Clark Kurtz - Expression Web Interview

Clark Kurtz.

Name: Clark Kurtz
Country: U.S.A.
WebSite: http://www.ownertrades.com/ http://www.homepagedoctor.com/ 
Focus: Learning, doing, and sharing

 

Expression Web Interview with Clark Kurtz

Q 1. Do you own and maintain your own FrontPage/Expression Web resource(s)?

A. I have put up some tutorials on using the asp.net controls in Expression to accomplish database interactions at Homepage Doctor

Q 2. Do you have a special tip for Expression Web you can share with our readers?

A . Well, soon I will be adding another tutorial which will be my best "tip" because it was the hardest thing for me to figure out. It will be describing how to do the insert, update, and delete queries when you are working with Gridview results from a multi-table relational database. All the tutorials I could find showed single table databases, in which case the control automatically created those queries. But in the real world, you have to know how to do it with a relational database.

Q 3. What feature would you most like to see available within the next version of Expression Web and why?

A . I would like to see a "PayPal control" -- something that "automated" hooking up to and confirming transaction completion with PayPal and resulted in easily adding a date paid and amount into a database. I don't really know if this is a valid request for a "feature", but it is the one thing I see no way of doing without getting into the code (not that doing so is a terrible thing, but since you can accomplish most everything else with the controls, why not that).

Q 4. What Expression Web Add-on would you most like to see available and why?

A. I would like to see the ability to easily add and use custom controls, a wizard-driven form-to-email solution, and support for Includes.

Q 5. As a As a Web Developer you participate online and answer many questions on (FrontPage) Expression Web. What started you down this road and why?

A. When I retired from being a Kodak Research Laboratories manager 10 years ago (hard to believe) I started my website activity as an avocation. With my somewhat advanced technical background I figured how hard can it be? So I took courses on HTML, FrontPage, Access, and Photoshop and started building my ownertrades.com website. Of course I ran into snags, found the FrontPage Newsgroup, and obtained assistance I needed that I couldn't find in books.

When Expression came along I started trying it, and interacting with the Expression newsgroup. I was quite frustrated by the fact that many easy-to-do tasks in FrontPage (especially the wizard and bot-generated forms and database interactions) seemed out of reach with Expression. It took a lot of digging to figure out how to accomplish these things with the ASP.NET controls.

But once you learn how, it becomes "easy" again and you get the advantages of asp.net like the more secure forms validation, user login controls, menu controls, and more advanced database functionality.

I guess what caused me to put up some tutorials was the fact that someone on the newsgroup suggested that I do them after seeing where I had gotten to, and it did seem to be a good idea to miminize the pain for others heading down the same path I had trod. I get help at the newsgroup, so why not give help. And participation does give you the feeling of belonging to a community.

Q 6. What Expression Web or Web design good practices do you recommend our readers follow?

A. I'm not sure that I am in position to recommend good practices related particularly to Expression, as I am in the middle of building my first site using Expression. It will be a database-driven, membership-based site that is as automated as I can make it. But given the load of new (to me) technology pieces that I am learning to accomplish building the site, I have laid out an order-of-work plan which I can share. This plan involves moving from Access /FPWizards and Bots to SQLExpress / ASP.NET and from formatting with Tables /Spaces to Cascading Style Sheets, along with new things like Master Pages and Login Controls.

So, here is my Plan. Maybe the "best practice" about all this is the fact that there is a *Plan* in the first place:

1. Develop the site concept -- generally what the site functionality needs to be, and check what is already "out there" in terms of competition.

2. Learn the database-interaction asp.net controls and enough about SQLServer Express to make working sample database-driven pages,
paying no attention to layout at this point.

3. Learn the asp.net Master Page and Menu controls, lay out the basic folder /menu structure for the site and make the Master Page and site
navigation structure with placeholder pages for the site functionality.

4. Learn the login controls and how to manage user accounts and make test pages that work.

5. Finally, last thing, learn Cascading Style Sheets, and start building the real pages using external style sheets.

People might view this plan as "backwards", since the books all seem to start you with CSS, while I'm not going there until everything else is in
place. Maybe I should call it the Function before Form approach.

Q 7. What five sites do you recommend should be in our readers web design arsenal?

A . There is one site the has been profoundly more useful to me as a designer than any other, and that is Google! I have found most answers to difficult questions or explanations for what was causing some pretty arcane error messages by Googling.

As an example I was having a problem with Access databases, and Googling the problem resulted in my learning that the problem was due to my having a shortcut to Notepad on my desktop (no kidding!). And get this: the solution was to simply rename the shortcut Notepad. I ask you -- where but Google might I ever have found such an answer?

Truly it is the designers best friend. My five most important sites are Google, Google, Google, Google, and Google.

Q 8. Do you have any luminaries within Expression Web and the Web Design industry in general and who do you model your practices after?

A. I don't know that I have modelled my practices after anyone, but one person whose advice to people I always pay attention to is Cheryl Wise.

Q 9. What advice would you give to readers who are used to using the wizards and bots of FrontPage and want to move to Expression Web and a more user friendly site?

A. Well first thing, I don't see the Wizards and bots as having anything to do with user-friendliness of a site or lack thereof.

ED Note: I refer in the question partly to the navigation bot which is the worst menu system ever invented for surfers and is not in the least user friendly. The other bots have their limitations on that score too.

They made it easier for a designer with limited database experience to do things she otherwise might not have been able to do, and for those designers especially, I would suggest they make use of several tutorials sites that are now available to ease the transition from FrontPage to Expression.

I suppose this is where I should mention my own small set of tutorials aimed at users trying to move to the asp.net database controls from the Bots and Wizards. Those tutorials are at

http://www.homepagedoctor.com/ExpressionTutorials/Tutorials.htm

Another site I have come across with extensive, graphical tutorials is:

http://www.asp.net/learn/data-access/#datalist

And finally, for anyone wanting to learn more about Expression's asp.net controls, I highly recommend the book:

Sam's Teach Yourself ASP.NET 2.0 in 24 hours by Scott Mitchell.

It's a great book, and you shouldn't be put off by the fact that it's an asp.net book instead of a book on Expression, because it is the best thing out there for learning how to use the Controls in Expression.

Q 10. Can you tell our readers of any upcoming Expression Web activities or just launched projects you have planned?

A. As far as a project goes, I am working on a new website of my own which will make extensive use of many Expression Web features that
weren't available in FrontPage. What exactly that web project is, I can't tell you because, well, it's a secret :=)

 

Interview by Tina Clarke Microsoft MVP - FrontPage  5th Nov 2007
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