Cyndi Smith - Expression Web Interview

Name: Cyndi Smith
Country: USA
WebSite: WebVixn Internet Solutions
Focus: Dreamweaver and Expression Web

Expression Web Interview with Cyndi Smith

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

A. No, I don’t maintain a support or resource site, but I frequently have contact with people who get stuck on problems or need advice using Expression Web or Dreamweaver.  I’m actually a fluent and avid Dreamweaver user and have just recently started using Expression Web as another tool (often used side-by-side) to fill in where Dreamweaver falls short.  I just updated to Dreamweaver CS4, so I can relate to people who are trying to find new solutions or attempt “simple” tricks in the program and are getting stuck or lost.  I hold the utmost respect for those who spend so much of their time and efforts helping others that they are recognized as MVPs or Community Experts.  Thanks to people like you, I’ve been able to create beautiful sites for many clients, and have been able to solve many issues, including those with PHP, jQuery, .ASPX, etc.  If it weren’t for the generous, I’d be nowhere!

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

A . Since this is mainly an Expression Web discussion, I’d like to point out the great “paste options” that are available.  When you are in Design View and want to paste an element in a page, you will see a “Paste Options” button. This button will give you several options (which I really could have used in my older versions of Dreamweaver, so ‘way to go!’ EW).  For text, you can choose to paste using the destination styles (getting rid of original styles and keeping consistent with the current document. HANDY!). You also have the option of keeping the original formatting from your source, keeping the text only (removing all formatting), or “treat as HTML tags”.  There are also options when pasting graphics that allow you to either keep the original formatting (positioning attributes, size, etc.) or resample the picture to “Match Size”, allowing you to resize original image.  I really do enjoy the text pasting options and find them helpful, especially when I want the code stripped clean. What a relief when transferring old content to a new site!

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

A . A. My biggest problem is the need to re-enter my FTP information after switching sites. It’s not huge, but who wants to go digging through all the files looking for the search engine username and password each time?  I had this problem with Dreamweaver 8, but it was fixed in the next version.

ED NOTE: Cyndi is using Expression Web 1.0 - this feature is fixed in Expression Web 2.0 and 3.0

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

A. If someone could build a cross-browser compatibility testing module, this would set EW way out in front. Browser compatibility testing and troubleshooting can really hold up a site’s progress. ** Also, if you could build a WordPress (PHP) wysiwyg Addon, I would be in heaven!  Imagine an add-on to rival any PHP Dreamweaver extension that can help people build, design or tweak WordPress or WordPressMU BuddyPress themes.  “There’s gold in them thar hills!”

ED NOTE: Well Cyndi has half her wish - SuperPreview for Expression Web is now available in EW 3.0

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

A.  I’m not a Microsoft MVP, but I have the highest regard for those who are.  I try to share as much as my information and experience with others as I can, but sometimes I just have to curl up in my little shell and plug away on my own projects – no time for helping others.  People who frequent forums and answer questions deserve MVP treatment!  Oh, maybe I get in by marriage? My husband is an Excel MVP.  Does that make me an MVP-in-law?  ;-)

ED NOTE: Cyndi inadvertently picked up the wrong set of questions which I had tweaked to fit her, this should have read about web design. I wanted Cyndi to do the interview as she is both a ew and dw user and I thought getting a different perspective on the two applications would make for a good insight for fellow users. (Also to note this is the most ed notes I have ever put on an interview;)

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

A. You’re safest if you follow Google’s recommendations: They are comprehensive and really offer great advice to anyone who wants to have a search engine optimized site from the very beginning.  Speaking of which, I am a firm believer that SEO principles should be integral in any site design. If you’re not familiar with these Search Engine Optimization principles, please Google it and start reading. It’s fairly simple, and if you’re already building pages, you probably have the skills involved with setting up the site in the “right” way for it to be easily found and read by search engines.

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

A . No matter WHAT program you use to design/edit websites, these sites are a must-have in your arsenal:

a/  – This is my new favorite site. These guys cover everything about CSS, graphics, icons, WordPress (don’t forget WP!), Ajax, design, and so much more!  Cutting edge with tutorials, all free (as far as I’ve seen).  They led me to (a good source for all kinds of code snippets – an “online code snippet gallery”).  That’s the nice thing about a great website is that it will lead you to other great websites.

b/ – FREE public resource for web developers with wonderful step-by-step tutorials. You can even request a topic.  I used these guys to figure out how to design my first database-driven website (now called dynamic site) way back in the pioneer days of the web, and they’re still going strong. offers CSS cheat sheets, HTML cheat sheets, all kinds of tutorials – from true beginner to seasoned web developer. Whether you just tinker with your new HTML only or HTML/CSS site, or if you want to learn ColdFusion/JavaScript/Ajax/Rails… WebMonkey can at least point you towards the right tree to bark up for good information!  They even supply free PhotoShop tutorials and articles.  I give this site 5 bananas (you’ll see what I mean if you search the site for the information you want).  I believe WebMonkey is now associated with Wired Magazine.

c/ There are tons of places to find design inspiration – one may be (i.e. – look up competitors in your client’s industry, research design ideas by typing in such keywords as “web design ideas”). But one of my favorites is WebDesignWall. Though I rarely use the design ideas (most of my clients require a conservative, corporate, clean & simple design), I can stay on top of the trends – or follow the trends in a close 2nd or 3rd place… They also offer many tutorials on CSS, PhotoShop, and other “how-to” articles.  It’s a great place to join in the conversation, ask questions, and meet other budding designers and developers.

d/ – I used to be a social media sceptic, but now I’ve found that networking and finding relevant people to watch and listen to can greatly improve your own problem-solving and information-finding capabilities!  On Twitter, I’ve found partners to work on existing web projects, people who need help (and tell their friends just how helpful you are), people who can offer you help and point you in  the right direction for research, new projects to work on, and just plain nice people.  Feel free to check me out on and follow my friends!  There’s a whole universe of great web developers of all skill levels on Twitter!  If you’re not already on a social network (I know, I know, it’s such a huge buzz right now that it’s almost a turnoff), then I recommend at least joining a forum like Adobe Dev Forum or Microsoft's help forums for whatever products you are using.

e/ Validation of your code is important.  Check these markup validation services: (for HTML), and (for CSS).  Errors are SUCH a pain!

f/ Sorry – I just have to mention the Google Webmaster Tools, including analytics and XML sitemap submission.  Google is the behemoth right now, so be sure to pay attention to what they say! is the best place to begin.  Once you’re managing multiple sites, this is very handy!

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. Cheryl Wise and Tina Clarke are at the top of the list for Expression Web help. I follow them both on Twitter, and I lurk in various forums where the two of them can be spotted from time to time.  Theirs is a generous model (as Microsoft MVPs) of helping those who don’t know as much.  This is not only educational and helpful for others, but I’ve found that the more I help others, the more I solidify my own skill set/knowledge base and the more I improve my industry knowledge. These two MVPs are definite luminaries!  I have seen so much wisdom and expertise in a local professional named Roan Bear ( Roan (Pronounced Row-un) has recently evolved her business into a full-time business strategy/technology integration service. She started in web design and development and then discovered She shared this amazing opportunity (to be a developer) to make 3-digits-plus an hour.  Not only is she technologically savvy and an AMAZING mentor in topics such as Quality Assurance (quality control testing of websites and projects), but she’s a great example of finding your niche and growing your skills and respectability. Anyone who offers their advice and is noticed as an Adobe Community Expert or (especially) a Microsoft MVP deserves credit here. Just google it & you’ll find some help and good advice!

ED NOTE: Well blush, honestly she thought this up on her own! I might mention Cheryl is one of only TWO people in the world that are both a Expression Web MVP and a Adobe Community Expert - Dreamweaver.

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. Not sure here… I’m one that believes in learning how to do what’s behind the wizards so that I know WHY things come out like they do. I believe that you’ll be much better off in the long run if you stay away from the “magic paintbrush” type of formatting and move to CSS.  You’ll thank yourself in the long run! There are many great tutorials out there, and they’re free and easy to understand. Just do a few walk-throughs and find a forum where you can ask questions without fear.  Keep trying, and before long you’ll find people asking YOU about the things YOU know about.  As a side note, don’t forget to comment your code extensively when you’re working “outside your comfort zone”.  It will help you figure out what went wrong when you try something new, and it will help you remember what you did when you go back to it later.  Even though

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

A. Sorry, no EW activities – I’m so terribly happy to say that I’ve been too busy working to plan any large, helpful efforts. Income for something you love is good.  I have a blog where I try to help people and reflect on current topics, but it’s in the process of moving.  Seeing all the help that others give and all of the information that is contributed makes me feel a bit selfish, so I am inspired and am attempting to put myself in a better place where I will be able to give back more to my web design and development community.


Interview by Tina Clarke Microsoft MVP - Expression Web  2nd Nov 2009
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