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It seems much longer, but it was not that many years ago when it became necessary for even small, non-technical companies to have a respectable Web site in order to be taken seriously in the marketplace. Furthermore, while a few nicely laid out screens of mostly text was considered to be a respectable site when the Web was getting started, today's larger companies often require hundreds or thousands of professionally designed pages of dynamic content, with rich graphics, audio, and video material and considerable interactivity. Creating and managing that much content and designing it in a way that imparts a professional image and engages the audience can be a challenge.

To address that challenge, organizations can choose from a wide spectrum of Web authoring tools, ranging from the traditional, yet increasingly misnamed, HTML editors to sophisticated, database-driven Web content management applications. Dozens or even hundreds of offerings exist in each category, although only a few have achieved significant market recognition and penetration.

In the beginning, HTML editors were just that, little more than glorified text editors that provided some HTML syntax checking and possibly a link to a browser that could be used to preview Web pages after they were hand-coded. Today's HTML editors bear little resemblance to those earlier versions. Now, while the tools offer an option to look at and tweak the HTML code, Web page developers can use WYSIWYG graphical interfaces to design Web pages without ever seeing raw HTML, hence the assertion that the term "HTML editor" is no longer appropriate.

Among the most popular of this class of tools are Macromedia Dreamweaver, Adobe GoLive, and Microsoft FrontPage. All of these products, along with some of their lesser-known competitors, share a core set of features. For example, they all offer the choice of WYSIWYG, raw HTML, and preview modes. In addition, the most recent versions of the leading HTML editors also offer XML editing and validation, XHTML support, and a library of sample JavaScript code for common functions. Dreamweaver and FrontPage also support database integration.

Preview mode is a helpful feature because WYSIWYG is not really WYSIWYG. For instance, if you use tables to align text on a page, table boundaries will show on the layout screen even if you specify that there should be no borders on the final page. This is necessary so that you know where to place your cursor when you want to work with the table. In addition, some hidden page elements, such as JavaScript and other code scripts, typically show up as small placeholder icons that you can click on to edit the underlying element. Those icons are not seen when the page is viewed in a browser. The upshot is that WYSIWYG layout mode does not provide a true image of what a page would look like in a browser. Preview mode does.

Dreamweaver, GoLive, and FrontPage all help you maintain a consistent look and feel throughout your Web site via their support for Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and templates. CSS are independent files that contain default definitions for fonts, colors, and other design attributes. You can use CSS to define defaults for various page elements such as body paragraphs, headings, links, and so on. Once you have created a style sheet, all of your Web pages can link to it. If your organization wants to alter its image and, for example, change the fonts or text colors on its Web site, you can simply update the style sheet to change the look of all pages that reference it. Since style sheet definitions are applied by the browser, there is no need to re-edit the individual pages. All changes will be reflected automatically on all associated pages as soon as the new style sheet is uploaded to the Web site.

Templates further increase the ability to ensure Web site consistency, while eliminating the need for page developers to recreate and reposition any elements that are common to some or all pages. A template identifies areas such as, for example, a top menu bar, a table of contents sidebar, and a company logo, which should appear in the same place on every page throughout a Web site. The template also defines areas that will include the variable portions of each page. When designers employ an HTML editor to create a new page, they can specify which template to use. The common elements and style defaults will then be included on the page automatically.

Features such as CSS and template support can simplify the process of ensuring design consistency across a site, but HTML editors alone do not enforce consistency. The tool typically does not force the user to employ a particular style sheet or template. Therefore, the enforcement of design standards must be achieved through policy rather than technology.

All of the products offer a library of pre-built Web designs that can help you create a professional-looking site, provided you are willing to use a design that does not uniquely reflect your organization's image. However, even with these templates, people lacking extensive design skills tend to apply a heavy hand when inserting text and graphics into the variable areas of the template. The result may look amateurish despite being based on a professional design.

One of the areas where the tools differ is in their integration with other products. Understandably, Microsoft FrontPage offers tighter integration with other Microsoft Office applications than do its competitors. Macromedia Dreamweaver is ahead of the competition when it comes to working with Macromedia Flash and Fireworks. And Adobe GoLive offers tighter integration with and optimization of Adobe Acrobat PDF files.

The Case for Web Content Management

Before you start to evaluate HTML editors, first consider another question: Should you use an HTML editor at all? Web content management, which is a subset of a broader product class, enterprise content management, offers an alternative that is more robust, more flexible, and, in the long run, maybe more cost-effective.

"There are two ends of the spectrum that we see as tactics for dealing with this need [for Web content development]," said Lou Latham, an analyst at Gartner, Inc. "One is to have your Webmaster do all of your editorial work and essentially tie up that resource with stuff that could be done down at the business unit simply because the Webmaster has access to the tool. And, in most cases the tool of choice for page layout is Dreamweaver. The other end of the spectrum, which is equally a worst practice, is to give everybody a copy of, typically, FrontPage--because most people can't handle Dreamweaver--and let them go at it.

"What we see as the real solution to this is a content management system where the content authors deal with the content as pure text, frequently in Word form. It then all flows through templates that are created by the IT department and reused indefinitely."

As a June 19, 2003, Gartner Research Note authored by Latham points out, after implementing a content management solution, "IS organization staffs are freed to pursue development projects and other high-value work."

Latham estimates that, overall, about one third of companies are using content management, with the number being even higher, approximately two thirds, at high-end companies.

The features available in Web content management products vary considerably. In fact, there is no hard-set definition of what constitutes Web content management. At a minimum, it is a database-driven approach to deploying Web content. Yet, content management goes beyond traditional databases. Databases have generally been very good at managing "structured data" (numbers and well-defined text fields) but weak at working with "unstructured data" that does not have a predefined form or predictable values. Content management deals with both.

Content management also goes beyond traditional document management. Documents imply static content in textual and graphical form. In contrast, content management products store, organize, and disseminate constantly evolving content that includes a rich set of media, including sound and video, in addition to the traditional text and graphics.

As the name implies, Web content management systems work with content, not Web pages. Rather than Web pages being created coincident with the underlying content as is the case with HTML editors, the content management software assembles Web pages at the time they are requested by a browser. It does so by merging the requested raw content with predefined templates that are also stored in the Web content management system's database.

Comprehensive Web content management software typically supports some level of workflow management. Several people may contribute to a single content item. To manage this process, the software may offer the means to lock content while someone is working on it, thus avoiding the contention that may otherwise occur when multiple authors attempt to update the same content simultaneously. The software may also provide the facility to route content from one author to another as it is being developed.

Workflow management can also support and enforce a structured approval process. Some organizations require a hierarchy of approvals for Web content. Workflow features can facilitate this by routing content to the first approver after the content creators complete their work. The software then routes the item to the next mandated approver only after the preceding person in the chain signs off on it. Content is made available for display on the Web only after all designated approvals are received.

Depending on the package, content management software may also include built-in modules to easily incorporate common Web features such as online surveys, email subscription lists, forums, storefronts, shopping carts, and so on.

Most of the very high-end Web content management products are not standalone products. Rather, they are part of broader enterprise content management systems. The leading vendors in this category include Vignette, Hummingbird, Open Text, Interwoven, and IBM. Below that level, there are literally hundreds of products with varying degrees of capability. The products on the lower tiers generally offer fewer and/or less-powerful features, typically at a significantly lower price.

Making the Choice

When organizations choose HTML editors over Web content management, sticker shock is often the primary reason. At time of writing, the list price for a single copy of either Dreamweaver or GoLive was $399, and FrontPage sold for $199. Volume licensing can reduce the cost per seat. In contrast, you should expect to spend five figures, and possibly well into six figures for larger enterprises, to buy and implement comprehensive Web content management systems.

While the high Web content management price tag scares off many organizations, it often should not. Cost is only half of the cost/benefit equation. The other half, the benefit, may significantly outweigh the cost.

The June 2003 Gartner Research Note cited above states, "Reporting tools and templates in WCM [Web content management] systems can reduce Webmaster staffing requirements by 50 percent to 75 percent. Templates, in particular, enable business users to post content without regard for its layout or format, or the design of the page around it. This ease of use increases the number of documents and business processes that the enterprise can migrate to the Web, and reduces operational document costs (such as printing, shipping, and postage) and non-document costs (phone and fax bills). The more workers, suppliers, and customers make use of the Web, the more these savings will add up to outweigh costs." The document suggests that Web content management can pay for itself in two years.

Modern HTML Editors Add Oomph

While the gap between the capabilities of HTML editors and Web content management software is and will remain wide, the vendors of HTML editors are not standing still. Some have added features that begin to address those deficiencies that lead organizations to adopt Web content management. For example, Macromedia and Adobe, recognizing both that there is a need to perform authoring and editing outside the Webmaster community and that their Dreamweaver and GoLive products have little traction beyond that community, introduced Macromedia Contribute and Adobe Co-Author.

Contribute and Co-Author allow Webmasters to develop Web pages, but then give departmental contributors the ability to use a familiar word processing interface to edit just the text portions of the page. Both products allow designers to lock down particular portions of a page to protect the overall design.

Contribute is a separate product from Dreamweaver, but a Contribute license also includes the latest update to Dreamweaver, allowing Webmasters to administer full sites. Licenses can be bought in single or multi-packs. Licensing for Adobe's Co-Author is somewhat different. A GoLive license includes one Co-Author license, but you can also buy standalone Co-Author licenses for each content author who does not need the full GoLive product.

HTML editor vendors are also starting to implement features, such as page check-in/check-out, that, even though they do not drive workflow, can prevent the problems that crop up when several people are simultaneously involved in Web page creation and approval.

While HTML editors will likely never offer all of the flexibility and end-user ease-of-use of a full content management solution, as they add more functionality, including integration with back-end databases, ERP systems, and front-end Web services products, the gap between the two will continue to narrow.

Strategy Trumps Technology

Despite all of their powerful features, neither the most advanced HTML editors nor the most sophisticated Web content management applications are sufficient to optimize your Web site's ROI. Web authoring technologies are tools. Like any tools, they deliver optimal results only if you first have a clear understanding of your objectives and then use the technology efficiently and effectively to achieve those goals.

"If you don't get the strategy right, the best technology in the world will not save your Web site," remarked Terry Moshenberg, president of Moshenmedia, a Toronto, Canada-based firm that develops content-managed Web sites. "Technology is important, but it shouldn't be the starting point. Instead, your business strategy should serve as the roadmap for your Web strategy.

"Over-dependence on technology goes beyond just the tendency to ignore strategy. There is also a misconception that, with the right tools, expertise doesn't matter anymore. We have all probably seen the amateurish, cumbersome, and ineffective Web sites that result from that philosophy.

"There are people who have made a career out of understanding how to make Web navigation faster and more intuitive. Others have years invested in the training and experience that allows them to understand how to bring creative elements together and match colors and fonts to create professional, pleasing, and engaging Web sites. Even the best tools on the market do not eliminate the need for this expertise.

"It is important to engage the necessary skills and experience to get the Web strategy and design right well before you begin to create any actual pages. That design can then be enforced through templates that are used in HTML editors or content management software, eliminating the need for the design skills in the later content creation phases."

What's Right for You?

In the end, the choice between HTML editors and Web content management software is a business decision that you should tackle like any other business decision. The benefits must outweigh the cost by enough to provide an adequate ROI.

For a company with a small Web site and only one or two people feeding content to it, the benefits of Web content management likely will never be sufficient to justify its cost. In a larger firm, a return will be realized through more efficient use of Internet skills, reduced administration costs, and a richer experience for Web site visitors. Particularly large enterprises may see a payback on their investment in as little as a year or two.

However, as Moshenberg suggests, the technology should not be your first concern. Strategy must be paramount. And none of the available technologies can do much to help you with developing that strategy, nor are they a substitute for professional Web design.

Joel Klebanoff is a consultant, a writer, and the president of Klebanoff Associates, Inc., a Toronto, Canada-based marketing communications firm. Joel has 25 years experience working in IT, first as a programmer/analyst and then as a marketer. He holds a Bachelor of Science in computer science and an MBA, both from the University of Toronto. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Joel Klebanoff

Joel Klebanoff is a consultant, writer, and formerly president of Klebanoff Associates, Inc., a Toronto-based marketing communications firm. He has 30 years' experience in various IT capacities and now specializes in writing articles, white papers, and case studies for IT vendors and publications across North America. Joel is also the author of BYTE-ing Satire, a compilation of a year's worth of his columns. He holds a BS in computer science and an MBA, both from the University of Toronto. Contact Joel at joel@klebanoff.com.


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    • How do I convince my long-term developers to use RDi?

    This is a unique, online opportunity to hear how you can get more out of RDi.

     

  • Node.js on IBM i Webinar Series Pt. 2: Setting Up Your Development Tools

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using NodeRun.com as a pre-built development environment

     

     

  • Inside the Integrated File System (IFS)

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericDuring this webinar, you’ll learn basic tips, helpful tools, and integrated file system commands—including WRKLNK—for managing your IFS directories and Access Client Solutions (ACS). We’ll answer your most pressing IFS questions, including:

    • What is stored inside my IFS directories?
    • How do I monitor the IFS?
    • How do I replicate the IFS or back it up?
    • How do I secure the IFS?

    Understanding what the integrated file system is and how to work with it must be a critical part of your systems management plans for IBM i.

     

  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.

     

     

  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • How to Meet the Newest Encryption Requirements on IBM i

    SB PowerTech WC GenericA growing number of compliance mandates require sensitive data to be encrypted. But what kind of encryption solution will satisfy an auditor and how can you implement encryption on IBM i? Watch this on-demand webinar to find out how to meet today’s most common encryption requirements on IBM i. You’ll also learn:

    • Why disk encryption isn’t enough
    • What sets strong encryption apart from other solutions
    • Important considerations before implementing encryption

     

     

  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.

     

     

  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

     

     

     

  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.

     

  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.

     

     

  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.

     

     

  • Node Webinar Series Pt. 1: The World of Node.js on IBM i

    SB Profound WC GenericHave you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.
    Part 1 will teach you what Node.js is, why it's a great option for IBM i shops, and how to take advantage of the ecosystem surrounding Node.
    In addition to background information, our Director of Product Development Scott Klement will demonstrate applications that take advantage of the Node Package Manager (npm).
    Watch Now.

  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.