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Dreamweaver Techniques

October 23, 2008

I’m noticing that panic mode is picking up in Brenda’s Applied Game Design class. Not so much about the fact that Alpha is due on Tuesday. I think most people are just feeling denial over that. No, the panic comes from the website groups have to make, in that nobody in the room knows how to make websites… except me. It is silliness.

Brenda walked in the room on Tuesday and asked, “Does anyone here know Dreamweaver?” I was the only one who raised a hand. Reminded me of the Post Mortem when the guy from GamerDNA asked “Who here is an indie developer?” and I was the only one who raised a hand. But anyway, I then had to demonstrate to another group what they were doing wrong: slices. I facepalmed, considering that their website had no tables and no need for tables. It was just a single image, and whenever a slice of the image became linked, it pushed everything apart (probably because their image border had not been set to 0, but I don’t know because I never work with slices). A tip to the unwise: unless you are using dynamic tables and CSS goodness, you don’t need image slices. Just use image maps or cut up your image appropriately into many images and align in a table as needed. But for the noobs, I recommend image maps. Heck, I still use ’em when I don’t need to do anything fancier. They’re easy to work with and you can apply any javascript like iFrame jumps to them that you need to. Heck, the site I am working has dual iFrame jumps, which required me to learn more javascript than I knew or was comfortable with.

I think the problem stems from the fact that all we are taught here is Flash, not Dreamweaver, so we start thinking that the only way to make a website is in Flash when, in reality, Flash is for designing specialty websites and basic websites with lots of animation. However, Applied has had its share of problems with Flash-based websites, so I’m making mine in Dreamweaver.

Lately I’m hearing things like people in the major hate Dreamweaver. I shake my head at this, rapidly, spilling saliva all over the place in the process much like a Looney Toon. Why do only a select few CMPA 110 professors bother teaching Dreamweaver? It is the easiest way to create a portfolio website that is not going to repel jobs. Heck, mine right now is black background, a little white text, and thumbnails. That’s it. Granted it’s in the process of getting an upgrade, but as I said in the last post, I am doing my best to retain the “No BS” feel of my current one. The only way to do that, in my opinion, is in good old HTML. Flash mucks everything up with load screens, crazy animation, music, sound, and other things that you do not need in a portfolio website. It makes me wonder three things:

  1. How many portfolios are going to be passed over because they are done in Flash?
  2. How many people are going to want me to teach them Dreamweaver after reading this post?
  3. Who in my Applied class is going to want me to make their website after reading this post?

They need to start offering a Dreamweaver class. It’s getting ridiculous how much focus is being put on Flash coding if all that’s going to get us is ignored when we make a project’s website in it. Yes, it’s fine for making games, but there’s some hypocrasy going on here. You can’t read our Flash websites and you haven’t taught the sad ones Dreamweaver. Luckily I jumped on the Dreamweaver bandwagon back in 1998, but had been developing websites in Netscape Gold two years before that. So… 12 years in web development? Yeah, that’s a bit of a head start on everyone I guess.

For real, though, I could run an entire class on tables, from HTML to Javascript and CSS; from simple text-based tables to using them as an alternative to unpredictable image slices.

Another problem I am noticing is that there are no friendly tutorial websites for Dreamweaver. For Photoshop, I highly recommend Planet Photoshop and I do a tutorial a week there (helped me master my masking techniques). But I’ve never found a good one for Dreamweaver. There’s basics, advanced, but no intermediate. I’m pretty sure anyone can figure out the basics, and we don’t really need to know server-side, mySQL advanced stuff for what we do (granted I might for one thing I am working on). There’s just certain tricks, certain codes, certain these-and-those that just make every website better and that these days I can’t make a website without. Want the rundown?

  • iFrames – Very simple Javascript that allows you to load a website in an area of another. Makes sure users don’t have to hit the Back button all the time.
  • PNGs – PNGs are the new GIFs, except they can’t be animated. But beyond that, they’re full color with great quality compression and true transparency. What more could you want?
  • Tables – With or without CSS styles, Tables are a must for organization and making sure everyone sees the same website. There are a lot of resolutions out there. Use tables to make sure someone running 1024×768 can see your site when you developed it at 1900×1200.

There are a few things I would kill to see, however. Namely, layer-style transparency in PNGs and the ability to use a transparency mask in a regular website. Every once in a while I have a website I’ve laid out in Photoshop that has some multiply or screen layers and have to end up exporting them with the background so they look right when brought into Dreamweaver. It’s a limitation I’ve become used to but one that I’d love to see lifted. As for transparency masks, I think they would look great in iFrames so that you could gradient out the text when it reaches the top and bottom of the frame.

“But Dan, why not just do it in Flash?” I refer you to Paragraph 4 of this post.

So, to all those in my applied class, if you need to know how to do something, give me a call. But if you are still confused, just think of Dreamweaver as a toy. The more you play with it, the more you learn about it.

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2 Comments
  1. friendly_reminder permalink

    No offense, but you obviously aren’t quite up to date on your site building techniques. The better way to do things is to separate your content and visuals by using a basic html page combined with a separate css document. This makes for a much easier to maintain site than dated table or frame methods. Assuming you know better than everyone else around you isn’t a good idea when you’re not an expert yourself.

  2. I was not claiming to be an expert. I work using stylesheets for my more advanced, content-driven sites. What I was saying is that for some reason we are not taught Dreamweaver in depth here, and it can be challenging for some when they are told to make a website and they have never learned how. I was just offering some beginner advice. CSS is much more advanced and can be intimidating to those who have never used Dreamweaver at all, especially CS3 because it does not have the live update that CS4 has (our lab is still running CS3). Tackling CSS for the first time is intimidating, especially when you are working with an image-heavy site, so I just thought I would offer up some tips on getting it to work quickly and efficiently without having to develop a stylesheet.

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