The Demise of Dreamweaver Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

By: Kim Cavanaugh

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Dreamweaver RIPIntroduction

A recent article by Tom Arah at the PC Pro blog took a provocative stand, to say the least. In the article, I'm sorry but Dreamweaver is dying, Tom lays out an argument that static HTML pages are no longer a viable way to publish to the Web, and with their demise, Dreamweaver may very well die right along with it. In its place he sees a place only for content management systems such as Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress. In a follow-on article, A nice chat with Adobe about Dreamweaver, he discusses his conclusions with Devin Fernandez, senior product manager for web products at Adobe. In the end, his opinion remains the same; Dreamweaver and the kind of static HTML it produces is a process that is due to fade away, undone by the rise of dynamic web publishing methods. He even goes so far in his conclusion to the first article to say:

"If you are a Dreamweaver user don't bother upgrading to the latest version or exploring Adobe's feeble attempts to graft end user content contribution onto Dreamweaver. Instead save your money and invest your time in getting to grips with the real future of web design: server-based content management systems."

Well. To say that I disagree with Mr. Arah would be a bit of an understatement as well. Let's take a look at some of his central arguments and see where he raises valid points and where his thinking goes off the rails.

Webmasters Are No Longer Necessary

Central to Mr. Arah's argument is the idea that static HTML, in all of its current incarnations, is an inefficient method for publishing to the web:

"The bottom line is that the old model of the central webmaster hand-spinning every page of every website and, worse, manually adding the navigation necessary to help users find it, just isn't scalable or viable. The only feasible course for the future is for content to be posted by the content contributor, whether that's the site owner or site visitors, and for the best possible navigation to be constructed around that content on the fly."

That's a mighty big assumption that contains a kernel of truth. True, Content Management Systems are far easier to create navigation on the fly that is timely and dynamic. Add a new blog posting to a WordPress site and you have a marker in your web site that points to the content and is automatically archived for the future.

Mr. Arah totally misses one point though. Many customers simply don't want to bother with updating their web sites and frankly don't care to have a system that allows for commenting and RSS feeds and the other dynamic elements of a CMS. While it's easy for web geeks like ourselves to thumb our noses at "brochure" web sites, many businesses and organizations are perfectly happy with a site that describes what they do, what they sell, and the services they offer with examples and a means to contact them. Update the web site? They'd rather do their own plumbing or rotate the tires on their car themselves than have to fill out some form online to add new content to their site. Just as with their plumber or their mechanic, these customers don't at all mind having a professional webmaster worry about the addition of new content to the site. "Build my own content? Uh, no, I have a business to run. I'd rather hire someone to do that for me."

Web 2.0 Has Won

Next up, Mr. Arah makes another dynamic leap of logic:

"...Web 2.0 isn't an empty slogan, it marks a fundamental break with the past and Dreamweaver lies on the wrong side of it. So is this the end for Dreamweaver and the traditional Dreamweaver-based web designer? Eventually yes. In the relatively near future every website will be a dynamically-generated web application and all of today's sites built on multiple static pages will be ripped out and replaced."

And this is based on what empirical data exactly?

This smacks of simple developer hubris—the idea that just because you would perform a task a certain way then everyone should do the same is the worst sort of arrogance. As stated in the previous paragraph, not every site owner needs, or even wants, to update their site, either dynamically or any other way. That's what they hire professionals to do, and rejecting one method over another just because it's not how you might do it doesn't mean that it's right. As the old saying goes, when the only tool you know how to use is a hammer, every problem you see appears as a nail.

Of course, professional web designers and developers who only know how to use Dreamweaver's toolset can also be accused of hubris if they insist on using the methods they've become accustomed to for every design project they are presented with. It certainly behooves webmasters to learn about different methods and they will be doing their customers (and their future employability) a disservice if the only means for publishing they are familiar with revolves around static HTML with a smattering of JavaScript and XML.

But the notion that whole swaths of the internet will be ripped out and replaced with dynamic content is just silly.

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