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Call to Arms

Get your site-building software in marching order: Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is domination of the World Wide Web!
June 1, 2001
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/40650

This is for the do-it-yourselfers out there. We assume you've got a decent computer and the hankering to put your business Web site up for all to see. But you can't do that without building an arsenal of Web authoring software. Thankfully, the days of cooking up a Web page by slaving over a hot text document are over. The current crop of HTML editors provide page previews, tag shortcuts and more wizards than Dungeons and Dragons. There's a program out there for every type of entrepreneur, from rank amateur to technophile. Here's how to get started . . .

HOT BUY
Need to do HTML programming on the cheap? Try out CoffeeCup HTML Editor. It features a split-screen live preview; built-in FTP function; 125 JavaScripts; and a host of great graphics, icons and photos from Corel. A variety of wizards make creating tables, forms and frames a painless process.

CoffeeCup Software
CoffeeCup HTML Editor
(361) 887-7778
www.coffeecup.com
Street price: $49

The Basics

First, how will users see your Web site? You've probably come down on one side or the other in the Browser Wars. Maybe you won't touch Microsoft Internet Explorer with a 10-foot cyberpole. Maybe you think Netscape Navigator is just so much Web wreckage on the shoulder of the Information Superhighway. Maybe you don't lose sleep over either one. Regardless, you need them both.

The Web community is split between Explorer and Navigator, so it's essential to design your Web site with both in mind. Most HTML appears pretty much the same using either, but the browsers do have numerous, yet small, differences. It's best to test your Web pages in both before launching them online. Check for a consistent appearance, make sure all links function properly, and pay special attention to any frames, tables, JavaScript or plug-ins that your pages use.

Because a lot of surfers don't upgrade their browsers regularly, you should also test with earlier versions (like Netscape 3.0 and Internet Explorer 4.0). You can visit www.netscape.com to download versions of Navigator and www.microsoft.com to download Internet Explorer.

Web Design

HOT BUY
Streaming media is on the cutting edge of the high-tech Web experience. Web site operators use it to create public interest, demonstrate products and provide compelling content. Sonic Foundry's Stream Anywhere enables the creation of streaming audio and video for easy integration into your business site. For Windows only.

Sonic Foundry
Stream Anywhere
(800) 577-6642
www.sonicfoundry.com
Street price: $125

Fortunately, you don't have to memorize all the text tags in HTML 4.01 to put up your Web site. But if you want to take full advantage of programs like CoffeeCup HTML Editor (see "Hot Buy" on page 120), you can get a jump on things with the libraries of Web building resources and tutorials at Builder.com and WebMonkey.com.

Now we're ready to tackle the software that'll do most of the grunt work for you. Before we wander into the Microsoft camp, let's look at Macromedia Dreamweaver and NetObjects Fusion.

You know Macromedia for its high-octane Shockwave and Flash Web animation software. It also makes the popular Dreamweaver for Macintosh or Windows, a $299 (all prices street) HTML editing program that includes features like an integrated text editor for users who already know some HTML, Microsoft Office integration, and Flash buttons and text for adding spice to your site's appearance. Dreamweaver is especially good for integrating multimedia.

If you're not already somewhat familiar with HTML and Web site design, Dreamweaver's palette of advanced features may seem a bit overwhelming. NetObjects Fusion ($99.95) is a less expensive way to try your hand and is also specifically geared toward building sites for businesses. Available for Windows only, Fusion is designed with a drag-and-drop interface, various e-commerce wizards and pre-designed templates that can simplify the process even more.

Then, of course, there's Microsoft, which leaves no software stone unturned. Its HTML editor, FrontPage 2000 ($149), offers integration with Microsoft Office 2000 and comes with more than 60 business themes to give your site a consistent appearance. To get the most out of your investment, check with your Web hosting provider to see whether it supports FrontPage extensions. Also, visit OutFront.net, a "Microsoft FrontPage Learning Community," for its full stock of Web templates, tutorials, forums and links.

Extras

NO MONEY DOWN(LOADS)
Software sites where you can try it before you buy it Surf these sites to get your hands on tasty shareware, freeware and demo programs:

Download.com: CNET's massive directory of downloadable software includes entire sections devoted to Web authoring, multimedia and design, and "Webware."
Jumbo.com: A library of shareware and freeware downloads with separate "Business" and "Internet" categories.
Tucows.com: Large software library sortable by computer platform, category and search function (see right). Regional downloading feature improves transfer speeds.

A good HTML editor will handle most of your Web site building, but sometimes extra programs add icing to the Web cake. Our "Hot Buy" (above) adds streaming media to your site. Or try Adobe LiveMotion ($299, www.adobe.com), which creates Web animations and interactive graphics. With a user interface styled after Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, LiveMotion is especially useful for those of you who have Adobe graphics backgrounds.

NetMechanic offers a host of tools for optimizing your site. Its HTML Toolbox searches pages for HTML coding, link and spelling errors. Try it free at NetMechanic.com. (The full version starts at $40 per year for up to 100 pages.) NetMechanic's GIFBot is a freeware program that compresses Web images for faster-loading pages. Never overestimate the patience of a Net surfer when it comes to slow-loading Web sites.

Most important, choose software that meets your HTML comfort level. Any of the programs we looked at can give your online business presence the room it needs to grow.