Why colleges should stop teaching Fireworks as a primary web design tool

Here’s a recurring scenario in my life. Someone who took some college classes to learn to make web sites has decided to try to implement CSS and to make their sites accessible. The classes taught them to make web sites by using Fireworks to slice an image and to export the resulting table-based HTML to Dreamweaver. Now this person, who–I admit–does beautiful graphics in Fireworks, comes to me or to some discussion list I participate in and asks for help in making their Fireworks generated HTML work with CSS or fulfill some accessibility need. This question is like asking how to get a tricycle to go from zero to 60 in under 6 seconds—it demonstrates a gap in the basic knowledge of what is involved.

Some college has given this poor person a difficult handicap to overcome. That handicap is the belief that what they are doing is a best practice that will adapt to every requirement. Yes, Fireworks can generate HTML. No, learning to generate HTML with Fireworks is not the best way to learn to make web sites.

In terms of best practice, students should be learning how to structure an HTML document intelligently so that it can be presented with CSS based enhancements (including, perhaps, lovely images created in Fireworks). An intelligently structured HTML document can adapt to every requirement: CSS/accessibility for screen, print, handheld, etc.

A sliced image exported from Fireworks as a table full of empty cells, spacer gifs, images and almost no text is not the web design solution that some college classes lead students to believe it is. Classes should teach HTML, CSS, and then how to apply that knowledge with a tool like Dreamweaver.

Fireworks does have its place: to create graphics. It should be taught as a graphics design tool, not as a web design tool. Students who use Fireworks to create exportable HTML should know how to adapt it in Dreamweaver to make it meet their other requirements.

There are many options available to an instructor who wants to teach students to think in terms of building structure with HTML that will support CSS and accessibility. My own book is written in these terms, and other books I have reviewed here such as Web Standards Solutions by Dan Cederholm are as well.

3 thoughts on “Why colleges should stop teaching Fireworks as a primary web design tool”

  1. You’re argument is terrible.

    1. Web Design & Graphic Design are different disciplines.

    2. Any school that reduces Website implementation to exporting the entire site from any application, then they shouldn’t be teaching.

    3. Your problem is with the school not Fireworks. You can make the same argument about Photoshop & Image Ready. I am sure there schools that do the same thing with that combo.

    4. Dreamweaver may be considered a web design tool, but it should not be. Any person building websites, should design in Fireworks, and hand code the XHTML & CSS. Period. No auto-generated DREAmweaver code.

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