By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Seeking Web design advice

Later this year I’m going to take on a significant Web-design project for a nonprofit organization. I’m not promising anything spectacular — just something that will be reasonably well-organized and up-to-date.

For my own modest sites (like this), I use SeaMonkey, a free, open-source descendant of the soon-to-be-late Netscape. I like the price, obviously, and the results are fine for my limited purposes. There are two things about it that I don’t like, though:

  1. When I make revisions, the underlying HTML code doesn’t clean itself up. To the contrary, it gets gloppier, to the point where sometimes I have to look at the source code and fix things by hand. I don’t want to do this, and I’m not good at it. It would be a major pain with a larger site.
  2. SeaMonkey is bare-bones, and provides no help in the way of templates or automated features to improve the appearance or performance of the site.

I briefly considered Apple’s iWeb before concluding that it was too limited even for me. I gave the open-source KompoZer a whirl and decided it was buggier than SeaMonkey (and less well supported).

Next up: RapidWeaver, Freeway Express and, of course, the big one, Adobe’s Dreamweaver, which strikes me as way more than I need, but which would certainly amount to a comprehensive solution.

So if there are any residents of Media Nation with good advice for an OS X Web-design program, I’d love to hear from you.

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  1. Jason Butler

    Good morning Dan – I prefer hand-editing my site. If you want to go down that road, you can’t go wrong with BBEdit or TextMate — both of which are native to the Mac.If you’re looking for a more visual environment, you might want to try out Coda, from Panic Software —'s Mac-native, and it stays beautifully out of your way.Cheers,Jason

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Jason: Will check out Coda. No, I certainly don’t want to code by hand! But thank you for the tip.

  3. Tony

    Speaking of that, I too would eventually like to learn more than I have learned about this stuff and maybe even more to fancier design abilities, eventually moving away from the blogger software entirely.Here is just one reason why: Blogger has put a Word Verification on my posting on my own site, for whatever reason. It was done about three days ago and they claim it is because my site is a spam site. You would think after five years of posting on the same site, more than 1,100 times, they would know by now that it isn’t a spam site. There was a prompt to have my spam gateway “reevaluated” by staff at a later date. So far, it remains, and it’s annoying. Earlier today, while searching for a way to resolve the problem, in the help center, Blogger states that they have implemented this policy to blogs that post a lot, assuming they are spam blogs. So, arbitrarily, they just decided my blog was a spam blog because I make a lot of individual posts! There have also been problems with the word verification process. Often, it will sit there for an hour saying it is saving the text when it hasn’t. Lastly, I have searched high and low and there is no customer service contact information anywhere. So, essentially, you’re flying blind. I’m almost tempted to bail on Blogger at this point. Having used WordPress for a bunch of months now through work, I have grown accustomed to their software even if it doesn’t offer as many doodads as Blogger.

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Tony: I don’t know if you’re a Mac user, but I do know that iWeb makes it pretty easy to set up a blog on your own site. For that matter, you can use Blogger to publish to your own site, which I imagine would lead them to call off the dogs.

  5. DJS

    One thing to consider is that, as an employee of Northeastern, you can get steep discounts on all Macromedia / Adboe products, including Dreamweaver.It may be overkill for what you’re doing now, but it’s not too difficult to learn and will be useful to you for many years.I believe you can buy an ‘education’ version of the web bundle that includes Dreamweaver and Flash.Very useful, and a great deal.Doug

  6. Tony

    Using Vista, which I like a lot. I may have to look into using something to publish to my own site, especially since I have the domain names forwarded to Blogger.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Doug: That’s an excellent point, and I had forgotten about it. And yes, Dreamweaver is overkill for my purposes, but not any more than Microsoft Word!

  8. Peter Porcupine

    Tony – while I’m comfortable with blogger, I have every posted auto-forwarded to my Gmail account. While I might lose graphics and links, I have all my text and work. Likewise, when I bought my name,, I set up a front page with a link to the blog, so I don’t have to rely on a blogspot name if I change.For my actual web site – my daughter married a web designer. I have no clue what he uses, but it looks great.I just got a new setup, and Vista doesn’t seem as bad as advertised. If I could only stop playing Bejewelled….

  9. Anonymous

    The educational license from Adobe will not allow you to create a production website, even if it’s for a non-profit. It’s for use in classes only. They’d never know, but I know you’re a stickler for copyright/licensing issues.I normally recommend that my clients use either a content management system or Adobe Contribute, depending on exactly what they’re trying to accomplish. There are many free, open source CMS’s out there. Drupal is a popular one. Others are Joomla, Mambo, PHP-Nuke, and Xoops, but there dozens of others.Contribute is a sort of WYSIWYG site editor. It’s about $150 and works *reasonably* well.

  10. Tunnels

    Hello Dan,Consider NVU‘ve used it for two years now on both Apple Macs and Windows. It’s good but can be “gloppy” too when a lot of changes are made.Nvu (pronounced N-view) Finally! A complete Web Authoring System for Linux desktop users as well as Microsoft Windows and Macintosh users to rival programs like FrontPage and Dreamweaver. Nvu (which stands for “new view”) makes managing a web site a snap. Now anyone can create web pages and manage a website with no technical expertise or knowledge of HTML.

  11. Dan Kennedy

    My understanding is that NVU isn’t kept current, and that KompoZer is actually the same program only a little better maintained. I did give KompoZer a try, but got some weird spacing and decided to go back to SeaMonkey.On another note, I also learned today that Google has an online program called Page Creator. Very unimpressive at first glance, though.

  12. Bill Weye

    Dan, check out PageSpinner, a program that I’ve been using for a couple of years now.

  13. Ryan

    I recommend using Dreamweaver for your project. You may pay more for it up front compared to other programs, but you will be pleased with the results. It is a worthwhile investment. Ryan

  14. Gladys Kravitz

    Dan, I am a web designer and I too have always disdained gloppiness. I have used Macromedia’s Homesite since… well seems like forever. I’ve made some really lovely sites with it It’s not as intuitive as some programs, and it’s not as feature-rich as others, but if you’ve already created sites, you’ll be fine. Otherwise, give me a call ;~)

  15. Dan Kennedy

    Gladys: Sounds like a good program, but there doesn’t seem to be a Mac version. Actually, you know what was a really great program? Claris Home Page, later Filemaker Home Page. But it never made it out of OS 9.

  16. California Web Designer

    Good thing, but how about learning Web 2.0 layouts to have your site get large amount of traffic?

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