Iíve evaluated a lot of software for use by users who are PC literate but donít have any knowledge of web page production. Iíve also done the same for users who arenít particularly PC literate but can use a word processor. The main criteria in my evaluations was to find software that gave both groups enough control to produce usable pages in the shortest possible time and with as little training as I could get away with (cause Iíd be the one doing the training).
The second group were easy to please, they all used Word so all I needed to do was explain the concepts of links, bookmarks and URLís and they were happily producing simple pages in minutes. The second group was a little harder, there are dozens of WYSIWYG editors to choose from, I tried a large number and finally decided on FrontPage.
FrontPage gives you enough control to create and maintain complex sites with the minimum of training, it can be argued that it isnít THE best editor around but what tipped it for me was itís usability. Microsoft take a lot of stick, a lot of the time for good reason, but all their software has the same basic layout and feel, that means anyone who is even a little PC literate can find their way around it in a very short time. You have to bear in mind that these people have no intentions of learning HTML, they don't want to be Web Masters, they just want to produce decent looking pages as easily and as quickly as they can.
With regard to Geocities and their online page builder Ė I happened to be asked by a friend to try and debug a page sheíd built and uploaded. It took me a couple of minutes to get into their webpage creation software (an online build and FTP upload package). The problem turned out to be a line of spurious code inserted by the server on upload, it wasnít fixable client side so I emailed the helpline giving the details. What I was impressed with was the ease of use, simple templates are available with text and image boxes that only require the user to enter their own details and hit the Ďsaveí button (which at that point uploads the edited file to the server). For the more adventurous, or as the user becomes more proficient a really easy to use individual file upload is available which is similar to Ronís photo upload feature here at Passions.
My advice is if you have Internet Explorer in one of the later versions try the cut down version of FrontPage that ships free with it. Build a site at Geocities or the like to find your feet and then upload your own files when you feel they, and you, are ready. After all you canít lose anything and I think youíll learn quicker doing it than any other way.