by cdwise 21. December 2012 20:31

I don't hate or despise Visual Studio, ASP.NET, IIS, Azure or any of the other products no matter what my comments in yesterday’s post may seem to imply. Nor do I think they suck. I think that Visual Studio is an excellent IDE for DEVELOPERS. You can create very good applications that do extremely complex tasks well with ASP.NET and Visual Studio but that isn't my space. Sure I can write real code but frankly, I've never enjoyed doing so not even back when I had my very first programming class in Basic back in 1974-5. Classic ASP did everything I needed and was easy to use. PHP fulfills that function for me now but I'm digressing.

There are a few developers who can produce a useable functional website with good user experience but they are few and far between just like there are some designers who can create elegant clean server side code. They are the exceptions. I know enough code not to screw up what a developer does and even rewrite some of it so that it better suits the ux/usability/accessibility needs. That actually makes me more skilled than most who work on design. I'm a member of a private community, invitation only of professional web designers/front-end developers. Less than 10-15% can or want to do more than integrate a form or address output from server side processing. That is pretty typical of the small design businesses demographics from what I've seen.

I had really high hopes that Microsoft had "got it" with the Expression toolset but even Microsoft’s choice of words confirms that I was wrong. There is a real need for web tools that are not "web development" in the sense that Microsoft has used it. The words are design, UX - User eXperience, UI - User Interface and even IA - Information Architecture. Those are what make people comfortable and able to effectively find/use the information in websites and web applications. I got into this field because back in the 90s I was a member of a group of women who all had babies about the same time. Prodigy Internet had a "beta" internet web program going on that included subscriber websites. I took all the stuff that had been circulating between our group in a envelope mailed from person to person with the latest baby pictures and scanned the photos. Then I created a site and published it to the beta hosting. Over the years I used several different programs to maintain it including AOLPress, which was the only decent piece of software that came from AOL.

I was creating sites for others by 1998 and commercially shortly thereafter using Dreamweaver. My introduction to FrontPage came because a client used it and wanted me to remake their site with it so they could maintain it. FrontPage wasn't ever as bad as many made it out to be but it was never as good as it should have been. Given its target market of information workers it was a decent enough product but always require care in using it if you were concerned about not Microsoft browsers.

Visual Interdev was a joke, Visual Studio is its successor and much better but it is still  a developer’s tool.

I joined HAL-PC when I found out they were starting a "Web Technolgies SIG" somewhere around 1999. The SIG leader had over 200 people show up for the first meeting. He started it because he wanted to learn more about creating database driven websites. He was an Access developer and was using Visual Interdev. Now Visual Interdev created truly horrible code with no usability at all using as it did the the worst bits of FrontPage “no need to know” anything about what you are tying to do canned themes and up/down, next/back navigation. The one thing he did do right was have a speaker at each session on CSS but he didn't use it himself. He relied 100% on the themes and navigation available in Visual Interdev. It was so bad I ended up creating a parallel site with a UI that would let visitors find the very useful code examples and FAQs the leader created as well as tutorials and articles contributed by various presenters. Eventually, I ended up taking over the site and as leader when he lost interest in writing code for the web.

Over the years I've tried, really tried to use Visual Studio but it doesn't make sense for what I do. It has a steep learning curve for someone who isn't a serious back-end developer. Its complexity and methodology is a good thing for programmers. It is not a good thing for whatever it is you want to call people who are design oriented. Drop a programmer into Photoshop or even Fireworks and tell them to use curves to correct white balance, use Bezier curves and do a comp with 256 layers then output with cmyk separation for the prepress and rgb optimized for the web or to css3 gradients and they will feel just as lost as your front-end designer/developer when they open Visual Studio.

EW was a breath of fresh air. Something that did a better job in many respects than any other available program. No longer did I need to use TopStyle for my CSS, Dreamweaver my HTML but there was one tool that I could use from start to finish.

When I criticize Visual Studio and/or any other of Microsoft's development tools it isn't because I think they are bad. They aren't, and some of them are extremely good but they are not design tools and never will be.


Expression Web

Comments (1) -

Norm Stokes
Norm Stokes
12/22/2012 2:38:39 AM #

EXCELLENT article Cheryl!!  Very well wrote, to the point and articulates very elegantly what so many feel.  Thank you for taking the time to write this.

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