UCE Web design: Why Microsoft Expression Web is now the best alternative Website Authoring Software for O level students

Microsoft Expression Web in split view

For some time now I have been doing some simple research and gathering opinions within the various networks of ICT teachers, regarding the web authoring software they are using with their O level computer studies candidates. I have also had the privilege of getting invitations to facilitate a number of seminars for S4 candidates. Most of the schools dont teach the topic and the ICT teachers discourage their candidates from doing website design during the practical exam. In the 2016 UNEB Examiners report on work of candidates, on page 192 in the PDF version, it is noted that web design was the least attempted question. Similarly, the 2017 UNEB examiners report notes that the UCE web design question was unpopular. Lets ask our selves, why is this so?

In reality, the main reason is that most of the teachers dont teach the topic. The few teachers who attempt to teach the topic mainly teach HTML basics as outlined in the UCE syllabus, using a text editor like Notepad.

In its preliminary pages, the O level Computer Studies the syllabus guides as follows on Web design and publishing:

A personal web page should have:

A header

Images and graphics



Hyper links

When conducting practice with other tasks, involve use of a resource person (like web designers / masters)

Limit the scope of designing to the following areas:

Web Page Components:
a. Page titles
b. Text headings and main text content
c. Buttons and icons: navigation tools
d. Lists: ordered and unordered lists
e. Line separators
f. Graphics (images)
g. Tables
h. Frames
i. Specific relative text size and flow in a document.

Linking Options:

a. Relative pathnames and absolute pathnames
b. URLs
c. Integration of images into the page
d. Alternate text for images
e. Images as hyper links

Colour Options:

a. Specify a colour by name
b. Specify a colour by RGB Value
c. Colour of text, background and links

The syllabus goes ahead to detail the topic flow as per the extract below:

Extract from the UCE syllabus on website design. You can download full Syllabus PDF from here.

However, basing on how the examination questions are set, requiring candidates to create complete websites of about 5 pages, with features like shared banners, tables, lists, images, etc, it is impossible to code manually all the webpages required in the question within about 40 minutes available for each section B number in the exam – this is one of the reasons why teachers advise their candidates to opt for presentations and database questions which they can do in a few minutes using Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft access. My advise to felloe ICT Teachers is that we should stop disadvantaging our candidates by not teaching all topics – if you dont teach web design, the paper 840/2 will be compulsory since the candidates will be left with only Database and PowerPoint!😖

To be able to finish a website within the available time, the candidates need to use a good web authoring software. I remember my pioneer candidates in 2011 excelled because many attempted website design. By then I was using Microsoft Front Page software (the which was replaced by Microsoft Expression Web).

Author Poses with his S4 Computer Studies candidate class in 2012 posing with them for a photo immediately after they came out of the computer exam. Many of them said they had attempted the web design number and excelled with distinctions when the results were released.
Also Read: Tribute to Rogers Mukalele – My Silent Hero in Uganda ICT Teachers’ Fraternity

UNEB questions usually state, “Using web authoring software of your choice, create a website for…” (See 2017 UCE Exam Web design question). The following are some of the features to consider when choosing a web authoring software, adapted from the University of Washington website.

Features of web authoring software

These are the basic features common to the  working environment of most popular web authoring software programs.

1.Views ▪Most web authoring software provides multiple views of the web page you’re working on. ▪Standard, normal, or design view – This is typically the default view, which is a blank screen on which you type, paste, or insert content. It uses the WYSIWYG principle. This is very similar to a word processor screen. ▪Code view – Allows you to view and work directly with the HTML code created for you by the web authoring software. ▪Split – Both of the above views are displayed simultaneously in separate windows.

2. Creating Headings and Subheadings §In Normal or Design View, Web authoring software. A text formatting toolbar typically includes buttons for bolding and italicizing text, and probably additionally includes some means of identifying a heading or subheading.

3. Inserting Links §In web authoring software products, you add a link to a document by selecting Insert from the menu, then Link or Hyperlink. Most web authoring software tools additionally provide a button or icon that allows you to quickly insert a link.

4. Inserting Images ▪In many web authoring software products, you add an image to a document by selecting Insert from the menu, then Image or Picture. ▪After you have inserted the image into your webpage, you can edit its attributes in a Properties dialog box or panel. You can change the image’s height and width, put a border around it, make it into a link, and add alternate text for users who can’t see the image.

5. Some web authoring packages use built-in file transfer protocol (FTP) capabilities to publish the designed pages to a web server and allow the user to edit publish files while making real-time changes.

Why is Expression web software the best?

Last year, I published an article profiling the various alternative web authoring softwares available. The dilemma was, which web authoring software (desktop application) is the most recommended (basing on being current, easy to acquire, easy to install and use offline) for creating static HTML webpages required at UCE.

I have also led a number sessions on website design during some ICT Teachers workshops and obtained feedback.

Also Read: ICT TEACHERS Discuss Web Design, Databases, Spreadsheets and form Regional Subcommittees for steering their association

Now after through research and considerations, Expression Web has emerged as the best option for use at UCE web design.

  • Microsoft Expression Web software is more recommended because:
  • 1⃣ It is a fully fledged Web Authoring Software which provides both a WYSIWYG design interface and an HTML interface which you can switch in between as you work, unlike Publisher and text editors like notepad.
  • 2⃣ It is totally free and available for download from Microsoft’s Official Website: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=36179, unlike Dreamweaver which is not free and thus not easily obtainable.
  • 3⃣ Expression Web (latest release 4) is still current (not older than 10 years as per the UNEB guidelines), unlike Publisher 2007 and FrontPage.
    Also Read: Help: Publisher 2007 doesn’t publish my navigation bar to the web
  • 4⃣ Expression web creates clean code which is universally supported in all browsers, unlike Ms. Publisher which generates lots of obsolete objects in its code.
  • 5⃣ Expression Web is not heavy and does not require computers with very high specifications to run, Dreamweaver which is heavier.
  • 6⃣ Expression Web has some website templates which students can base on as general website layouts to quickly get a starting point, unlike Bluegriffon, Dreamweaver and Notepad.
  • 7⃣ Microsoft Expression web has icons which are similar to Microsoft office applications and inter-works well with them (e.g importing clip art) hence more user friendly to the students as compared to DreamWeaver or Bluegriffon.
  • 8 Expression Web have a larger international user community which includes universities, colleges and examination bodies like IGCSE which teach and examine using the software for website design, with lots of tutorials on youtube unlike Ms. Publisher. Despite the fact that Microsoft has since discontinued product support, it still has great community support. EW is still being listed as an alternative sofware on review websites such as this list of Best Web Design Softwares Compared (2019).
  • 9. Expression Web makes us of Master Pages known as Dynamic Web Templetes – which help manage web pages centrally. Despite the name, DWTs are static web pages that EW knows how to manage. It’s a very simple idea – pages are attached to the DWT and whenever the master is updated, so are all the attached pages.
  • The latest 2012 version of Expression Web 4 is supported by the latest Windows 10 and has support for HTML5 which will remain universally supported for many years, and the HTML knowledge learnt can be used with any other editor, such as Dreamweaver.

Sample Tutorial on use of Expression Web for UNEB
UCE computer Studies

I have created the tutorial below to demonstrate a simple approach of using expression web using the 2018 UNEB Computer Studies practical examination question on website design.

Tutorial based on UNEB 2018 UCE web design question. 😎Remember to Subscribe to the collaborative ITAU Youtube Channel for more tutorials to come. NB: You can also make videos and upload the to the channel. To be given upload rights to our youtube channel, send an email request to admin@ictteachersug.net

In summary, a website can be created in expression web using a few steps:

  1. Create New Website using the Site Menu
  2. Choose a Template to base on for the general layout of your website
  3. Browse to save your website in your examination folder
  4. Delete all the folders except the master page (master.dwt), the styles and images folder
  5. Open the Master Page and edit it using the design or code views which are easily interchangeable to include your desired logo, menus, colors and footer
  6. Create the needed web pages from the master for a consistet layout, with only the unique content and page titles varying from page to page
  7. After creating your pages when they are still open, go back to the master page to update the menu hyperlinks.
  8. Save all your pages and preview your work in a browser before printing it out as required on the question paper

All the above steps are demonstrated in the above video and can be done in 40 minutes or less. Also check out this PDF for another tutorial.

Download and install Microsoft Expression Web 4 if you have not already done so.

This and more software and tips will be shared at this year’s ICT Teachers Capacity Development Workshop that is taking place at Kololo SS on 6th and 7th May 2019. If you are a teacher of ICT within Uganda and wish to attend, kindly register at cdw.ictteachersug.net.