Web Design Via Open-Source Tools

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Many well-known proprietary software tools have been transformed into a free open-source program over the past few years — Microsoft Office yielded Open Office, Internet Explorer yielded Firefox and now open source is tackling Web design.

Open-source Web design (OSWD) was started in 2000 as a way to provide the open-source community with free Web template designs.

After some initial technical failures and some squabbling among members over ownership, there were multiple Web sites with similar goals. As of December 2006, however, OSWD became known as The Open Design Community (TODC) as the standard open Web design source.

It was proposed that a community of designers can’t rely on a privately owned Web site to release its work and promote its goals. It was decided that the community will create its own Web site, which will be headed by a board of administrators, and all decisions will be made in a democratic fashion.

Some of the goals listed for the New Year on the TODC Web site are a Web design wiki, resource directory, blog network and even a podcast.

There are many ways TODC can make life easier for users.

A Web template is a tool used to separate content from presentation in Web design and for mass production of Web documents. There are multiple kinds with detailed specifications, but all have two unifying characteristics: good separation and presentational flexibility.

TODC allows you to download free templates, and all of which have passed through and received the board of experts’ stamp of approval. As a designer, this offers almost limitless creativity.

Usually hampered by one proprietary template system, designers just change content and keep recycling the same page. All TODC templates are approved by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the governing body that develops de facto standards to enhance the interoperability of Web-related products.

Along with the templates, TODC offers a community of like-minded individuals an opportunity to share, comment on and ask questions about content posted on the site. One advantage is the lower cost of operation, which, depending on the size of the company, could potentially save millions in total cost of ownership.

Another advantage is reliability — open source allows bugs and problems to be fixed quickly and implemented without much more effort than a download. Proprietary software might mean waiting for a new official version or, worse, face hours in customer support purgatory.

Finally, security is always an issue in the “open source versus proprietary” debate. Simply using open source doesn’t automatically make a program secure, and just because a program is open source does not guarantee security.

The advantage TODC has, however, is in its ability to constantly scrutinize the code, and with an entire board looking at it instead of just one individual, the likelihood of security goes up tremendously.

In other words, the castle is well-guarded by the guards themselves.

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