We all use the internet on a regular basis, but it’s easy to forget that every web page we visit has been designed from a blank canvas. As well as the actual text, someone has styled each page using a specific combination of images, background colours, graphics and links to other pages. With millions of websites currently in existence, there is a real demand for computer programs that can create web pages quickly and easily, and one of the most popular packages available today is Adobe Dreamweaver.
Dream a little dream
Back in 1997, when Dreamweaver was launched, the Internet was still in its infancy and few people even understood how it worked. Contrast that with today, when millions of people across the UK have their own websites or blogs, all based on standard website design templates. The importance of being able to create a website from scratch is obvious, and there are many courses in Dreamweaver that will allow people to take their first steps in web design. For some students, this will be the first time they’ve attempted any kind of graphic design, meaning basic skills like image editing and page formatting will have to be learned from scratch.
A key reason why courses in Dreamweaver are easier for beginners than other computing courses is because Dreamweaver is a WYSIWYG package. An acronym for What You See Is What You Get, this basically means that whatever a user does in the design process is directly replicated on the finished website. Unlike classic HTML programming, where instructions have to be written in a coded language full of abbreviations and parenthesis, Dreamweaver shows you a blank page, and allows you to insert text, images, multimedia files and links wherever you wish. If an image is inserted into the top left hand corner of the design page, that is precisely where it will appear in the resulting website. Modern versions of Dreamweaver effectively offer a split-screen between the template and a real web page, so changes are instantly displayed as they will appear online.
Caught in a web
Nowadays, the internet is everywhere. Every advert on TV ends by displaying website addresses and social media sites, many modern companies are online only, and much of our communication takes place over the web. However, social media sites and blog templates are very limited and linear, which means they are only useful for displaying certain types of information. By contrast, your own website is a blank canvas that can accept any content you want, with few limits placed on its size, style or functionality. A package like Dreamweaver can be invaluable in creating the right website for your personal or business requirements and will make website design seem remarkably easy.
Dreamweaver is effectively a live editing program, with all the complex HTML coding done for you. That makes it far more intuitive and responsive than other programming packages, in turn giving it great appeal to anyone who isn’t already PC or Mac savvy. If you can use the internet, the chances are that you can produce a basic website in Dreamweaver with only minimal instruction.
However, there is so much more to this program than the ability to place a few photos on a web page, and a Dreamweaver course represents the ideal way to unlock its huge capabilities. Moreover, although new versions are released roughly once a year, the basic functionality remains the same, so the knowledge gained should be useful for many years to come. This can even be a springboard to more advanced computing courses, including HTML or even complex programming like Maya.
Around the world
Because Dreamweaver is a visual editing package rather than a code-based one, using it is the same wherever you are in the world. Dreamweaver is currently available in 19 languages, from Hebrew to Korean, but the drag-and-drop functionality remains unchanged, with only small local differences like the Arabic version enabling text to scroll from right-to-left.
A bluffer’s guide to Dreamweaver
Here are a few key abbreviations to master before you start your course:
· CSS. Short for Cascading Style Sheets. This enables people to create different layers on a website, effectively separating content and layout. For instance, it’s possible to have a background that remains consistent on every page throughout a site, while the foreground content varies considerably from one page to the next.
· FTP. Short for File Transfer Protocol. In essence, this controls the way data is sent and received over the Internet, from the host site to the person viewing it. In the trade, it’s known as client-server architecture, and it was developed way back in the early 1970s, decades before the World Wide Web was conceived.
· HTML. Short for Hyper Text Markup Language. HTML is the programming language underpinning every website, and although some people like to design websites using HTML’s language of abbreviations and symbols, packages like Dreamweaver simplify the process by translating what we do into HTML.
By Neil Cumins
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