Beginner Web Design with Freeway Express

| Computing with Bifocals

I love making Web pages. I believe I have said that here before. I donit mean big fancy commercial Web pages. I donit know how to do all that fancy stuff, other than how to make shopping carts. More about that in a moment.

I just like to make regular people Web pages.

I have a job in which I do research that requires me to look at Web pages and in the past 3 months I have looked at exactly 2,116 Web sites. Most of them are for various cities, towns, villages, chambers of commerce, state offices, etc. Many of them are made by "professional Web designers." At least that is what they call themselves.

Frankly, many of them are just awful. Whoever decided that the current fad of using light gray type on a medium gray background was a nice touch should have to try and read it for 6 hours a day.

The very best of all 2,116 of those Web sites belonged to a little village of 20 people. The absolute worst belonged to a city of 68,000 people. The only thing missing from that one was flashing neon lights.

The difference in the two was very simple. On the first site the layout was clean and simple with attractive, complimentary colors. The font was large enough to read and all the necessary information was readily at hand. The pictures were sharp and appropriate to the context. I felt like sending the webmaster a love note.

The second had small fonts. The font style changed 6 times on the home page. There were 9 different colors used in the text on the home page. The tabs were so small they were difficult to find and none of them gave any information about the city government. The page was cluttered and totally unappealing. It was actually difficult to focus on any one thing. If you have spent much time on the Web you have seen pages just like that one. The kind that make you rear back and say whoa. The kind you quickly leave unless you have no choice but to fight through to get the information you need.

A Well Designed Web Page

Iive found that taking the following steps makes it easier to design a good looking Web page or site.

  1. Pick Your Color Scheme or Choose a Template
  2. Decide the Theme of Each Page
  3. Create a Rough Draft on Paper
  4. Gather Your Supporting Graphics
  5. Execute Your Page

You can also just sit down with a template program and start playing around until you get something you like, but it will take twice as long.

The first time I ever made a Web page I did not know there were applications available to help you make them, so I learned HTML code and made my own. It was pretty pathetic, but it worked. Now there are all kinds of applications for you to choose from, and many are made specifically for the Mac. I am going to recommend one specific application that I hope you will consider using and I will give you several reasons for doing so.

Freeway Pro 5 and Freeway Express 5

These latest versions of Freeway, made by Softpress were released in late March. The pro version retails for US$249.00 and the Express version retails for $79.00 They each require Mac OS X 10.4 or greater and at least 1 GB of Ram. I specifically use the term "retails" when listing the price because Softpress does something that few other, if any software companies do -- they offer a senior citizen discount on their software as well as an educational discount. Plus, right now there is an introductory discount, so this is definitely the time to buy.

Obviously from the price there are a number of options available with the Pro version that are not available with the Express version. However, another great benefit of Freeway is that you can start with the Express version and later on upgrade to the Pro version, receiving credit for already having the less expensive version; and Express is what I want to focus on today.

The basic premise of Freeway Express is this: You design your site and when you are finished, the application creates the HTML code to support it. And when tested for accuracy the Freeway code usually receives a 100% accuracy rating which means your Web site is going to look good no matter what Web browser is going to be reading it. Someone viewing your Web site on a PC using Explorer should see a good, clean site, just like someone viewing it on a Mac using Safari.

What Do You Get With Freeway Express

Templates - Freeway Express provides a good selection of templates that give you a starting point in creating your site. You have complete control of the layout and literally could take a template and change it beyond recognition, though I suppose that might defeat the purpose of using a template to begin with. There is also a blank page option for anyone who wants to start from scratch.


Some Sample Freeway Templates
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image)

Features

The features are so numerous that I could not begin to cover them all in this column. Suffice it to say that the manual is 120 pages. However, it is the little things that I think make this a particular helpful application for beginning Web designers.

  • The structure of the Web pages use "Master Pages" which allow you to have consistency between all your pages while saving you time. At the same time, you can have as many "Master Pages" per site as you need.
  • You can create pop up images
  • Page links are frequently already included for you and external links are very easy to insert
  • You can add Google Maps

 


Sample Google Map

  • You can add a current date feature
  • You can use any fonts you wish, utilizing graphic elements
  • You can add your own HTML code if you have something special you want to include on your page that requires code, such as a field for someone to send you their email address.

Sample Added HTML Code

  • You can even add shopping carts. The shopping cart system that is built into Freeway works seamlessly with a third party provider to add shopping carts with payment set up using PayPal.
  • The downloadable manual includes a tutorial

You can download a trial copy of Freeway Express 5 at Softpress and use it for 30 days. You can also visit my personal Web site and see a sample Web site made with Freeway Express.

Two final comments about Freeway and why I recommend it so strongly. First, I recently taught a class of beginners how to use the basics of Freeway Express 5 and they all felt it meets their needs. Second, Softpress is one of the most customer oriented software businesses I have encountered. They offer outstanding customer service. I thought the folks who make SuperDuper backup software were the best in customer service, but Freeway ranks right up there with them.


 

Donit forget that my Tips and Hints Manual for Experienced Beginners is available for purchase. The entire Table of Contents and a sample page are available for free review for anyone who wishes to see them. I am making this book available in three formats:

 

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