Sunday, June 15, 2003
After much rending of garments and gnashing of teeth, I finally launched our wedding website yesterday. The rending and gnashing arose from the fact that I built this thing using Geocities' really lousy web development tool.
So why did I use the thing in the first place? It all started innocently enough. At the outset I had a rough idea of what this page was going to look like, although my experience at web design is pretty minimal. Even with all my years at Yahoo I figured I could at least get a better looking page more quickly using one of their "idiot tools" - you know, one of those GUI things that assumes you neither know HTML nor want to.
And initially, the tool in question (called Pagebuilder) worked fine for my purposes. Although I was a little annoyed about the Java dependency, and the fact that it didn't really work with IE6, I let stand the mystery of how it translates your graphical placement of a text block or a photo into real HTML. The problem came after I had set up the basic template for what I wanted the half-dozen or so pages to look like, and had built out one or two of the actual pages. I had read the warnings about how a page built with Pagebuilder should not be opened with a different editor, if you ever intended to go back to Pagebuilder later. Perhaps foolishly I took that as a challenge, especially after I "viewed source" and saw how trashy and absurd an HTML document this was making. All sorts of empty rows and table cells, with weird colspan and width settings (which of course is how the graphics get translated).
With a little experimentation in Netscape Composer, I then realized that manually adjusting this HTML into something more sane and sensible was going to be a monumental task. I had to make a decision then - to abandon all my work up to that point and start over, or bite the bullet and stick with this clunky system to the end. I figured that I wasn't all that far from being done, and since I had other demands on my time, the latter choice, as unpleasant as it was, seemed the wisest. Still, it's hard not to feel misgivings about that choice now when I browse to my Q & A page and see how crummy it looks, especially in IE. Part of that is due, as it turns out, to my having opened that file in that "other editor". So yes, Pagebuilder has punished me for my wayward attentions.
Lesson learned - Pagebuilder totally blows. Avoid it like the plague. Use Composer for your simple web design, because in the end you'll have more flexibility for editing. If you don't believe me, view source on the aforementioned pages (caution: not for the faint of heart). Trust me, having a page with only one table, but 39 rows of weird td offsets was NOT my idea.