Expression Web

Review and First Look

Is Microsoft’s Expression Web for you?

There are many web development tools available and Expression Web may be for you, or not. I hope to provide a little information to make your choice easier.

One of the first things I consider is the price and functionalities of the program along with my needs. I weigh price, functionalities and my needs together and see if the software is worthy of my money.

Expression Web has a list price of $299.00 and an upgrade price of $99. To be eligible for Expression Web upgrade you must be a licensed user of any version of FrontPage.

  • If you have licensed version of FrontPage and want to learn XHTML, then I’d upgrade to Expression Web unless you plan on developing any ColdFusion, ASP, JSP, or PHP sites.

The $299 price places Expression Web at $100 less than the competition Dreamweaver 8 and GoLive. Both of which have more functionalities than Expression Web. And the extra functionality makes them worth their price, if you need the extra functionalities.

  • If you will be building HTML, XHTML, XML, AND ASP.NET solutions; then Expression Web is your best choice.
  • If you will be building HTML, XHTML, XML, and ANY of the following: ColdFusion, ASP.NET, ASP, JSP, or PHP site or applications; then Dreamweaver  is your best choice.
  • If you will be building just HTML, XHTML sites there are alternatives to Expression Web, Dreamweaver  and GoLive that could save you money.

TopStyle Pro ($79.95), XStandard (a free version or pro version for $179), and Nvu (free) are all very capable XHTML development tools. And there are more out there.

But none of these are best suited for those that have extremely limited knowledge of XHTML and CSS.

If you are looking for something that was as easy as FrontPage, Expression Web and GoLive are going to be the closest thing, but Expression Web wins out on a cost basis. Yet GoLive has a fairly robust support organization that Expression Web is yet to gain and that support may help you, and then there is also its integration with other Adobe Products.

If you are learning or want to learn and want a first time web development tool to work with, then I might play with Nvu for a while, and then purchase TopStyle Pro. Once you’ve become proficient with TopStyle you may very well be happy with it or you might want to move to Dreamweaver , GoLive or Expression Web if you want more site management capabilities and are ready to start building dynamic web sites.

Now if you all want to do is develop or maintain a web site and you lack the knowledge of XHTML and CSS then you have a couple of options.

Use template files and build your web sites based on a template.

  • You can always use many of the included template files that many web service providers offer for free with their services.
  • Purchase a template for use and use any of the above mentioned tools to edit them. Templates for sale come in a great variety and levels of quality. Many if not most templates are still based on table layouts and may not have very friendly CSS Style sheets for use, if any at all. Some of the best templates are produced by Project VII and but are designed for Dreamweaver. Organizations like Project VII are one of the reasons that Dreamweaver may be a better option than Expression Web, if you are buying a program for the first time.
  • Start to learn XHTML  and CSS and use any of the tools above.
    • You may be able to use any of the above products and start with one of the templates included with the program or if you are just maintaining a site then you could use any of these tools and start to pick up html, XHTML and css as you go along.

You maybe able to save a little money -

  • If you are a student at an accredited school you can purchase academic version of any of the major programs. But the programs are typically licensed allowing only the production of non-commercial web sites.
  • If you purchase a copy of an older FrontPage program then buy the Expression Web Upgrade. But this can be fraught with illegal copies of FrontPage so make sure you buy from a reliable source.

Expression Web is very capable tool but depends on your level of knowledge to develop the type of web site you desire.

None of these tools are web page or web site design tools.  The design knowledge must come from someone. And graphics becomes a significant factor in web design. So having the abilities to use graphic design tools is important.

Today there are fewer and fewer “web masters” that do the graphic and web site design. And the ease of producing web sites with tools like FrontPage are quickly vanishing. When using many web sites they may seem so simple and easy to use, that it would seem anyone could develop them. But there is a lot more to it than most realize.

There are four major parts to a web site

  • The content
  • The front end or the user interface you see and use
  • The backend or the server and scripting technologies used to power the web site
  • and the information architecture structure that blends the site together

All are integrated and must work together to provide a worthy web site. And each part requires considerable knowedge, skills and time to do it right.

The more content the site provides the more complicated the structure becomes.

If you are a business person looking to develop your own start-up business web site, I’d highly recommend that you hire someone to develop your site for you. A custom site that reflects the business values you want to impart to your customers, your web site is a reflection of how you do business!