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Contribute 3 Software Review

By Elizabeth Naramore
on December 3, 2004

Dreamweaver for Non-Developers?

Imagine if you took Dreamweaver MX 2004 and put it on a low-carb diet for about 8 months. The result would be Contribute 3. This “Dreamweaver Lite” software program has a similar look and feel to Dreamweaver, but is not intended for use by web developers or coders. Not only is it not fully functional with dynamic pages, it doesn’t even allow you access to the raw code. That being said, what this software can do for you as a developer is free up your time to do something really important.

As a web developer, a lot of my time is spent making minor changes to current clients’ web sites. These minor revisions would most likely take them longer than the 5 to 15 minutes they take me, so I get the call, make the change, and it’s finished. Over time, those 5, 10, and 15 minutes add up- I usually have a hard time justifying charging for a 5 minute task. It’s not worth my $0.37 to send the invoice. But if there was a way that someone who knows absolutely nothing about HTML (nor has the desire to) could make small changes to the static portions of their site without screwing up any of the code I have set up, well then that would be something. Gosh, imagine the time that could be saved and the big project deadlines that could actually be met. What a concept.

Lo and behold in walks Contribute 3, with its WYSIWYG (or as WYSIWYG as you can get) editing, its easy-to-use text formatting and layout tools, its restricted access to certain users, its compatibility with Dreamweaver and its relatively inexpensive price tag.

Changes from Contribute 2

If you are familiar with the Contribute line of software, then I’ve told you nothing new so far. What is new however, are some of the following upgrades:

  • New sample templates to create a site. This addition is a bit perplexing to me, as I thought the purpose of this software was for non-Internet users to update a site somebody else designed.
  • Ability to alter images directly in the software.
  • Enhanced Mac performance issues such as Safari support and the ability to insert QuickTime movies with a click.
  • Improved Approval process, with a “Send for Review” feature where someone else can “OK” the changes the user is proposing, without it being directly uploaded to the site. The administrator can set the review procedures and permissions for each user, which is a nice feature.
  • Ability to see the CSS styles in a drop-down menu, so you can visually determine what style you want.
  • Enhanced interaction with Dreamweaver
  • File control which forces files to be saved to a certain directory on the Web server (i.e., any image saved in Contribute can be automatically saved to an images directory)
  • WebDAV support
  • Improved extensibility

Would I Recommend this Software?

…to my clients? The non-Web savvy ones that want to make their own changes to their Web sites? Absolutely! I already have a few in mind that this software would be perfect for. Its simplicity and ease of use make it the perfect candidate for them. I think they would especially appreciate the following features:

  • They can drag and drop from Windows apps such as Excel and Word right into their site.
  • They can insert a Google Search or Pay Pal link with a click (literally!)
  • They can resize, crop, rotate, enhance brightness/contrast of images on the site
  • They can insert any Flash or Movie with a click
  • The interface is straightforward and similar to Word or Wordperfect
  • At $149, the price is not bad.
…to another Web developer? No way. This software is not meant for the Web developer and would only frustrate a true coder trying to create from scratch a site with any depth or innovation.

…to a large corporation with numerous persons updating a common Web site? Perhaps. The problem I see is that if a corporation is large enough to have that many people working on a Web site, then they are most likely not utilizing a mostly static site. They are probably going to be using a team of developers, creating complex code in their pages, and thus rendering the software useless. However, if the corporation was publishing an Intranet, where they had different departments who were not so HTML-savvy that needed to periodically post information for the whole company (such as Human Resources posting updated insurance or sick-day information) then this software could work. In this case, the IT department would appreciate the following features:

  • Extensibility – allowing customized start and tutorial pages, installers, toolbars and menus; all within the Contribute software
  • Approval process – admins control who can publish, and who must have their pages reviewed and approved first

To Sum it All Up

This is a piece of software with a very specific purpose and target market. Under the right circumstances, it can streamline the process of Web development by putting it in the hands of the non-techies and freeing up the IT guys to finally let them go home and get a shower. The trick is finding the right situation, as this software is definitely not for the serious Web developer who creates and maintains sites for others.