Business-like, isn't he?



Business in Vancouver: News that works for you

    Web-page program lowers cost of site upkeep

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2003 First published in Business in Vancouver ,  Issue #714 July1-7 2003, High Tech Office  column

    Where do all those Web page come from? Anticipating a mass market of individuals wanting to make their own, software companies like Adobe, Symantec,Claris, and others all released easy-to-use Web page creation software, all products that are now nowhere to found.

    Most business Web sites are, instead, the creation of professional designers using pro-level tools like Macromedia’s Dreamweaver. Many of those sites need to be frequently updated, adding press releases, or reflecting relatively minor price or product changes. And that presents a problem.

    Should you bring back that high-priced outside design consultant every time you need to change a few words on a page? Or should you buy expensive software and put it in the hands of clerical staff, giving them the power to make extensive changes to your site’s design?

    Macromedia’s new $150 Contribute may be the answer to this problem. It’s a relatively-affordable new twist on easy-to-use Web page creation software. Where the earlier, no-longer-available products like Adobe PageMill or Claris HomePage aimed at helping individuals build Web pages from the ground up, Contribute is aimed at businesses, giving designated employees the ability to edit existing pages or add new pages to a Web site without being able to tamper with the existing design.

    Users don’t need to know anything about HTML coding to use Contribute to update their business’s Web site. Instead, Contribute works with Internet Explorer, letting users browse the Web to find the page that needs updating. A click on an Edit button replaces the browser with a set of editing tools, which act like a familiar word processor. Users can insert or replace text, change pictures, work with tables, or create links. Information currently existing in files saved by programs like Microsoft Word or Excel  can be dragged and dropped into the Web page. The updated pages can be easily published back on the Web site.

    In the background, company’s IT departments need to set up access to the Web site, using Contribute (or Dreamweaver) to create encrypted connection keys; these ensure that only authorized users can make changes to the site. Users access can be limited in a variety of ways to protect the basic design from unwanted changes. Contribute includes useful features, such as ensuring that two users cannot overwrite each other’s work. Templates can be used so that new pages fit into the site’s core design. And new pages can be passed around for comments prior to publishing them onto the Web site.

    Based on Macromedia’s Dreamweaver engine, Contribute works well on sites developed with the full product. It can also be used on Web pages developed with other tools, such as Adobe GoLive or Microsoft FrontPage. Unlike some Web page creation programs, it produces clean HTML code that is easily viewed in most browsers.

    Currently, Contribute is Windows-only; Macromedia expects to release a Mac version later this year. Users may find themselves needing more than the Spartan printed Quickstart guide included in the package. Macromedia Contribute for Windows by Tom Negrino ($32, Peachpit Press) or Roadmap to Macromedia Contribute by Josph Lowery ($38, Macromedia Press) both offer tightly-written references, making it easy for users to hone in on just what they need to get up and running with the program.

    Ironically, by offering less power, Macromedia Contribute can empower users to make their own changes to their business Web site, knowing that they can do so safely without affecting the site’s design or structure.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan