Web Design Programs and Tools

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Web Design
Programs and Tools

by Lynn Greiner

Docid: 00011394

Publication Date: 1708

Report Type: TUTORIAL


Web design long ago grew beyond its origins as a relatively simple
development practice focused mainly on a site’s appearance and basic
navigational structure. Design now incorporates database administration, content
management, and software architecture considerations as well as allowing for
user-generated content and media sharing. There are many programs and tools that
can help perform these tasks. The trick is to choose the right product for the
specific goals and demands of each individual project.

Report Contents:

Executive Summary

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As the Web has grown more complex, the number of tools needed to create and
manage a typical site has increased accordingly.


Related Faulkner Reports
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A team of Web developers today might use different applications for each of
the following tasks: Page layout, graphic design, rich media creation, and
building or integrating software programs. Many sites also use blogs,
syndicated feeds (e.g., really simple syndication, aka RSS), and podcasts, which are
created and distributed using additional tools. Growth in the
mobile Web and the semantic Web, create the need for
even more products.

The amount and diversity of all the files published on a typical business Web site
have brought about the need for content management
software to track and control items. Even project management software is sometimes
necessary to help coordinate the activities of a large, multidisciplinary Web team.

Organizations sometimes standardize on a particular Web development architecture
to better integrate various projects. For instance, an organization that favors
open source software may choose to adopt the LAMP development stack,
which uses Linux as its operating platform, Apache as its Web server, MySQL as
its database, and either PHP, Python, or Perl as its primary scripting language.
(An alternative software stack, WAMP, substitutes Windows for Linux.)

An organization could foster interoperability
by limiting the number of tools it uses or by trying to select tools from a small
range of vendors. For instance, it could standardize on Adobe products for
graphics and rich media applications. Yet even with the most aggressive efforts,
the process of developing a Web site will still be complex, making it as much of
a management task as a technical one. Therefore,  the leader of a
development team might be a chief information officer or project manager
rather than a programmer or designer.


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Designing a business Web site is a multi-faceted process. It involves creating a
visually-appealing online presence that is also convenient to use on a number of
operating system platforms, delivering a range
of services (e.g., credit card processing or searching), and managing a large
volume of data (such as customer order history, product catalogs, and billing information).
Furthermore, corporate executives are likely to demand that Web development
teams provide information about customer
buying trends and other data for use in strategy development. And, on top of all this, the site must be secure.

Organizations will use a multitude of tools to
accomplish these tasks. Table 1 provides an overview of common categories of
Web development tools and identifies some of the most popular products in each

Table 1. Web Design Programs and Tools Overview


Representative Products

Web Authoring Web authoring tools are the key products used for
creating Web pages and designing the fundamental layout and functionality of a
site. The most basic of these tools, HTML editors, enable users to create simple
Web pages. Although the simplest of these tools are not up to the task of being
the primary application for building a complex corporate site, they may still be
used as a tool for ordinary users to contribute HTML content that will be
published online.

Adobe ColdFusion, Dreamweaver CC,
Corel Website Creator (also part of CorelDRAW Graphics Suite), CoffeeCup. There are also many
inexpensive or free HTML editors including the W3C’s Amaya, Microsoft
Expression Web, Macaw, Webflow, and Google Web Designer (in beta)

Graphics Editors

Graphics editors provide designers with tools for manipulating image files.
These tools are essential for creating images that conform to the look and style
of a Web site, matching its overall design.

Adobe Photoshop, CorelDRAW Graphics Suite

Content Management

Content management applications automate many of the tasks associated with
tracking and storing data published on a Web site, from HTML files to video clips. In Web design,
content managers serve two primary functions. First, they help regulate the
approval of content for publication and automatically post approved
content to its designated location on a site. Second, they provide the mechanism
for offering Web site visitors personalized content.

OpenText Documentum Platform, IBM FileNet Content Manager, Microsoft SharePoint, OpenText
ECM Suite

Middleware/ Application Servers

Most of today’s large Web sites pull data from a backend
database. Middleware is a type of software that brokers connections
between Web servers and databases.

Oracle WebLogic, IBM WebSphere

Web 2.0 Tools

These applications enable organizations to create and distribute content such as blogs, podcasts, RSS feeds,
and wikis. Many products address several of these technologies.

eTouch SamePage, MindTouch Applications,
Drupal, Joomla,  WordPress

Mobile Development Tools

These applications enable organizations to create and distribute content on tablets and mobile devices.

Cascades, Visual Studio, Android Studio, xcode, Swift,
BlackBerry Dynamics.

Decisions about which applications and tools to
use for each of these functions will often be made in coordination. Many
organizations choose to standardize their development efforts on a particular
software stack, which is a group of platforms that collectively constitute a development
platform. One of the most popular stacks is LAMP, which
comprises the following:

  • Linux
  • Apache
  • MySQL
  • PHP/Perl/Python

Each of these components is an independent
environment. They were not designed to work together, but they have
been deployed extensively as a bundle and have proven to be effective
together. Also, many of the development issues involved in integrating the
components of this particular stack have been worked out through the open source model.

The components of LAMP are all free and open source. As a result, using LAMP as a development platform can help organizations contain costs. There are other benefits as well: LAMP is flexible, allowing organizations to build their own applications. Furthermore, the add-ons, application programming interfaces (APIs), and components that other
organizations have built using LAMP are often available for use, providing proven, pre-built tools.
Finally, in the view of some developers, LAMP is more secure than Windows and other proprietary environments.

An alternative to LAMP is WAMP, which
comprises the following:

  • Windows
  • Apache
  • MySQL
  • PHP/Perl/Python

Application development technology and
tools are often part of a Web development team’s arsenal. For instance,
although a fair amount of scripting work is still done manually, there are some commercial products designed to assist in the
development of Web-based applications. Debuggers may be considered a
subset of this category. Products for rapid application development (commonly
called "RAD") or software modeling are other related tools.


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In the early days of the Internet, Web design focused primarily on how Web
pages looked. Today, design focuses on what a Web site
does – whether it provides RSS feeds, user customization, multimedia,
interactivity, and so on.
This shift in the market has been mirrored by changes in Web design products.
For instance, years ago, Microsoft’s showcase Web development tool was
FrontPage, an HTML editor with a WYSIWYG interface and compatibility with other
Office products. It was replaced by the Microsoft Expression suite, which
offered a more comprehensive set of tools. This, too, has been supplanted by
tools integrated into Visual Studio. While Expression Web is now available as a
free download, it is no longer being developed. Today, however, Microsoft’s
SharePoint, which is designed to enable users to create business applications
for the Web, has become more important
within the company’s product line; Visual Studio provides development tools for
this platform, including Xamarin for
mobile development.

Partly as a result of Web 2.0 developments, many organizations will use multiple
tools for Web design. In the past, most organizations would use just one Web
development tool for all (or at least almost all) of their Web design processes.
They might have used one or two supplementary tools (e.g., Adobe Flash), but today, design teams are using even more tools.

Today, software vendors are moving towards an as-a-service
model, meaning that developers will no longer be purchasing licenses, but rather
subscribing to their products of choice. It’s a mixed blessing: developer tools
will be continually updated, plugging security holes, but they will cost more,
since developers no longer have the choice of buying a license and using the
licensed version for the long term. They will received new features (and
possibly have old ones removed), without the ability to object.

The capabilities of Web design tools continue to evolve and adapt to a
changing Web, particularly newer standards (such as HTML5 or CSS3) and a greater use
of interactivity and social networks. The explosive growth in requirements for
mobile-friendly Web sites is pushing developers into new ground as well; the
"mobile first" mantra should govern practically all new designs.

Additionally, developers will have to revisit existing
sites to deal with industry developments such as Adobe’s long-overdue
announcement that it is phasing out Flash by the end of 2020. Many browsers
today already block the technology, which is viewed as a security risk, and
Google automatically converts Flash ads to HTML5. Over the next few years, sites
using Flash must be rebuilt or they will cease to function.


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This is a period of rapid growth and change in
the Web sector, with new technologies and new applications for these
technologies emerging quickly. Talk about business
uses for blogging, RSS, or Wiki technology used to be rare and highly speculative. Now these technologies are part of the public consciousness and are being used
business sites. The smartphone market is also contributing to evolution in Web
design, as consumers demand rich yet usable sites available from their phones.
"Mobile first" is not just the catchphrase for developers, it is a
rule to live by.

use of
service oriented architectures (SOAs) will continue to affect Web
development efforts. An SOA consists of a network of individual software
components that can be brought together and used as needed for specific
projects. An SOA is not a specific technology, but an infrastructure, and there are commercial
tools and services that can be used to create this infrastructure:

  • HPE Pointnext
  • IBM WebSphere for SOA
  • Oracle SOA Suite

Looking further down the road, there is a
movement underway to fundamentally change the nature of data published on the
Web. The movement seeks to make data easier for computer applications to
automatically search and sort, creating a "semantic Web." Achieving
this goal will involve the use of languages such as XML, HTML5, and Web Ontology
Language (abbreviated as "OWL"). The development of the semantic Web will take
considerable time, and it is not yet something developers need to keep foremost
in mind when
building sites. But developers will benefit from tracking the evolution of the
semantic Web because it could eventually be part of a
massive shift in design practices.


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All but the simplest of
today’s online businesses are built with multiple design tools. There are two
approaches to choosing which tools to use:

  • The best-of-breed
    approach, which entails individually selecting the tool for each Web-design function. Organizations that adopt this
    approach will often allow individual members of the development team to choose
    their preferred tools. This approach may introduce issues regarding training and
    continuity within teams.
  • Approve a suite or a narrow range of products that can be used.
    With this approach, the interoperability of tools will be as important as the capabilities of each. An advantage of this
    approach is that it is often less expensive since organizations will wring as
    much functionality as possible out of each product rather than purchasing a
    separate, specialized tool to fulfill a specific need.

Most organizations, almost inevitably, will use a hybrid of these two
approaches. Organizations will already have many Web design tools in place, and
these tools were likely acquired at different times. It would be disruptive and
financially impractical for an organization to abruptly change all of the products it uses for Web development. Over time, however, as the natural
lifecycles of products are completed and as circumstances demand the addition of
new tools, organizations can enforce more uniformity on the materials
used to build their Web sites. Some flexibility can still be allowed, however. For instance,
a list of
products approved for use can include more than one item in a given category,
giving individual designers and developers some latitude to choose their
preferred tools.

Today, the process of designing a corporate Web site often involves many
practices outside of IT, so Web development projects require a multidisciplinary
effort. A security presence on the team is critical in order to avoid the possibility of
breaches and their associated liability. A Web team could be led by someone other than a
developer, such as a chief information officer, project
manager, or even a business manager with little IT experience. There are
project management tools available to help in overseeing a team. These applications may already
be in use by other departments in the organization – there may even be some
unused licenses. This could help to smooth some growing pains.

Manageability is another critical component. As sites
become more complex, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep them up-to-date,
yet an inaccurate or outdated site reflects poorly on the business.

The mobile first imperative also changes designer focus, and thus the
tools required to realize their designs. Effective tools must accommodate and
adapt to the plethora of screen sizes, shapes, and resolutions that sites must
be displayed on. Mobile can no longer be an afterthought; like security, it must
be considered from from the initial design.

Designers may also need to learn new products. Since
Adobe Flash will be obsolete and unsupported by Adobe, and by browsers, by the
end of 2020, sites making use of the technology must be rebuilt in another way,
or they will cease to function. This will involve new tools, and new skills.

Finally, the effectiveness of any product should be put into perspective. No matter
which tools an organization implements, there will likely still be the need for
some manual processes (e.g., scripting) and a significant amount of staff expertise will
always be required.

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About the Author

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Lynn Greiner is Vice President, Technical Services, for a division of a
multi-national corporation, and also an award-winning computer industry
journalist. Ms. Greiner is a regular contributor to Faulkner Information
Services and a member of the Advisory Panel.

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