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JANUARY 4, 2008    

Make a website, right now

As a Christmas present I planned to create a website for my daughter, who has no interest in learning to build websites. Since it was to contain mostly pictures I thought maybe I'd use Photoshop's very competent Automate -> Web Gallery function, which is about as quick and easy a way to get nice-looking photo pages as you could ask for. But we wanted something with a bit more of a custom look, so I thought about other alternatives.

I could design & build the site as usual with a combination of hand-coding and Dreamweaver. I could make Dreamweaver templates that would allow her to change only certain things, like adding new pictures and editing text. But this approach is cumbersome and would require her to get either Dreamweaver or its "regular person" variation, Contribute. Still more involved than we were looking for.

iWeb iconSince both she and I work with Macs, I took a look at iWeb, part of the iLife suite that comes with newer Macs. I'd read that iWeb worked only with Apple's online service .Mac, which seemed like a ripoff compared to regular web hosting (typically much more space for less money).

A quick web search revealed a secret: you can have iWeb "publish" the site to a folder and then upload the folder yourself using readily available FTP software. Not quite as easy and seamless as clicking a "Publish" button using .Mac, but acceptable.

So Sharon and I sat down with iWeb for about an hour and got a site roughed together. I planned to do some tweaking and turn it over to her, but...in searching for information on using iWeb I found numerous comments from people who recommended inexpensive alternatives, first RapidWeaver, then Sandvox.

RapidWeaver iconSandvox icon I downloaded demo versions of both and at first glance they seemed to offer more flexibility, more features, and best of all, created sites using web standards-compliant code rather than the convoluted code that iWeb generates. The web designer in me like that a lot.

Today I tried to create a similar site using each of the alternatives and quickly came to appreciate how simple iWeb has made things. A basic action—deleting a photo that's on a photo gallery template page—works just as you'd expect in iWeb: click on it, hit the delete key, it's gone.

In both RapidWeaver and Sandvox it's not that simple. In RapidWeaver you have to switch from "Preview" to "Edit" view, then uncheck a box next to the photo. In Sandvox you click the photo, then use a menu or right-click to "Delete Pagelet." Not that difficult, but not as simple as click and delete. Most other actions seem similarly more cumbersome, not by a lot, but by enough to be annoying for a beginner.

So my quick and admittedly cursory experience with both alternatives led me back to simple, graceful (but non-standard) iWeb. I have no doubt that with more time I could learn to love both RapidWeaver and Sandvox, but frankly I don't have the time for it. They are like those Christmas presents that say "Some assembly required." I don't want to spend hours getting ready to play. I want to play right now. iWeb lets me do it.

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