Deviant Paradigm: Of The Wolf Within
Random garbage. Remarks about the comic Deviant Paradigm, notes about my life, comments about politics. This is my place to rant and rave. Fear this, World! FEAR IT!

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Nickname: Avvy
Age: 24
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Technomancer and troubleshooter by trade. Programmer by choice. Creator of Deviant Paradigm, somewhat by accident.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Advice for Using Dreamweaver
At work I'm deeply involved in the redesign of the website for a trendy clothing store, which includes creating a shopping cart. This is not as much fun as it sounds. We're working with a local design company, who are good at what they do, but let's just say that web design isn't their strong suit. (You know how the Internet likes rectangles and only really supports the four fonts that your Typography teacher would fail you for using in class? Yeah, this design completely ignores both of those facts.) What's worse is that it's by far easiest to put the design into Dreamweaver (my coworker Emo's job) and then make it dynamic and stuff (my job). I say that's "worse" because a.) we have an old version of Dreamweaver and b.) the use of Dreamweaver isn't taught properly by anyone in the entire world.

Let me give all you web designers a hint -- use Dreamweaver for design. It's the best WYSIWYG editor on the market, hands down. It generates almost human readable code (it doesn't like carriage returns very much). But only use it for design, and then don't touch it again. You'll be tempted to use advanced Dreamweaver things like layers. DON'T DO THIS! Dreamweaver layers are an atrocity that create unreadable code that's impossible to maintain or change. They shouldn't be taught. Unfortunately, all art classes that cover Dreamweaver seem to love the use of these things. They make me cry myself to sleep at night. The other problem with Dreamweaver (which might be better in a newer Dreamweaver) is that it's obsessed with absolute positioning in CSS. Literally everything on the page is absolutely positioned, which allows it to put things all over the place in the code rather than according to logical flow (making maintenance and changes again, nearly impossible to do). There's also one huge problem with CSS positioning, absolute positioning in particular: Every single browser on the market handles it differently. And since Dreamweaver doesn't check (and neither will 90-or-so-percent of developers) you can tell, in an instant, which browser a developer wrote the code for (i.e. which one they tested). Now, I'll grant, the weirdness in positioning is mitigated by positioning everything, but if you need to make a major change, it's a nightmare. Fortunately, Dreamweaver won't molest your PHP too badly, so it's possible, sometimes, to pull the code back into Dreamweaver to make changes. Sometimes. So the positioning is irritating, but workable. But trust me on the layers. They're a bad plan. Yeah, I can see you tempted to use them. "But Avvy! They make the site react faster and use less bandwidth! Those are good things!" Yes they are, neophytus, but utility must always be balanced with usability and maintainability. Layers are not easy to maintain, and once you start having to do development and testing outside of the Dreamweaver environment, they hobble you and drastically reduce your productivity. They're a nice idea, but they just won't work out well.

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