Careers: Interviews
Internationally Acclaimed Microsoft FrontPage Authority and Web Expert

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with the internationally acclaimed MS FrontPage authority; noted author, consultant, and Web expert, Paul Colligan.

 

Paul Colligan is CEO of Colligan.com Inc. (colligan.com), an online provider of consulting, technologies, and Web properties for Internet marketing. He is also the Webmaster of several popular Internet Marketing sites that include FrontPage World and You Can Sell Online (frontpageworld.com and youcansellonline.com).

 

Paul has played a key role in the launch of dozens of financially successful Web sites and Internet marketing strategies that have seen millions of visitors and dollars in revenue. Previous clients include InternetMCI, the Oregon Multimedia Alliance, Rubicon International, Microsoft, the Electronic Boutique, and Pearson Education.

 

He is also a popular presenter on Internet technology topics and frequently speaks online, on the air, and before audiences. He has presented at events around the country including Internet World, Linux World, Commission Junction University, and Microsoft Tech-Ed.

 

Paul writes regularly for a number of popular self-published email newsletters with more than 60,000 subscribers. He has also co-authored and been technical editor for several books about Microsoft FrontPage, his most recent being the popular, Special Edition Using Microsoft FrontPage 2003. Microsoft awarded Paul MVP status in 2002 for his efforts with their product. Paul also periodically updates a blog (Web log) that often makes for "interesting" reading (colligan.blogspot.com).

 

Discussion:

 

Q: Paul, you are a leading authority on MS FrontPage and a noted expert in Web technologies and marketing. We appreciate you taking the time out of your demanding schedule to speak with us.

 

A: No problem. Thanks for the chance!

 

Q: Give us a history lesson about your life. How did you get into computing?

 

A: I grew up in Germany – my folks worked for the U.S. Army. No American television so we had to keep ourselves entertained in other ways. It started with a Timex Sinclair 2k computer, then a Tandy Color, then an early PC, and on and on …I was hooked from day one.

 

I saw a “little” movie called War Games that not only showed me how cool it was when computers talked to each other but it said that the geek could also get the girl. They hooked up the computers and I got the girl. It doesn’t get better than that.

 

Q: You have accomplished so much--please share a few “surprising” stories from your work with Web sites and marketing.

 

A: A month ago I did a general FrontPage teleseminar (http://www.frontpageaudiomanual.com) with Internet Marketing Expert, Alex Mandossian. I knew we’d get some attention, but during the phone call someone said they were calling in from Iceland. Wow! We had people all over the world calling in, (and paying the long distance) fees just to hear someone talk about FrontPage. I didn’t realize how hungry people are for good training.

 

Two years ago I did a little site called FrontPage Secrets (http://www.frontpagesecrets.com) following the exact formula of an online marketing “guru” famous for selling that very formula. It worked like a charm. For all of the ways the “Internet changes everything,” all of the old rules of marketing are still there. The one who can combine ‘em is the one who will do really well.

 

Eight years ago, I was in the office coding a Web page by hand in Notepad. My partner says “Paul, look at this.” That day, everything changed. That was the day I first used FrontPage.

 

Q: Do have any humorous experiences to share?

 

A: I attended and spoke at LinuxWorld 2000 wearing a Microsoft shirt and demoing FrontPage. The booth I spoke at won “Best of Show.” They were ChiliSoft and sold an ASP product for Linux servers. Great product.

 

The concept of the demo was design the site (with database integration) in something simple like FrontPage and then port it to a more “powerful” server (in this case ChiliSoft ASP on Apache with Oracle in the back-end) at launch. Great concept, great product, great idea, great demo.

 

The looks I got (and the “presentation” I received during one of my demos from Slashdot) from the audience was worth a million bucks. When the light bulbs came on in their heads, that success is truly about best of breed, I realized the same power I realized back when War Games taught me that really cool things will happen when the computers talk to each other.

 

Some joked that I should fear for my life at the event. I loved every bit of it.

 

Q: Detail your company Colligan.com.

 

A: I think our mission statement says it all: Delivering content, products and services that help you do effective business online.

 

Using the best possible technologies to provide the strength that only an Internet-based business can bring.

 

Embracing the constantly changing nature of technology and responding, to your benefit, no matter the cost to us.

 

Teaming with the best when we can't, or don't, provide the solution.

 

Q: Describe your work with FrontPage World and You Can Sell Online. Can you share your top online marketing tips?

 

A: All too often in the technology world, when you visit a site or hear someone speak, so many people say things like “this is what you can do” or “this is what can happen with us.” I hate that. What are YOU doing and HOW ARE YOU DOING IT? That’s my question. I’ve bet my career that that is also the question of others.

 

FrontPage World is, simply, this concept: Anyone can create a profitable and attractive Website with Microsoft FrontPage. This is how Paul did it.

 

You Can Sell Online is, simply, this concept: Anyone can sell online. Here is how Paul does it.

 

My top online marketing tip is this: The rules haven’t changed; the tools have only gotten better. You still have to play by the rules, just use the right tools. Marketing ain’t a quick fix, it’s an art.

 

Q: You are a frequent speaker. Which events are your favorites and why?

 

A: I love events with “hungry” people. I do a lot of events where people signed up to get off of work that day and they aren’t much fun at all. I can usually wake a few of them up but those audiences are usually pretty boring.

 

But when you fill a room with people looking to make the most of the Internet and to push their tools and companies to places they’ve never been before, I’m in heaven.

 

Honestly, level of expertise means little to me because we can show you the path quickly (the hard work is in taking the path, but that’s your job). I want and like people who want to see change and are willing to work for it.

 

I did a number of Commission Junction Universities down in Santa Barbara before all of their changes. I loved those – affiliate marketers are some of my favorite people. I did a few Internet Worlds in the Microsoft booth and enjoyed blowing the audience away with what FrontPage does – you’d be surprised at what people don’t know. College students are also fun because they grew up with this stuff and exploiting every angle of technology comes naturally to them – they just need someone to show them how.

 

Q: Can you share two “interesting” experiences from your blog?

 

A: Well I’m always surprised with the emphasis Google puts on Blogs. When you search Paul Colligan in Google, my Blog comes up first. I have no idea why, but I’ll take it. I try to make sure I have the most recent stuff there because it is what some will see first.

 

I also track the links that come out of my Blog to see what people are interested in. Fascinating stuff there as it provides a real “peek” at what my audience is interested in.

 

Q: What does it mean to be a Microsoft MVP?

 

A: I’ll let them tell that story:  http://mvp.support.microsoft.com/. Essentially we’re credible and accessible resources on specific Microsoft topics recognized by Microsoft as such.

 

Q: Please share some tips from your previous books.

 

A: Then why would you buy them?

 

The big tip I’d give is upgrade to the new version of FrontPage (regardless of if you buy my book or not). It’s the best ninety bucks you’ll ever spend. The changes made this round are so powerful that you’ll find yourself doing twice the work in half the time. I, personally, redid all of FrontPageWorld.com with FrontPage 2003 based on the new tools and am hearing a lot of similar stories.

 

The flipside to this tip is simple; examine the new technologies and really spend some time to figure out what they could mean to you. I, for example, now won’t create anything without dynamic web templates and the new publishing features have resulted in me moving away from FrontPage Extensions.

 

Q: What makes your book, Special Edition Using Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003, a compelling read and essential resource? With so many books on the market, how is it different from the “other” books?

 

A: My book is written by someone who uses FrontPage in his day-to-day existence and makes a good living doing so. I’m not a work for hire technology writer or someone who did this just to supplement his day job income.

 

The examples throughout the book aren’t “imaginary” Webs made for the sake of explanation, they are my sites and they are live.

 

With this one you get a text based on experience and real-world implementation. I personally think you can’t do better than that.

 

Q: Share five of your high-powered FrontPage 2003 productivity techniques.

 

A: 1) Develop your sites with Dynamic Web Templates. When something needs a big change, change the DWTs, not the entire site.

2) If you have any old FrontPage hover buttons, themes or shared borders, kill them.

3) If you aren’t an artist, and most of you aren’t (I’m sure not), pay someone good to develop your site’s look and feel.  The content is where you should focus. DWTs mentioned in #1 just make it easier to do that.

4) Poke your head in at http://www.frontpagetalk.com. There are some amazing people doing amazing things with FrontPage 2003 and they’re more than willing to share their experiences.

5) Give a good hard look at/examine SharePoint 2.0 and FrontPage 2003 and what that combo means to your business. For some, it will mean nothing. For others, it will change the way you do everything.

 

Q: How can you use FrontPage’s ASP.Net support to develop Web solutions?

 

A: Always use the right tool for the job. A sledgehammer will always be more powerful than a hammer but is still not the right tool for hanging a picture on your wall. Because FrontPage 2003 supports ASP.Net, there will be times when the other tools provided with FrontPage 2003 will make it the ideal tool for you to work with your ASP.Net code. There will be other times when you are going to need to break out Visual Studio.

 

Q: What are FrontPage Behaviors? How do you add new levels of interactivity and functionality?

 

A: They are design-time components that add script to your Web page without you having to code a line of it. These are new in FrontPage 2003.

 

Looking to send people to different pages based on their browser types? Wished you could create a quick and easy dropdown menu without having to dig up that old JavaScript code? Like image swapovers and the like? Behaviors are there and part of the program.

 

How do you add ‘em? They’re in the Format menu and are as easy as a few clicks of the button. Very powerful stuff – and there’s a lot of them that ship with the product.

 

Q: Describe the new Split View.

 

A: Half the screen is your code, the other half is your design view. Now you can see exactly what your code is doing or what kind of code FrontPage is really creating as you update your page. Very powerful for the designer.

 

One thing they don’t advertise a lot is that you can also stretch Split View between two monitors and put the page on one and the code on another. How great is that?

 

Q: Detail the improved publishing and optimization tools.

 

A: You could always publish via FrontPage Extensions. That option remains, but you can now also publish via FTP, with WebDav or through a traditional network file system. FrontPage 2003 will also not only optimize your HTML during the design process but you can have it do it only at publish, if desired.

 

In addition, you can now synchronize your sites via FTP allowing you to work with multiple developers in ways never before possible. Yes, FrontPage now plays friendly with Dreamweaver.

 

Q: How can you integrate XML data into your sites?

 

A: With FrontPage 2003 and a SharePoint server it is as easy as working with a database or any other data source. All of the tools are built right in and you don’t have to code a line to make it happen. You get lots of Wizards to walk you through the process.

 

Q: What additional tips can you give from your books?

 

A: 1) Don’t apply DWTs on a remote Web server with FrontPage Extensions.

2) Replace your Themes or Shared Borders with a more effective DWT approach.

3) Replace your Hover Buttons with the new Interactive Buttons.

4) If you spend more than an hour a week on your Web sites, update to the new version before you do anything else.

5) If you are looking around for e-commerce solutions that work with FrontPage, don’t always assume that the most popular ones are the right ones. This is an area that has no clear winners yet.

 

Q: Now provide us with those valuable rare “special gems” that only you know.

 

A: That’s kind of hard to do as once I figure them out, I usually tell as many people as I can.  Let’s go with this one: I can’t send enough people to this Website – http://www.solution-shelf.com.  Everyone knows that you have to create your Website for the search engines.  Tom’s tool at this site is the best out there for FrontPage. 

 

I also recommend the (free) FrontPage World IE Toolbar we put together (http://www.frontpageworld.com/toolbar/). This thing lets you not only search Google from the toolbar but lets you search Microsoft, Usenet and FrontPageTalk.com with the click of the button. This is very practical when you are looking for answers to your FrontPage problems. We also dynamically update the toolbar with the latest and greatest links (or as you put it, “rare gems”) as they come in. 

 

In addition, take a look at http://www.frontpagecartcompanion.com. This changes everything I’ve ever known or done when it comes to FrontPage and e-commerce.

 

Q: What future books can we expect from you?

 

A: When the new FrontPage comes out, you’ll see another book with my name on it ;-)

 

I’m also working on a book called Everything You Thought You Knew About the Internet Is Wrong. That’s a working title but you can get the idea from here.

 

I also have a project on best practices for FrontPageCart.com in the works.

 

Q: What are the most important trends to watch, and please provide some recommendations?

 

A: 1) Audio on the Internet is finally exploding (and it doesn’t look the way you’d think it might) – http://audio.paulrecommends.com.

2) The “old ways” of surveying an Internet audience are dead – http://ask.paulrecommends.com.

3) Specific to the topic at hand, FrontPage E-commerce is going to look very different with the introduction of FrontPageCart.com and the FrontPageCartCompanion (http://www.frontpagecartcompanion.com). 

4) Although everyone is trying to come up with the Google killer, I honestly don’t think it is going to happen. The only thing that might happen is an implosion of the company when the IPO happens or a buyout by someone bigger. Watch this issue like a hawk because the time is quickly coming where if Google says you don’t exist, you don’t.

5) They’ve been a long time coming but Web services are finally coming into play and you are going to see a lot of them this year. In some ways this is a great thing because when people are finally willing to pay for content and services, the content and services are only going to get better. The only problem is that when there are 1000 options to pay for content and services, it is going to be hard to find the best sources. That will be really fun to watch this year.

 

Q: What are your top recommended resources for both businesses and IT professionals?

 

A: 1) Everyone should read Wired magazine religiously. We don’t understand or talk about how this stuff impacts our lives enough and the people who understand how it does will do better than anyone else.

2) Everyone pick a few Internet newsletters in their market and read them regularly. Internet time is still very real and we sometimes need data at that speed and shouldn’t wait for the magazine or book to arrive.

3) Everyone should pick up either a copy of High Stakes, No Prisoners or Burn Rate and get an inside look at the craziness of a few years back. They should then ask themselves how they are going to prevent that from happening next round.

4) Everyone should search the Internet for the real experts in their field and keep up to date with what they are doing. These people don’t always get (or want) the book contracts and speaking gigs but a lot of them publish online and are worth their weight in gold. Seek them out. If you don’t know who the King/Queen of your field is, you are doing something wrong. We have all got something to learn.

 

Q: What kind of computer setup do you have?

 

A: I’m a Dell laptop guy – always have been. I pay the full warrantee and swap ‘em out about every two years. I’m typing this on an Inspiron 4150.

 

Q: If you were doing this interview, what three questions would you ask of someone in your position and what would be your answers?

 

Q1: What about FrontPage’s history of creating bloated HTML code?

A1: It’s just that, history. Look at the code FrontPage 2003 produces. That debate is over. If you have got old code to clean up – take a look at http://www.frontpagepoweredit.com.

 

Q2:  Are you on Microsoft’s payroll?

A2:  Nope. They send me some software now and then as part of the MVP program and I got a cool watch last year. I did some contract work way back when (years before I got MVP) but I don’t see myself doing that again. I honestly don’t have the time.

 

Q3: Is FrontPage really as cool as you seem to claim it is.

A3: Yes.

 

Q: Do you have any more comments to add?

 

A: Not really. Actually, yeah, I do. I once heard someone say “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” I can think of no finer mantra for anyone building websites and Internet content. The tools let us do some pretty cool things, but should we be doing them?

 

A lot of people lost a lot of money during the Internet crazy years because we confused the cool with the needed. Don’t make that mistake.

 

Q: Paul, thank you again for your time, and consideration in doing this interview.

 

A: Enjoyed it.

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