Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

The Myth Of FrontPage Placing Garbage In Your HTML code

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It must be rather annoying for the vast multitude of Microsoft FrontPage users to keep hearing comments and criticism leading to think that Microsoft FrontPage creates bloated and not really well formed HTML code.

Microsoft FrontPage users find this critiques particularly fastidious because most have indeed coded hundreds of web pages with the tool and all such pages are "up" on their Intranets and web sites and they are all seemingly working just fine.

If the issues of a) guaranteeing maximum accessibility, b) generating clean and fast code HTML that allows pages to load in less time, c) obtaining HTML code that is easy and fast to maintain and update are really important to today content publishers in large and small organizations, a deeper look at what is going on when FrontPage is utilized, is indeed required.

According to most respected resources, including my own technology advisor Massimo Curatella, hand coding is still the only way to ensure clean code, though this may not be what most users like, prefer or have been trained or mistrained to do.

There is yet no better way to ensure code that is lean, well constructed, easy to scan and read, and which is also fast to load and highly compatible with all browsers versions and operating systems around.

Since most users are not aware and educated about what good HTML code is and how browser compatibility is tested they will take for granted that Microsoft FrontPage produces good and reliable web pages.

Especially in medium and large organizations where Microsoft Office is indiscriminately utilized across the board, the use of Microsoft tools has become so engrained without the IT/MIS departments ever realizing how bad and detrimental the use of such an information tool can be on the overall accessibility issues of the content being published.

FrontPage is being adopted because it is a Microsoft tool, and because it is a WYSIWYG tool that allows webmasters to create pages without ever needing to know any HTML code or rule that governs the proper publishing of content on the web.

Fact is, and you can test this out right now, that pages created in Microsoft FrontPage do not look the same when viewed outside FrontPage and the Internet Explorer browser installed on your machine. The look of the same page will vary greatly when viewed with Netscape, Opera and other browsers, and in some circumstances other browsers will not be even capable to display the FrontPage generated code.

Unfortunately, as I will demonstrate to you in this article, FrontPage truly adds unnecessary, useless code to web pages created and modified with this software. Hard to believe I know, but true. And here are the facts:

If we use bold and font tags (using the Georgia font) in the phrase "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog," the clean HTML code looks like this:

<p><b><font face="Georgia">The quick brown fox jumped over the
lazy dog.</font></b></p>

If I change my mind and remove the bold and change the font to Arial in FrontPage, it can become:

<p><font face="Arial">The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy
dog.</font><font face="Georgia"></font></p>

The Georgia font tag is still there, even though there is no code between the <font> and </font>. This is typical FrontPage behavior after repeatedly modifying a page. Each new version of FrontPage improves, but it still lags behind the other WYSIWYG editors. Author Dori Smith did a comparison of editors and how much code they produce. "The goal was to produce a simple Web page containing just a single linked image that rolled over to another image." The summary of the results:

- Macromedia Dreamweaver MX: 49 lines, 1,733 characters
- Adobe GoLive 6: 55 lines, 1,453 characters
- Microsoft FrontPage 2002: 730 lines, 16,380 characters !!!
- Hand-coding: 29 lines, 858 characters

Resource: 2002_11_17_archive.html#a003122

If anybody out there thinks that 10 to 15 times more code will not slow down a page upload on the Internet, well he should look well at those number above and make a few simple calculations.

Microsoft FrontPage is a particularly nasty offender in certain specific areas. One of them is code nesting. One of the rules of good HTML code is to nest tags in the correct order. For example:

<b><font color="blue">MasterMind</font></b>

This is the correct way to nest tags. The <b> tag is placed on the outside while the <font> is on the inside. There have been instances in FrontPage where the tags were out of order and incorrect:

<b><font color="blue">MasterMind</b></font>

Please note that while Microsoft Internet Explorer will parse and display such code in your browser, many other browser models and versions may feel to do the same.

In general it would be wise to ensure that any web page created loads quickly and that it can be properly viewed in other non-Microsoft browsers, in order to guarantee maximum effective accessibility to all types of users.

The only simple cure to Microsoft FrontPage mishaps is serious investments in reliable content management solutions that allow content owners to publish directly on the web as well as better training for technical staff and webmasters with the provision of pre-selected authoring tools and techniques guaranteeing maximum accessibility (lean, compatible, readable and code and fast loading pages).

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posted by Robin Good on Tuesday, December 31 2002, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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