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|optimizing a site written in FrontPage (part 1)|
trying to make FrontPage leave things alone
I'm optimizing a site written in FrontPage, and I'm beginning to understand all the nasty things I've read about the program, which, up till now, I've managed to avoid.
The webmaster I'm working with inherited the site, so he's not a FP expert either.
Big problem we're having is that the page titles I'm using for optimization come up as text in the navigation buttons... a nasty surprise. Any way around this?
I vaguely remember reading somewhere that one possible solution would be to generate the site in FrontPage and then go into each page with a text editor to insert the proper titles. Can anyone suggest a better approach?
Also, what other surprises should I be expecting, and what, if any, are the work-arounds?
Here is a site with Front page tutorials you might be able to point the designer to:
<edit>Reread post and took out all the cr*p I figured didn't help anyway and would prob p*ss people off. </edit>
Edited by: grnidone
>>> He got back to me and said that the page title also appeared in the page heading graphic up at the top and in the "nav bar" down below, and that my titles were too long to fit. <<<
If he didn't originally set up his pages in Frontpage's navigation view, when he does this later it does in fact use the page title. All he needs to do is rename these in the navigation view to what he wants showing on his navigation buttons - using tab this will only take a minute to do. This does not in any way change his meta page titles.
Jeez! After reading through that again, I really have to wonder if maybe that's how he's trying to change the page title? All he needs to do is copy the metas you gave him and paste them into the html view. grnidone
is right - it's your job to tell him what to change, but not how to do it. If he needs help with making the changes (beyond what I posted and the tutorial G posted) have him drop in at www.frontpagewebmaster.com and ask for help.
Thank you! I've sent off all relevant posts and some others just for fun.... I'm hoping Linda's post plus the online tutorial does indeed do it.
I think we need to clarify a few points here folks.
First of all, let me say that I use FrontPage all the time. That is a fact I am neither proud of nor ashamed of, it is simply a fact.
I use FrontPage because it does what I need it to do. I understand HTML code enough to read it and fix any major problems, but I don't have the knowledge and skill to code a website from scratch by hand. For those that can I have the utmost admiration, but I cannot. I have a seriously heavy workload for the next twelve months or so and FP allows me to do the work I have to do quickly, efficiently and cleanly. If I had to devote time to learning and practicing hand coding then nothing would get done.
There seems to be a lot of talk here about the value and worthiness of FrontPage which I think is worth evaluating again. The question really is "how do we judge FP"? As the primary focus for this site is optimisation, the temptation is to judge the program solely on that issue. However, there are so many side issues to optimisation that we deal with every day that to judge FP on that basis alone is not fair and equitable.
The criteria for judging whether FP is a good tool or not is whether FP does what the owner wants it to do.
I have a screwdriver at home. It has rounded and burred edges with a notch in the blade. Absolutely useless for screwing screws, but absolutely fantastic for gently moving piano strings along the bridge whilst they are still under strain. You see, I purposely burred the edges and notched the end to produce the result I wanted because a new and sharp screwdriver would snap the string and probably take my eye out along the way. Anyone else looking at my modified screwdriver would probably throw it out as rubbish without understanding its true worth.
The true worth of Front Page is as a site building tool, not as an SEO tool, and so it should not be harshly judged as something it is not.
There are many people out there who have a lot to contribute to the Internet community and who know nothing about html code let alone hand coding. WYSISYG programs help those people get their thoughts up on the web to share with the rest of us. Without these sorts of programs then there would be a lot less content on the web, good, bad or otherwise.
In particular, I know that there are thousands (probably millions) of people in China who use Chinese FP to code pages because the interface is in a language they understand - Chinese. They cannot hand code because html is in English!
Can any of you imagine if we all had to code web pages in Japanese Characters?
So really, we need to view FP as the tool its user requires it to be, not our interpretation of what we think it should be.
FP is built in such a way that you can use what parts of it you need. And if you use it carefully and wisely, as you would do with any tool, you can produce quality results.
There are two main parts to FP, the html generator, and the site programming bots and functions. It is these bots and functions that create the problems.
It is a widely accepted tenet that FP produces html that does not conform to the W3C standards. However, that tenet is untrue, and I have proved it.
I have written pages in FrontPage that pass through the W3c validator with flying colours without editing the raw code.
I would speculate that many of the statements made about the validity of FP code are based on assumptions and heresay. Has anyone here run clean FP html through a validator lately?
As I mentioned above, there are two parts to FP, the html generator, and the site programming bots and functions. It is these bots and functions that create the problems. If you avoid them then the html is clean.
I am not debating whether it could be better, chances are it could but I will leave that up to the experts in hand coding who obviously have a better handle on code that I do. But the clean code it produces does conform to the W3c standards, period.
Also, which version of FP are we talking about - FP97, FP98 or FP2000? As I understand the situation, the code produced by FP97 & FP98 was not as clean as it should be; en error that was recognised by Microsoft and corrected in FP2000. So most of the problems people are complaining about could have been produced by the earlier versions of the program.
Remember that FP is not a tool for SEO any more than Notepad is. Everyone is talking about how good Notepad is at producing clean code but in actual fact Notepad produces no code whatsoever; it simply records the code input to it by the programmer and so the accolades should go to the programmer not the program.
My background is in music. One thing I have learned is that the very best of instruments can produce rubbish, whilst instruments of lesser quality can be made to sing. It all depends on the operator.
Anyone can sit down at a piano and run their fingers up and down the keys to produce noise and sound. But it takes a talented and practiced musician to press just the right keys at just the right time, with just the right force, and in just the right order to produce that which we call music.
Equally, I have listened to street musicians around the world producing absolutely stunning music with nothing more that a cardboard box, a few old cans, a broken guitar, a violin with strings missing, ... well you get the idea.
Both Notepad and FP are simply instruments to record the ideas of the user. And, with both programs, if the user inputs garbage, either through inexperience or lack of talent, then the output will likewise be garbage; garbage in - garbage out.
But in the hands of skilled and talented operators, both programs can produce quality results.
FP is a program with which it is easy to produce acceptable on-screen results using the inbuilt bots and helpers without really understanding the consequences and therein lies the problem.
I disagree that FP is only for non-professionals and not for professionals doing compatible work. For one thing, that would mean that I am out of a job. But seriously, any program is a bad choice if it is used incorrectly. Just the same as an empty Notepad would be a bad choice in my hands yes?
You see, there are levels, and there are levels. I am not at the top, I am not at the bottom, but I am not about to give up simply because of the program I choose to use.
Tedster is the only one who has alluded to the fact that the problem may be not in the program itself, but in the market targeting and subsequent misuse of the program. And someone put the icing on the cake talking about the Dreamweaver user mangling a site despite warnings about FP users. Well, I rest my case your honour! It is not necessarily the tool but more probably the operator.
I am not a FrontPage evangelist so don't worry, I am not about to go around these fora suggesting people use FP all the time, but I do feel I need to come to the defence in this case.
So what's the bottom line with Frontpage?
1. If you are going to use FP then get version 2000, it is the cleanest.
2. Stay away from the bots as much as possible as they will cloud the code. Infact the only bot I use is the include page bot and then only sparingly. (Yes I know I can do the same thing with SSI or ASP includes but I choose not to.)
3. If you are going to use bots then be prepared to find a server with FP extensions. Otherwise clean FP code is fine on any *nix server. I have done it many times.
4. Don't use themes and borders as they will muddy the code more than the bots.
5. Be happy with your choices and remember it is possible to write acceptable and clean code with FP as long as you are careful.
Whilst this site is focused on SEO topics we will try to help with programming problems where we can from an SEO point of view. As to more detailed help about FP, well as you know, normally URLs are frowned upon in these fora, but the one that has sneaked into this discussion seems to have quite a few good tips.
Linda, thanks for your help, I hope you can throw a few more moments of help to Fpers should the need arise.
>The criteria for judging whether FP is a good tool or not is whether FP does what the owner wants it to do.
er no thats not the criteria at all!!
A car gets you from A to B is does what the owner wants it to do.
But what if the car uses 10 X the usual amount of fuel and emits toxic fumes which kill 20 people a day?
Is this still a good tool?
I used FP for over 18 months it did what I wanted it ti do and I didnt understand why people kept going on about how bad it was. I couldnt code a site from scratch so to me FP was great, if I wanted to I could tinker around with the code myself.
Then I moved onto Dreamweaver and started learning more about code and with horror looked back to what FP had done to my previous pages.
All those people were right after all, so maybe when so many people slate something there is good cause behind it.
I wouldnt normally defend FP but Woz is right essentially, the right tool for the right job, FP does what he wants and he accepts that it does not produce the optimal result, I see no problem there.
I mostly program in VB in my day job, I am painfully aware that it has little street cred as a programming language, but as a rad tool for rapidly producing custom software it does the job fine, and quickly. I know it doesnt produce the fastest or smallest executables - but that is not my goal, my goal is rapid development.
Thank you Linda and Woz for the wake up call. We may have given the impression that we were judging the user based on the software they choose to use. If so, that was an oversight - not intentional.
For many, the problems with FrontPage go well beyond the code it generates. Although, I am no open source Zealot, the arguments and evidence put forth by the OS community are very convincing.
Embrace, Extend, Extinguish
It is believed by many (including the administration of the W3C), that FrontPage was designed as part of Microsofts 3E strategy to make the internet dependant upon all Microsoft products.
MS's internet strategy was to wrestle control over the internet, by taking over internet standards. By their own admission it was called the 3E strategy: Embrace, Extend, and Extinguish. They would embrace net standards, then extend those standards with proprietary extensions, and finally extinguish them with 100% MS control over those standards.
The Embrace phase would include working all current standards into Microsoft products at 100% support to meet the standard. Much of that was done around IE3 and 95B. It was an effort to support existing MS customers and begin to make them dependant upon MS for support and future upgrades (eg: The First Time is Free). Those early products in various forms included IE3 (an outstanding browser) and early editions of Outlook Express, MSII WebServer, and FrontPage.
The Extend phase included slight modifications to all net protocols through the above products in a attempt to make them incompatible with other standard products. Those modifications included extensions to HTML, HTTP, Email/Usenet standards, and other core protocols.
Those changes show up today as problems when trying to use non Microsoft products. For example, most nonIE users have problems when trying to connect to any Microsoft operated site. MS operated sites are heavy in proprietary extensions. If it were not for browser sniffing and code delivery by MS themselves, even Netscape users would not be able to use MS.com, HotMail, Expedia.com, or MSNBC.
Most good sites with alert webmasters will correct the problems inherent in using FrontPage to keep their sites compatible with alternative browsers.
The extinguish phase has inadvertently begun. I don't think MS ever thought it would be so easy to remove Netscape and other products as a viable competitors. It is looking like the DOJ in the MS Anti trust trial under the new administration is going to "pull a hamstring" and let MS off with a slap on the wrist. If you've been watching this portion of the appeals process, you can see a completely new Microsoft - a Microsoft who's action signal one thing: we're pissed.
Thus, with MS having no constraints, they are free to vent their anger on the net. Enter, IE6 and the next version of windows due out this fall. Where does an 800lb gorilla set? Any where it wants too.
I think the next version of Windows will be the beginning of the extinguish phase in earnest. It will signal the death nail for many alternative products including browsers. I can foresee MS extending every protocol on the net from HTTP to massive HTML extensions. I think we will see an IE and FrontPage/Office combo that will systematically extend each and every html, css, and http protocol entity available.
Many of us view FrontPage usage as support for the MS 3E strategy. It is supporting nothing short of the take over of the internet through obfuscation of the HTML protocol. Using FrontPage and it's extensions is an attack against your fellow net users who choose to use alternative net standard supporting products.
Specifics problems are very hard to detail because each alternative product tends to have a unique set of problems when trying to access a FrontPage generated site. Many believe that MS intentionally created those problems to attack one alternative product at a time. While Netscape users have a set of problems with FrontPage code, Opera has another.
SEO Problems with FrontPage
There is also the search engine optimization problems associated with Front Page sites. Search engine spiders and indexers are nothing but rudimentary browsers and one or two may have difficulty with Microsoft HTML as generated by FrontPage.
There is also the competitive nature of Search Engines to consider. Do you support your competitors on your pages? It is no different with the search engines. Why should search engines support their prime competitor Microsoft? If search engines can control who gets traffic, then it is clear they would choose to send traffic to those who support them.
SEO Problems with NT Servers
I think most older SEO personnel have discovered over the years that search engines do indeed take notice of what product generated the html they are downloading and what web server was used to server the code. Most agree that if you have a website on an NT server, the same site will rank higher on a Apache server.
Whether right or wrong, yes most older technical people do tend to look down our nose at FrontPage users. Generally, FP users fall into either the corporate clueless that mindlessly use Microsoft products because they know no better, or the New User that knows no better and just needs a webpage.
I completely agree that the attitude is wrong. We need to take more time to point out as specifically as possible, the problems using FrontPage and it's extensions and not just criticize or damn it out-of-hand.
We also need to separate the product from the user. There are many new net users who have no idea of the problems FrontPage has caused and feel it is not only the right thing to use, but that they are safe in using it. Those people shouldn't be written off or criticized for using FP, but instead, it's an education opportunity.
There are many alternatives available to FP, including the outstanding products such as DreamWeaver, or Homesite. Some have their own set of problems and probably cost more than the almost free FrontPage, but they are available and produce quality code.
Thanks for the thought provoking posts.
Found this on the macromedia site its an extension for spceically cleaning up Frontpage Code with Dreamweaver.
"Takes a Microsoft FrontPage HTML page and removes all FrontPage proprietary tags. The code is cleaned so that it conforms to Dreamweaver standards and can be used across all common browsers and platforms. In the process, pages are also simplified so that they are easier to read and edit and more importantly, download faster! "
Not that I wish to belabor this issue, but it still remains to be answered what those of us who have not used FP are to do if we are approached to take over or contribute work on a site that has been done with FP (aside from doing it over from the ground up).
I have indeed seen absolutely beautiful sites that were done in FP - just saw a couple last night. And yes, they were done by professionals, and no, the ones I just saw did not use the proprietary features - the code was not half bad.
BUT!! If we are approached for doing work, we have no control or say over what has been done before.
My experience with FP: I did some work for a site done with FP at the beginning of last summer. I sent change recommendations to the site owner, which he implemented as he wished - used what he wanted, left the rest. He did change the nav bar to regular links, as suggested, and we added some additional text navigation. On only the first (index) page, I totally redid the HTML, as well as making other extensive changes - again, he kept what he wished - but text links to the site were added from the index page. To this very day, the index page sits at #1 under the chosen keyword phrase, and the remainder of the site (still has the FP code) has never yet been crawled or indexed. BTW, tnis didn't take a rocket scientist, folks, he wanted brand recognition, so the company name = the keywords = the domain name, but STILL - it had not ever gotten s/e rankings, in spite of a Yahoo directory listing, and again - the only page with s/e listing at all is my HTML page done from scratch. OK..we are both happy, but the facts are what they are.
I have just recently had to turn down a very lucrative redesign/SEO job because the site was done in FP. I have not the slightest idea how to approach it, unless I allow myself to be coerced into purchasing the software. I refuse. I am unequivocally and diametrically opposed, both philosophically and politically, to being taken hostage by proprietary software. So this woman is restricted to finding someone who uses that software (unless it's done over from scratch), thereby limiting her free choice to choose who she feels is most qualified, and who she wants to work with.
The alternative is to take the job, subcontract the modifications out to a FP user, and use cloaking. Huh? Helloooo? What does that tell me?
So what I am saying here is that yes, there are lovely, professional-looking, even award-winning sites done in FP (I've seen them), but what has happened is that its proprietary nature has caused an isolation and segmentation of the follow-up market once a site is already done.
My apologies. I have, over the past couple of years, become very 'down' on FP and the vast majority of it's users.
Perhaps all the FrontPage code I've seen was generated with the little FP 'helper' bots. Having *never* seen clean FrontPage code, and *never* heard from anyone who managed to produce validating code with FP, I assumed it could not be done.
The vast majority of the FP users I've talked to knew virtually nothing about good graphic design... web promotion... appropriate image optimization... nothing about anything they needed to know. And yet, they bought FP and a yellow page ad and became 'professional web designers'.
While there are some knowledgable FP users out there, they are definitely the minority, and dealing with the majority has built up a lot of knee-jerk negativity for me.
However, I wasn't coming at the discussion from a hand-coder's perspective. I fully understand that a WYSIWYG editor is a HUGE time-saver, and a great help for folks like me who are more comfortable working visually. And I've gotten my share of 'down-the-nose-looking' for using one.
Here is my personal summary of the HTML prestige hierarchy:
Notepad/BBEdit - the hard-core hand coders look down on anyone who uses any kind of WYSIWYG interface. From these folks, I (a lowly GoLive user) would get the same treatment as the lowliest FP user.
HotDog/HoTMetaL/etc. - those strange 'hand-code-helper' apps that the ocassional hand-coder will stoop to using for efficiency's sake.
Dreamweaver - The social caviar of the WYSIWYG crop. DW users can get grudging respect from hand-coders, if they emphasize how often they use DW's code-editing window, and sneer a lot about any auto-scripting functions DW may have.
GoLive - Ranks below Dreamweaver, because it's not nearly as popular. But, can get grudging respect from hand-coders a bit more easily, because the hand-coders know very little about it, it also has a code-editing window, it has a built-in HTML validator, and it's made by Adobe, who puts out the serious and God-like program: PhotoShop.
HomeSite/other little-known WYSIWYGs - Rank below GL or DW because very few use them, but rank above FrontPage, because nobody knows anything about them, and they're not made by Microsoft.
FrontPage - Woe is the dignity of the designer using FrontPage... for they will be lumped in with every know-nothing, Geocities-dwelling, amateur creator of a Beloved Pet Memorial site. Few people in the above categories know anything about FP, for it is so low in esteem they are afraid to sully their varying reputation levels by having to admit to having used it... unless said admission is used for good humor effect:
|*blush* "Well, I started out on FrontPage... *giggle* Thank GOD I learned my mistakes quickly! Now I hand-code everything in <insert popular Linux text editor here>... it's SO much better than Notepad!" |
FrontPage loses MEGA perstige points for being put out by Microsoft.
Woz, I'd like to thank you for your post... while I still don't think FrontPage is the best choice in WYSIWYG design programs ;) (for the reasons listed above by Brett and Marcia), it certainly isn't fair to come off as condemning a person for their choice in software.
>Woe is the dignity of the designer using FrontPage... for they will be lumped in with every know-nothing, Geocities-dwelling, amateur creator of a Beloved Pet Memorial site.
Mivox, I think you have hit the nail on the head. I am sure there are a lot of FrontPage poeple here (in fact I know there are more than we think) who are afraid to put their hand up for fear of being "slapped around a little".
Personally, I don't really care what other prople think of me for using FP. I was taught many years that when it some to self-esteem, "what other people think of me is none of my business".
I think we all need to agree to disagree on some points, let people choose their own tools for their own purposes, and get on with talking about how people can effectivly SEO sites with those tools.
We have heard anough about the problems to know they exist, lets start talking about the solutions.
I for one have no qualms about putting up my hand and admitting to being a FP user. It was the right tool at the right time and has been a tremendous boon in getting acceptable work out the door at a price that the customer wanted to pay and which works quite happily with IE and NS.
Every site is going to need experience and finesse to bring it to life... that is the role of the designer and the tool of choice will always be an individual decision. Does FP have some bad table manners?... yes...are the others faultless?... I doubt that very much?
FP is a tool for getting html onto the page and it does that quite effectively. That process is totally removed from SEO tasks and all the issues that have to taken into account to give a site "findability".
Perfect it ain't, but a hell of a lot of people have got a start on the web that perhaps they wouldn't have without the simplicity of FP.
>>HomeSite/other little-known WYSIWYGs<<
Mivox - One small point, a little off topic, but what the hell... HomeSite isn't a WYSIWYG, though I haven't seen the most recent versions. In fact, I believe that HomeSite used to included with DreamWeaver (maybe still is), as a straight HTML editor for those who want that.
I was about to go off and talk about nested tables in DreamWeaver, but I've deleted the whole thing....
Marcia - I certainly wouldn't take another FrontPage job... and you're right... I think it boils down to not liking proprietary code.
Thanks Robert, you're right about HomeSite. In fact, I bought an early version of DreamWeaver, decided not to use it, but was thrilled by HomeSite, which was bundled with it -- I still use it daily.
Now with Macromedia (makers of DreamWeaver) and Allaire (makers of HomeSite) in a merger, I'm sure we'll continue to see a close tie between these products.
*doh* I must've been thinking of another program...
PageMill/other little know WYSIWYG programs
HotMetaL/HomeSite - strange hand-code helpers...
The best way to optimize a site written in FP is to go through the hand code. You will soon see the unique FP tags and be able to run a site wide find and replace.
If you are worried about the naviagtion just make a copy of it using non FP style code and ctrl+v all the way.
This may seem like a time consuming process and it is but I've never had a redsign job yet where there is lovely compact coding!
As for Front Page? I think it sucks BUT I wouldnt be were I am today without it. FP was my entry into the World Web Web, every journey starts with the first step and front page was mine.
I must say though that there really are better editiors than Front Page and if you are at all serious about learning HTML, want to be a bettter coder or just create nice site both visually and in code then change editors!
Its what I did and now im earning millions of dollars and receiving world wide recognition.
not really ;)
While we're all kissing and making up now I thought I would interject a few fond memories as well.
One thing I do miss about FP is the ability to slurp up a site (table structure and all) by using the edit button in IE. I learned a tremendous amount of stuff in the early months by going to a site and using this feature. Kinda like "Howdeydodat" and then I could dissect it in a visual editing environment.
I would love to return to this feature but I can't outweigh the cost. I mean this sincerely.
Good tools are a blessing to a skilled craftsman. However sheer determination and purpose of will....that will overcome any limitation.
The Front Page discussion is continued in a new thread [webmasterworld.com].
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