day 5 seems to be somewhat of an overview of the week with the activity set to narrow searches. This week of lessons leaves me very confused about what it is the person is supposed to be learning.

Module 2 review coming up soon.


Expression Web | Training

IE 9 Beta

by cdwise 17. September 2010 21:02

On Weds the latest version of the new IE 9 beta was released. Unfortunately, I haven’t really seen it because you cannot install this version side by side with IE 8 so I will need to set up a VPC for testing function.

If you just want to see how your page will render in IE 9 beta and you have Expression Web 4 you can use SuperPreview remote to view your page. IE 9 is not available in the free SuperPreview for IE version at this time. (I do not know if MS has any intention of adding it or not.) Here’s this site shown in SuperPreview with IE 8 on the left and IE 9 on the right.


There is also no preconfigured VPC for IE 9 beta available at but there are Vista IE 8 vpcs available that you should be able to update to IE 9 beta. Just remember that these are time bombed for 90days after first launched but since you would be using it to test a beta browser that should be more than adequate.

Unfortunately, Adobe Browserlab hasn’t updated their browser list to include IE 9 beta (or Safari 5) yet. However, I still appreciate having Browserlabs because it includes Chrome and older versions of Firefox & Safari than I have installed on my computer. There are benefits to using multiple testing tools.


Web Browsers

SuperPreview 4

by cdwise 15. September 2010 02:01

If you have the Expression Web 4 version of SuperPreview it has been updated to add support for Safari 5 (Mac) so now you can choose either Safari 4 or Safari 5 for previewing through the  cloud.

I just used it to check and could see no differences between the Safari (either version) and IE 8 that aren’t attributable to  the fact that I’m logged in automatically with IE 8 locally and not with remote preview so the login panel is open in Safari & not in IE 8.

Now that they have updated Safari’s remote preview options maybe they’ll add some other browser. I’d like to see IE 9 beta, Firefox 4 and Chrome. What would you like to see added?


Expression Web | v4 | Web Browsers

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