Do You Need Dreamweaver in Order to Learn Web Design?

Adobe’s Dreamweaver has been in commercial use for over ten years now and while other’s have come and gone Dreamweaver’s development and popularity has continued.

As a piece of software it is widely used in professional web design circles, but nevertheless many designers openly discourage its use when writing in forums and blogs.

This is because of its WYSIWYG features. WYSIWYG is an acronym for What You See Is What You Get. This means that the software writes the actual code for you as you write the text or import pictures.

Professional web designers get aggravated about its use not because they feel that it’s “cheating”, but because the correct way of learning the trade is to look under the bonnet of the website and understand the engine, the code.

However, many people are attracted to the creative possibilities of web design by first using the WYSIWYG features of Dreamweaver. It allows the user to more quickly create something visually tangible rather than just lines of code.

My first website was created using FrontPage, which was part of the Microsoft Office Suite from 1997 to 2003. It is now defunct and has been replaced by Expression Web, but as it came bundled with Word and Excel there is no doubt that many of today’s web designers got their first taste of site creation through that piece of software.

FrontPage was, to say the least, rather basic, but it served as an entry point to the profession.

I use an old version of Dreamweaver, version 8, on an almost daily basis. As a web designer there are many aspects of the software that really appeal to me, although I’ve never seen the benefit of upgrading to more recent versions.

I’ve long stopped using it as a WYSIWYG editor as I now hand code, but I really like the layout. It’s very easy to flip between the code and preview views, or a split combination of the two, and all the files for the project site neatly stacked meaning quick and easy access when needed.

I particularly like how easy it is to preview the page in the browser of your choice and the code validation function.

Of real benefit to quick web design is its template system. Say, for instance, that you need to create 30 near-identity pages then it is easier to create one master template page and base all subsequent pages on that. Changing the template page then automatically alters all the 30 individual child pages.

It is rather useless for PHP coding and I use a separate PHP IDE for that. Subsequent versions of Dreamweaver also have extra features for ease of incorporating AJAX, Adobe AIR and XML.

There are other basic WYSIWYG editors out there such as KompoZer and Mozilla’s SeaMonkey, but none come close to the Dreamweaver experience.

Popular software coding packages are Notepad 2 and Notepad++, both of which are widely recommended, but again, their interface is still not as intuitive to feel your way around as that of Dreamweaver.

So do you need Dreamweaver in order to learn web design? It’s not essential, but it will certainly be a key aid in you quest if you are just starting out.