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Expectations & Misunderstandings

14-August-2001
A response to the WaSP

After a brief correspondence with a WaSP representative last week, I came away impressed with the degree of professionalism and restraint shown. I believe their recent article, written in response to a previous Graffiti story, was excellent. We can safely assume that the WaSP is not telling us to abandon tables (among other things) for the sake of bleeding edge CSS-P. It's not telling us to not use <font> tags should the need arise (and I hope it doesn't!). What it is asking us to do is to try our best to use valid W3C code. And it is asking Macromedia (among others) to help the cause by designing Dreamweaver to write valid code. This is good. But I would like to clarify a few things and amplify some others.

the wasp says...

"Now that the browser makers have listened, we've begun encouraging the tool makers to also allow designers and developers to create standards-compliant pages... Try this experiment. Open up a new web page (in Dreamweaver), and type in "Hello, World!" Save it to disk. Now look at the code. It's clean, it's straightforward, it's great, except for one thing: it doesn't validate. You cannot, out of the box, create a standards-compliant page with Dreamweaver, for the simple reason that the pages don't include a DOCTYPE.

Next, go to Macromedia's Dreamweaver Exchange site, and search on the word "doctype." You'll see a number of results. Choose one, download it, and install it into your copy of Dreamweaver. Now, create that "Hello, World!" page again, but this time, with a DOCTYPE. Your page should now validate.

All we've asked Macromedia to do is ship Dreamweaver with the ability to create standards-compliant pages. It can't be that difficult; as you've seen, the technology is already there.

...Yes, you can add the DOCTYPE by hand, but people who buy WYSIWYG tools don't want to have to that; their tool should do it for them. Only a fraction of the people who buy Dreamweaver ever make it to the Exchange site..."

and I say...

The WaSP doesn't understand Dreamweaver. It's built around extensibility. That's the true power of it. You can make it do just about anything. The fact that there are extensions to add a doctype, means that Macromedia was really on to something.

In the past 12 months- 216,400 Project VII extensions have been downloaded from the Macromedia Exchange and from our Web site. Since we are but one of many extension developers, I would say that a pretty sizeable fraction of Dreamweaver users make it to the Exchange or to the various developer sites. In fact, it's hard to miss it since there is an entry on Dreamweaver's Command menu called: Get More Commands. Guess where it takes you?

When the WaSP claims that people who buy WSIWYG tools don't want to deal with source code, they must be talking about another program, because Dreamweaver is not a WSIWYG tool... it's a visual editor.

Any serious Web Designer is going to learn to understand html markup (to some degree) or she will not succeed. Dreamweaver is a tool. It's extensible (kind of like Open-Source:-). And it comes with a community of developers and advisors all over the world who are willing to help those who want to be helped. That's what it's all about. Perhaps the WaSP can assign a person or two to monitor the more popular Dreamweaver forums and help guide the ship from the helm?

I don't think it's realistic to expect that any company Macromedia's size should react to an organization like the WaSP without stepping back and considering a prudent action plan on a feasible schedule.

The WaSP is acting like a good activist organization should, and Macromedia is acting like a responsible corporation should. Now we should act like good web developers and listen to our customers' needs and strive to do right by them.

so I think we understand each other...

Standards are necessary.

A few simple tables won't kill anybody. (Even Zeldman uses tables for clients like the N.Y. Public Library)

People who use Netscape 4 are no more prone to be idiots than people who buy clothes made by Tommy Hilfiger.

Macromedia will continue to improve Dreamweaver at a pace that makes business sense.

Good Web designers can use Dreamweaver and should not be afraid to go in the code.

Bad Web designers should continue to feel free to make terrible web pages with or without a visual editor.

If you want to use only bleeding edge CSS-P to make a site, go for it... but don't try to tell impressionable young designers to shove that concept down their clients' collective throats. Be reasonable. Teach safe business...

And everybody should be happy.

PS: Anyone know why the word "Macromedia" is not included in Dreamweaver's spell-checker?

 

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