Prerequisites for Using Microsoft Expression Web

Applies to: Microsoft Expression WebMicrosoft Expression Web 2Microsoft Expression Web 3


Microsoft Expression Web is a professional Web design tool that is designed for creating standards-based Web sites. In order for Web designers to be productive with Expression Web, the capabilities of the product must be understood and specific skills must be acquired.

In order to better set expectations and to prepare Web designers for using Expression Web, we’re making this FAQ available.

Is Expression Web a What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) tool?
No. Expression Web does a good job of approximating what your page will look like in any particular browser. However, the Expression Web design surface does not fully support all code that you might be using. For example, CSS pseudo-element styles are not rendered in Design view in Expression Web.

When you want to see exactly how a particular page will look in a browser, you should preview that page in the desired browser. Expression Web contains a robust feature-set for previewing in multiple browsers at the desired screen resolution.

Is Expression Web the same as Microsoft FrontPage? Is it a replacement for FrontPage?
No. FrontPage was a great product in its day, but the Web has evolved substantially since the days of FrontPage. The complexities of designing modern Web sites demand that designers learn a more complex tool. FrontPage and Expression Web have little in common.

Can I use FrontPage Server Extensions and still get point-and-click design elements without learning new design technologies?
The FrontPage Server Extensions are considered deprecated technology and are being phased out of Microsoft products in favor of modern standards. Designers who use FrontPage Server Extensions components are likely to encounter problems with modern Web browsers. Many hosting companies are also dropping support for FrontPage Server Extensions due to the fact that Microsoft hasn’t released a new version in many years.

Expression Web users who are using FrontPage Server Extensions for authoring Web sites by connecting to servers using HTTP should adopt modern technologies such as FTP (including SFTP and FTPS), WebDAV, or by using disk-based sites.

What skills do I need in order to use Expression Web? Do I need to be a professional Web designer?
Absolutely not. However, in order to be productive with Expression Web, you must possess the skills used in modern Web design. 

The following skills are required in order to use Microsoft Expression Web.
  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for styling page elements
  • CSS for page layout

In addition to these core skills, you may also need to possess the following.

  • JavaScript knowledge when using scripting for menus, dynamic page design, etc.
  • ASP.NET or PHP knowledge for interacting with databases, implementing forms, using membership features for a login system, etc.
  • Knowledge of Internet Information Services (IIS) configuration if using IIS instead of the Microsoft Expression Development Server.

Keep in mind that these are only some of the skills that might be necessary in order to use Expression Web. Users who do not possess the skills in the first list will have considerable difficulty using Expression Web.

How can I acquire the skills I need to use Expression Web?
The following resources can assist you in developing the skills necessary for designing Web sites using Expression Web.

Basic CSS Skills – Learning CSS

Introduction to CSS (Uses WebMatrix, but skills apply to all Web design)

Expression Web Training Videos

Basic Web Site Tutorial by Cheryl D. Wise, Expression Web MVP

Learn CSS Topics from A List Apart