I have been working hard over the last month updating my website: luxBorealis.com. Have a look if you haven’t done so lately. Many people have asked how I created such an interactive website with lots of photos. They wonder how I could ever have time to do all that.
It’s easy… I use iWeb. “What’s iWeb?” is the next question. And I tell them about this great app that comes free with every Apple Macintosh computer as part of their iLife suite. then sounding somewhat chagrined, they say “Oh, your a Mac user.” “Is there anything like that for Windows?” Not that I know of…
Listen, iWeb isn’t perfect. It is easy to make webpages and do all kinds of cool things, but it’s not great on maintenance and it’s lousy for blogs (at least, I found it clunky although I know others who swear by it, but then they work directly through MobileMe; I don’t). “What’s all this MobileMe stuff?” you ask. Let me back up…
The things I love about iWeb are:
- I can make a very cool webpage in minutes – colours, boxes, fonts – it’s free-form design without the constrictions of typical web authoring software. It’s as easy as word processing – well Mac word processing which is so much more fun and creative than Office word processing. You see, Macs have fun and creativity built into every application they create. You can always tell a Windows/Office document from a Mac doc (whether it’s word processing, a presentation or a webpage). Mac creations are, well, creative, because Mac has made adding graphics and shadows and colours so easy. So it shows up in the work Mac people do.
- I can add photos directly from iPhoto (another Mac app that comes free with every Mac – very powerful photo library software with very good editing capabilities – more on iPhoto another time because it’s not the be all and end all, but then again, it’s free!!). When I add photos, they are already formatted for viewing as thumbnails, or in a slideshow – all with the click of a mouse. Actually, come to think of it, I can drag and drop images from almost anywhere onto a photo page and have iWeb give them structure. It really is a great app for photo galleries!
- I can add Google maps and Google Adsense links with only a few clicks.
- I can easily create my own page design. iWeb comes with dozens of great templates, but I’m a bit of a maverick when it comes to design. I like to tweak things which I can do with iWeb. At times, the pages try to revert (e.g. whenever I create a new textbook it defaults to the template’s text) but a few copy and pastes or style copy and pastes and I’m back to where I want to be. iWeb is actually far more flexible than most people realize – just take a look at my pages. Sure there are constraints, but remember – it’s a free app!!
- I have complete access to my font library – any size, colour or font I want. If I want shadows, I just click the checkbox for shadows then adjust them however I want. Fonts that don’t display properly on other computers are, for the most part, converted to graphics.
- It’s free. I have I told you yet? It’s free with every Mac. Sure Macs cost more to begin with so yo would expect some freebies, but the again, when you buy a Mac you don’t usually need to upgrade anything else because it comes with enough ram and a large enough hard drive and a decent video card and all the connectivity your need including wireless right out of the box. You see, Macs are cutting edge – they lead the industry in most aspects.
Things I don’t like about iWeb. Hey it’s not perfect, but it is free!
- As I mentioned above, iWeb is slow for maintenance and updating web pages. Because of the file structure, every time I create a change, I need to up more files then necessary and that takes time. If I make one small graphical change on a number of pages on a site (like I’e been doing recently) I really need to upload the whole shebang to avoid missing content.
- iWeb is the pits with search engine optimization (SEO). You cannot put in custom titles or metadata such as descriptions or keywords. I do this through Rage iWebSEO. It’s a great little app and it’s free. Why Apple doesn’t build this into iWeb is a mystery.
- iWeb is too tied to the MobileMe service – at least iWeb ’08 is which is what I’m using. Apparently, iWeb ’09 has an FTP client that allows more web freedom. That being said, I’m a MobileMe subscriber and love the ease of use, but uploading can be a bit slow sometimes. Also, some services with iWeb such as counters and comments are also only available if you upload directly to MobileMe – which is something I don’t do because I want to optimize my pages using iWEbSEO. So, I need to publish to a folder first, the run iWebSEO, the upload. Not the smoothest, but definitely worth it in the end.
- iWeb pages seem a bit bloated. They are big bits of code and it uses png file format for graphics (larger than jpgs), but I don’t have a workaround yet. Thank goodness most people are on broadband now.
- iWeb pages do not always zoom well. I can’t do much about this, either.
So I’m using iWeb and can’t really see an alternative in my future. I’ve tried Rapidweaver but it’s not wysiwyg enough for a visual guy like me. I’ve tried Shutterbug, but it seems too clunky for me. For years I made all my websites with Adobe GoLive. It has since been replaced with Dreamweaver which I really should learn but it seems overly complicated for what I want to to. I invested many, many hours into learning html and web authoring only to have that knowledge become obsolete. Rather than reinvesting that time, I’ve decided to use iWeb and get great-looking pages right out of the box.
Is this an advert for Macs? Well, yes and no. I’m not paid to say this. But I believe the more people know about a product, the better they can come to their own conclusions. This is what works for me; if it doesn’t work for you, well, that’s okay too.