Expression Web – Microsoft’s New Standard for Web Design

Making waves in 2007 with the high profile releases of Vista and Office 2007, Microsoft is also rolling out a new suite of web design tools called Expression Studio.

One component of Expression Studio is Expression Web, a professional web design tool to create modern, standards-based web sites. Replacing Frontpage, Microsoft’s popular WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) web editor, Expression Web competes more directly with other professional web design applications such as Adobe’s Dreamweaver and GoLive.

While FrontPage was aimed at beginners, Expression Web is clearly targeted at professional Web designers. More than a WYSIWYG tool, Microsoft is attempting to combine both FrontPage and Visual Studio technologies in a new user interface for creating XHTML, CSS, XML, XSLT, and ASP.NET 2.0. Because Expression Web integrates with other Microsoft development technologies, designers and developers can work closely together while still using the applications they are most comfortable with.

Standards-based Web Design

One of Expression Web’s defining features is it focus on standards-based design. The standards-based movement is a cooperative effort of web developers all over the world to adhere to the standards published by The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web. One of the goals of the standards-based movement is to pressure proprietary software manufacturers into supporting common standards.

Standards-based web sites offer the following advantages:

  • Functionality: Function on more web browsers including hand-held or PDA devices.
  • Responsiveness: Download faster than other types of websites.
  • Findability: More easily searched for information by humans and search engines.
  • Cost: Less expensive and easier to maintain.
  • Accessibility: Accessible to persons with a broad range of disabilities.

Expression Web’s focus on standards-based design is a significant departure from Frontpage’s proprietary past.

Because FrontPage was designed with Web beginners in mind, it included several features to make it easy for beginners to add popular functions to their Web sites. Unfortunately, these features utilized proprietary technology. This proprietary technology forced Frontpage web site owners to use only those web hosts with special FrontPage enabled web servers.

How to Get Started

You can also download a free trial version of Expression Web from the Microsoft web site. The trial is a fully functioning version of the product that will expire 60 days from installation.

To assist new users in getting started using Expression Web, Microsoft is bundling several design resources with the program including a training video, printed reference guides, and online tutorials.

Now available for purchase from Microsoft, Expression Web costs $299. Existing FrontPage customers who qualify can upgrade for only $99. The full Expression Studio suite consists of four separate applications and will be available in the second quarter of 2007.