TOOLS OF THE TRADE: WEBSITE CREATION SOFTWARE

For many Internet marketers, being able to design and upload high- quality websites is becoming as necessary as using a spreadsheet or word processing program. This overview of popular website creation products can help you identify which ones best meet your needs.

*  Arachnophilia 4.0 ( http://www.arachnoid.com ) lets you view HTML changes as they are made, making the design process run smoothly.  Although some users complain that the interface is clunky, what they may really be objecting to is that it requires you to know about HTML.

But the programmer who wrote Arachnophilia says that is how it is intended to be used: as a tool to help coders write better HTML. The program is intended to teach and to be easily modified and improved by the individual user to suit his needs. For example, there is a feature called Beautify/Analyze HTML that goes through the code a user produces and cleans it up by analyzing the document's syntax for errors.

Arachnophilia also has helpful features such as a spell check. The best part of all? It's free.

Chris O'Donnell maintains a web page for the Libertarian Party of Virginia at: http://www.lpva.com . He appreciates Arachnophilia's viewable HTML changes, which help him learn more about how HTML works.  "I'm a geek at heart," he says. "I like understanding what is actually happening with the code."

"Arachnophilia is a full-featured HTML development environment with built-in wizards for frames, tables and more, producing clean HTML that displays properly on the three browsers I've tested," he says.

*  Macromedia's Dreamweaver ( http://www.macromedia.com/software/dreamweaver/ ) is the program of choice for many programmers because it has excellent visual HTML editing capabilities: As changes are made to the HTML code, the results are immediately viewable in an open browser.

"The flexibility and ease of use of this product lets me create and edit sites quickly and easily," says John Davis, editor of the gaming industry newsletter Ping-News (site to be launched next month at http://www.ping-news.com ). "The best part is how easy it is to create a specific look and feel throughout a site."

*  A major strength of Microsoft FrontPage ( http://www.microsoft.com ) is that it verifies links and allows sitewide find-and-replace. This is useful, for example, if you have to change a product price across an entire site. If you're already working with Microsoft Office, the familiar Microsoft interface enhances usability.

Predesigned templates let users with less design savvy create professional-looking sites. That's helpful for George Matyjewicz, the chief marketing officer for GAP Enterprises ( http://www.gapent.com ). He uses Microsoft Front Page, he says, because "it is still the best product on the market to manage website design and to control pages."

*  HoTMetaL Pro ( http://www.softquad.com/products/hotmetal/ ) now comes with an excellent cascading style sheets editor. This allows you to easily add fonts, colors and spacing to a Web document. And then when you make changes to the style sheets, all the pages with that style sheet are automatically updated.

Though it now comes with Java, ActiveX and dynamic HTML, HoTMetaL started as a tag-based text editor. That means it creates straightforward HTML, which is easy to troubleshoot when there are problems in appearance between different browsers or monitor resolutions.

With HoTMetaL's what-you-see-is-what-you-get interface, you can use its built-in browser to see what your Web pages will look like as you create them. But with HoTMetaL and other website design tools, you should still review your work with other browsers, including older versions, says designer Dave Alden, who's currently building fishing site BigFishTales.com. "This allows you to see the site as different users will see it," he says.

*  Microsoft Publisher 2000 ( http://www.microsoft.com ) excels at creating template-based sites using designs that come with the program. Users can also create designs from scratch using a familiar Microsoft interface. Small business owners will appreciate that pre-existing designs can be used to create other documents--such as letterhead, business cards and newsletters--that match their website designs.

*  BBEdit from BareBones Software ( http://www.bbedit.com/ ) is best for users who know how to code and use another product for graphics, because it is less suited for graphics work.

But with BBEdit, you can easily insert blocks of code into the HTML editor, which some users may appreciate. "I learned how to code by hand, so BBEdit is perfect for me because it allows me to write all my own code or use its automated code," says Laura Reilein, senior web producer at Cox Interactive Media ( http://www.cimedia.com/ ). Sites Cox has created include Access Atlanta ( http://www.accessatlanta.com ) and Rich's Department store ( http://www.richsonline.com/ ).

Though it's not comprehensive, this list does represent some of the most popular website creation tools, according to Internet marketers who are actively using the products. Remember to make a list of what features you want, what pricing you can afford, and your own level of technical comfort as you set forth to evaluate these tools for yourself.

By Shannon Kinnard

Shannon Kinnard is president of email marketing agency Idea Station ( http://www.ideastation.com ) and author of "Marketing with Email"( http://www.marketingwithemail.com ).

Free HTML Editors:  

 <> Arachnophilia  

 http://www.arachnoid.com/arachnophilia/ 

Supports development of HTML, frames, CGI, Perl, C++, Java and Javascript with many intelligent tools and functions.

 <> HTML Constructor   

 http://members.xoom.com/itamar_bz/ 

HTML Constructor is an advanced fast, fully customizable (menus, toolbars, hotkeys, color rules....), text-based HTML editor.

 <> HTML-Kit  

 http://www.chami.com/html-kit/ 

HTML-Kit is a free and easy to use Windows program designed to help HTML, XML and script authors to edit, format, lookup help, validate, preview and publish web pages.

 <> Template Generator

 http://www.telusplanet.net/public/jbekolay/jason/  

Template Generator is a simple program made to help speed up the process of creating pages.

 <> SiteAid

 http://www.siteaid.com/s_main.html 

SiteAid is a complete HTML Editing tool that contains all the necessary components for building and maintaining a web site. Included with the program are complete Help files for "Program Help", "HTML Help", "CSS Help" and for the beginner a "Tutorial". Functionally includes editors to simplify the mundane tasks for Frames, Tables, Forms, Style Sheets, Scripts and more plus a spell checker to finish the job.

 <> xSite 

http://xsite.lad.co.za/index2.html 

xSite is a web development tool with a difference. It borrows many of the features seen in other RAD (rapid application development) packages available today and implements them in a web design tool. Features such as syntax highlighting, a Tag Object Inspector, Palette toolbar and other RAD features are all to be found in xSite.

--Good Luck