Dustin Drees - Expression Web Interview

Name: Dustin Drees
Country: United States
WebSite: http://www.learnexpression.com/
Focus: Online tutorials for the entire Microsoft Expression Suite

Expression Web Interview with Dustin Drees

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

A. Yes, I run Learn Expression, a resource for video tutorials for the entire Expression suite, as well as a forum for questions and conversations. I have some backup from the crew at http://LearnVisualStudio.NET  as well, but LearnExpression's website is designed, built, and maintained by me. I am also responsible for creating the Expression video tutorials found on the site, and I try to answer every post that comes through the forums.

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

A. I think the most important tip I could give is to learn how to understand and write CSS yourself as quickly as possible. Expression Web is a tool, and it's a great way to assist yourself while building a web site. It does a pretty good job of writing its own code, but the more you can get away from relying solely on the program to write all of the code for you, the better off you'll be.

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

A . I think PHP support and a better FTP program are musts, and I think the xWeb team is well aware of this, so it will be resolved.

One thing I doubt we'll see, but I'd really like to see is an improvement to the interactive buttons Expression Web can make for you. I think this is a great feature and incredibly easy to use, but I really dislike the code it creates to do so. This interaction can be done with CSS, but it isn't in Expression Web. I would really be happy to see that fixed in V2. The code that it uses goes against most everything CSS is for.

And if I can go for one extra, I'm really surprised to see there's no way to insert media inside of Expression Web. Granted it isn't to difficult to manually insert these things, but a tighter media integration is necessary.

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

A. I think contact forms have caused people the biggest headaches in Expression Web so far. I have only recently become aware of CTRFX's Contact Form Generator for Expression Web. I haven't gotten around to trying it yet, but it looks promising. The easier this can get inside of Expression Web, the better, and not just asp driven contact forms.

Q 5. As a Web developer you participate online and provide Expression Web videos and tutorials. What started you down this road and why?

A. At the time LearnExpression was started I was the Marketing & Art Director for LearnVisualStudio.NET. The Expression suite seemed like a pretty natural extension off the main LearnVisualStudio.NET site. I personally took an interest in getting the site off the ground and supporting the entire Microsoft Expression suite because I appreciate Microsoft's attempt at becoming more design aware and finding ways to bridge the gap between design and development. I was excited about helping them bringing that to their audience. It will be a big hill for Microsoft to climb, but without a community of people supporting it, helping new users, and providing training, it will be insurmountable.

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

A. There has been a great push for web usability in recent years and I think the community has made great strides. Expression Web is only a tool in helping you create great websites, you need to understand what makes a useful site that everyone can access. Take the time to keep up on the latest standards.

With that said, with the web standards push, has come the predictable result of a lot of sites looking basically the same. This isn't entirely bad as we have more useful sites, with consistent navigations and better organization, but not all rules are etched in stone, and remember, even if they are, they still might not make sense for your website. Understand and know why you're doing something and the effect it will have on your web customers.

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

A .
http://www.alistapart.com/  : Great articles on web standards and best practices.
2. recommended link now defunt
3. http://kuler.adobe.com/  : Fun to use and deep color picker.
4. http://www.smashingmagazine.com/  : Amazing collections and lots of links to great free resources.
5. http://blogcabin.37signals.com/posts/  : Thought provoking blog of the current web rock-stars, 37 signals.

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. Well I'm pretty new to the Expression Web community, but as far as web design (and design in general) I could probably go on for quite some time. There are so many talented people out there, it can get a little daunting. There is inspiration everywhere and it's not hard to be finding ways to be continually growing. But if I have to pick some;

My good friend Ty Lettau at Sound of Design is a constant source of inspiration, motivation and reflection.

I wish I had 1% of the talent of the team at Odopod.

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. Don't be afraid of moving forward. If you relied heavily on FrontPage bots, yes you're probably going to need to spend a fair amount of time learning how to do several things, but in the end, you're going to make better sites because you understand what you're doing. There are a lot of complicated parts to website development, but the basics are actually pretty easy to grasp. Stick with it and you'll be better off for it.

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

A. Actually yes, the site is about to enter the next phase of its life here shortly. I've redesigned the site, and have been building it out. The LearnVisualStudio.NET crew is going the help polish off the backend and make it functional. Once that's done we'll be relaunching with a new tutorial series on Expression Blend, which will be followed shortly by a tutorial series on web design basics, that Expression Web users should find informative. Content updates on the site have been slow while we get this done, as well as some other projects, but once that hurdle is crossed, a lot of new content will be filling the site.

Interview by Tina Clarke Microsoft MVP - FrontPage  15th Sept 2007 Copyright © 2007 All Rights Reserved