Steve Guttman - Expression Web Interview
Name: Steve Guttman
Focus: Microsoft Expression
Q 1. Do you own and maintain your own Expression Web resource(s) Or are you responsible for Expression Web websites
I manage the Expression Web product team—which is made up of Dev, Test and Program Management. Additionally, I also oversee the Expression Web community site at http://expression.microsoft.com, although I have a very capable community manager (Lori Dirks) who makes that happen pretty autonomously. I contribute to the team blog as I am able—but, one of the “commitments” that all members of the product team have is to write team blog entries (check it out at: http://blogs.msdn.com/xweb/ ). So, there is a good variety of stuff, and a lot of different perspectives that come thru. I try and send out a link or two a day on interesting HTML-related issues thru twitter at: http://twitter.com/sguttman.
Q 2. Do you have a special tip for Expression Web you can share with our readers?
I don’t really have a special tip, per se, but am continually appreciative of the CSS capabilities of Expression Web. The fact that you can click on class names in the HTML and get taken to the relevant CSS rule; the ability to move CSS rules from source code file to CSS file simply by dragging them in the Manage Styles palette—is great! Most importantly, if you ever have had to deal with trying to figure out someone else’s CSS, the CSS properties grid just can’t be beat. For each CSS property, it tells you the rule that sets that property (by figuring out the specificity and inheritance structure of the rules), allowing you to quickly understand the structure of your markup.
Q 3. What feature would you most like to see available within the next version of Expression Web and why?
Well—we have multiple years of my favorite features queued-up in the Expression Web pipeline. Unfortunately, I can’t share those publically. We’ve built up a really talented team over the past year. So, you can expect to see us focus on polishing and retooling some of the basics like editing and CSS, as well as trying to introduce things that are exceptionally innovative and that address key authoring pain points.
Q 4. What Expression Web Add-on would you most like to see available and why?
One of the things about working at Microsoft is that there’s a ton of technology being developed, or even just “lying around.” Because of the size of the company and the intensity of the work environment, it’s not always easy to “connect the dots” to find technologies that are being developed by other groups, that may be useful to your team. I recently “ran across” the Silverlight control toolbox—a set of Silverlight controls (charts, accordion controls, tab controls)—that would be just awesome if scripted into a web page. While these controls are only useable in Visual Studio, today, I’m actively trying to persuade that team to make them useful within Expression Web. If you’d like to see free charting in Expression Web, let firstname.lastname@example.org know. Thanks!
Q 5. As a Microsoft employee you participate online and answer many questions on Expression Web. Is this part of your job?
I’d say it’s more of a moral imperative—rather than a job requirement. I’d like people to get a flavor of the people behind the product.
Q 6. What Expression Web or Web design good practices do you recommend our readers follow?
I’m not an anti-table Nazi like a lot of purists—particularly when some of the hacks you have to use to get, for example—equal length columns with different background colors—are so onerous. But, I really do recommend that people spend some time to learn about “floats” and “clears” and about how to implement absolute/relative positioning. You can argue about how much time savings you can realize (or lose) implementing column layouts as divs instead of tables. But, in my mind there is no doubt that when designing headers and sidebar with graphics, you can save a ton of time and complexity by anchoring graphics to a containing element using floats or absolute positioning—rather than slicing them up into tables. This will make your code simpler and more maintainable
Q 7. What five sites do you recommend should be in our readers web design arsenal?
- For general HTML-related issues, it’s hard to beat http://sitepoint.com .
- I’m a big fan of Chris Coyier’s http://css-tricks.com
- I find myself looking more and more at stuff from Smashing Magazine: http://www.smashingmagazine.com
- For inspiration, I often consult: http://www.thebestdesigns.com/ or http://coolhomepages.com
- And, of course, the Expression Community site at http://expression.microsoft.com
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?
I’m pretty much a fan of the classics—Eric Meyer’s, “Cascading Stylesheets: The Definitive Guide,” and Jeff Feldman’s “Designing with Web Standards,” have an honored position on my bookshelf (if such a thing is possible). I’m continually amazed at what these guys can do with CSS. On the Expression Web front, I’ve been most impressed with Morten Rand-Hendriksen (pink and yellow media – http://pinkandyellow.com ), who—in addition to being a kind of Renaissance guy—is just really imaginative when it comes to web design and technology. The last time I spoke with him, he was figuring out how to turn Wordpress into a full-fledged CMS for site hosting.
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?
This is a big issue, and I feel we have not done enough to date to support our FrontPage users. We’re in the process of creating a section of the Expression Community site (http://expression.microsoft.com) devoted to providing tutorials, techniques and technology for helping FrontPage users transition to Expression Web (as well as a FrontPage-specific forum). This should be launching in Feb or March. In the slightly longer term, we’d like to bring back selected FrontPage functionality in a more web-standards way. Forms validation, for example, is something that everyone needs to do. Stuff like discussion groups and picture galleries are actually now available through the Microsoft Web Application Installer up at http://microsoft.com/web.
Q 10. Can you tell our readers of any upcoming Expression Web activities or just launched projects you have planned?
As usual, there’s a lot of stuff happening at Mix—the Microsoft show happening March 18 – 20 in Las Vegas. This show tends to be (slightly) more designer and front-end developer focused than PDC (which is entirely dev-focused). Mix showcases a lot of Silverlight and Web Standards development at the company. Last year Guy Kawasaki interviewed Steve Ballmer, and he showed off a little “monkey boy for web developers” action. I believe the sessions are posted online. But, I would encourage people to go to http://visitmix.com to check out whatever interesting announcements may occur in March.