Build your site with the right tools for the job

In the world of Web development tools, there are more choices than ever before — which may leave some government IT professionals scratching their heads. Should you go with that expensive software package? What about a freebie off the Net?

In choosing which tools to use, it’s important

to first look at your requirements — immediate and down the road — as well as your budget and security needs. And, perhaps most importantly, figure out what you hope to achieve from your site. Do you want to automate processes, such as applying for licences or paying fees? Expand constituent participation? Streamline business processes?

Today’s users are typically looking for more dynamic, interactive sites, with cool features such as Java and streaming media, rather than plain text. A flat site is built of HTML pages, while a dynamic site uses HTML templates and content retrieved from a database. Today, even most mid-size sites have some sort of dynamic application, like a search engine or discussion forum. Users also want to view information from one homogenous point, which can be a challenge in the public sector.

Consolidate your data

“”In government departments there are often disparate sources, from different platforms and different databases,”” says Dave Senf, senior analyst, e-business operations, with IDC Canada in Toronto. It’s important to consolidate that data, he says, and be able to operate across it.

But with so many tools, solutions and vendors to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start.

Warren Shiau, senior analyst, software, with IDC Canada, says competition in the Web development tools market has created enough price pressure to create a downward turn in projected revenues.

But this doesn’t mean usage is declining, he says. Also, some functionality is being bundled out of packages and sold as standalone products. However, the cost of the software is only one factor to consider. The tools you choose will coincide with which operating system you’re using, be it Windows, Unix or Linux. But also consider content creation and functionality, recommends Senf. The size of the site will influence these factors — whether you’re deploying a small site for relatively few users or a much larger one with hundreds of thousands of users.

“”First know your requirements, what you want to do, what you want to do down the road,”” says Senf.

For a small to mid-size site, there are a number of packages available, from Microsoft FrontPage and SoftQuad HoTMetaL Pro (owned by Corel), to pricier options with all the bells and whistles, such as Adobe’s Web Collection for PC and Mac (which includes Photoshop, GoLive, LiveMotion and Illustrator) and Macromedia’s Studio MX for PC and Mac (which includes Dreamweaver MX, Flash MX, Fireworks MX, FreeHand and ColdFusion MX Server). There are also free tools available on the Internet, such as Evrsoft IST Page 2000.

Senf says many small to mid-size gov

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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