By Monte FergusoniWeb is Apple’s easy to use web site creation tool. It is targeted to
home and non-professional users who need an easy way to create, and
update, lively web sites. It allows you to create polished web sites
without needing to know the complex web building technologies involved.
Its powerful features are presented in a simple to use interface that
belie its full power.
When you launch the program you are presented with the Template Chooser.
(Note: The term template and theme is mixed throughout the program. They
refer to the same thing.) You are initially presented with 27
professionally designed templates, two of which are new with iWeb ’09.
In fact the theme is the heart of the program. You can replace the
canned elements with your own images and text. You can also modify
elements, both textual and graphical.
All of the work in iWeb takes place in one window. A media browser
window, which gives you access to content from the rest of the iLife
suite, is displayed in a drawer off to the side. There are also four
specialized pallets that can be invoked: Inspector, Fonts, Colors, and
Adjust. After choosing a theme you then choose a page from that theme’s
set: Blank, Welcome, About Me, Blog, Podcast, Photos, My Albums (photo
gallery), or Movie. A side bar on the left, reminiscent of Keynote,
shows your site and pages. Click on a page in the side bar and the
canvas displays that pages contents ready for editing. iWeb also
supports what it calls Widgets. Widgets add additional, and advanced,
functionality to iWeb sites. Yet they are as easy to implement as drag
and drop into your design. (You fine tune a widgets function with a
heads up display of settings.)
The new features in iWeb provide greater depth to its feature set. These
new features address glaring gaps in functionality, and streamline the
process of creating a web site.
One of the biggest, and most welcome changes, is the ability to
seamlessly publish your web site to any host (not just to Mobile Me). It
is, finally, a dramatically easier process to upload to web hosts other
than Mobile Me. Apple did this by adding FTP capabilities to iWeb.
(Previously you had to save to a folder and then upload this folder
manually to your web host.)
If you’re a big fan of social networking sites you will appreciate the
next new feature, FaceBook integration. You can enable this option when
you configure Site Publishing Settings. (You have to provide your
FaceBook account information, including password.) Once configured, iWeb
will notify your FaceBook friends, as well as update your FaceBook Wall,
when you update your site. It will even send them a handy link.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that iWeb can now manage multiple web
sites. Apple has added an iWeb site organizer. It allows you to
reorganize, rename, or delete individual pages or entire websites. iWeb
creates navigation menus for each site. And you can publish one site at
a time — either to MobileMe or to another hosting service via FTP.
iWeb also gains a new layering feature. You can now stack items. To do
this access the new Bring to Front or Send to Back commands. You can
now pile things up. Handy for creating a certain look, like a stack of
photos fanned out on a desk.
We all love new features. Sometimes the improvements to existing
features are just as important.
Apple uses Widgets to add advanced functions to an iWeb sites. The cool
thing about them is that they are drag and drop. iWeb ’09 comes with
several new Widgets including: YouTube, iSight Photo, iSight Movie,
Countdown, and RSS Feed. (They join previous Widgets:MobileMe Gallery,
Google Maps, Google AdSense, and HTML Snippet, which have been moved
from the toolbar.) To truly understand how easy, and how handy, Widgets
can be let me provide an example.
Embedding a YouTube video on a site typically requires entering HTML
into the page code and uploading it to see the result. With iWeb, after
copying the video URL from the YouTube site, you just drag the YouTube
widget onto your page template and paste that URL into the settings. The
video plays right in iWeb if you’re online. You can resize it, move it,
or pretty it up with a frame or a border.
The program is really easy to use. The web sites it creates are lovely,
thanks to professionally designed templates. But it offers more than
pretty sites. It also features a surprising depth and complexity to it’s
feature set thanks to widgets. The ability to manage multiple sites also
makes the program a much more capable web design tool. Lastly,though it
is not a sexy feature, the ability to upload your site to any host via
FTP, is a major improvement over previous versions.
There are some some limitations with iWeb that might be a deal breaker
for potential users. For instance iWeb doesn’t publish just individual
pages initially. It uploads the entire web site folder. Therefore the
folder becomes part of the URL. iWeb does create an index page redirect
but that’s not very helpful. It is also not a standard practice with web
Business users may find this is not the program for them. Business sites
should be easy to find. iWeb code is not optimized for this purpose.
Pages lack heading tags and keyword description meta tags. You can not
provide alt tags, which describe images, from within iWeb. This means
your site is not compliant with the American With Disabilities Act.
Creating nested folders, called sub-directories in web design circles,
is not easy. Nested folders are used to break up content into topics and
can not be indexed by search engines, making it harder for people to
find your sites content.
Any potential user should also be aware that not all of iWeb’s features
work everywhere. iWeb has several features that ONLY work with
MobileMe. The features that require MobileMe include: iWeb’s hit
counter, enhanced slideshow, blog and podcast comments, and password
protection options. There is no visual indication that some features
only work with MobileMe. Apple could do us all a favor and grey those
features out when you setup the site to not use Mobile Me. Alternately
Apple could separate the MobileMe only features into a tab or pane of
iWeb is shaping up to be a quite capable web design program. The
addition of multi-site support and built in FTP make it appealing to a
wider audience. It’s price and feature set make it appealing to home and
small business owners. Its legacy as a web site design tool for MobileMe
users still hobbles the programs effectiveness. It has irritating
quirks, like uploading the whole site folder which adds the folder name
to the URL path, which prevent it from being accepted in professional
circles. It needs some further polish, like being able to manually edit
code or insert code snippets directly from within iWeb, which would
allow it to be a more flexible web design tool.
iWeb creates beautiful web sites. The casual, hobbyist, and some small
business owners will find that it does everything they need. The price
is great. As long as your site design doesn’t exceed iWeb’s design goals,
you will be well served by this program.
Posted: Monday, November 30th, 2009