Mac Lab Report

iWeb a Great Tool for Quickly Creating an Attractive Website

- 2007.09.11

I've been using Dreamweaver for years, ever since I had to attend a workshop about it in conjunction with a grant I received. Although it has a steep learning curve for beginners and intermediate users like myself, it is quite powerful. After several years with Dreamweaver, I haven't even begun to use all of the features it has.

The version I have is 6.1, which is good enough for my purposes. Since I got my copy, Macromedia was purchased by Adobe, and the software has had two numbered upgrades to version 8, and it's designation changed to Adobe Dreamweaver CS3.

A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune to get in touch with my best friend from high school, whom I hadn't seen in nearly 30 years. After we talked and caught up with each other, I discovered that she had very little presence on the Web - no web page and virtually no citations. Naturally, low-end geek that I am, I offered to build her a web page.

Instead of starting from scratch, as I would have normally done with Dreamweaver, I decided to use the opportunity to try out iWeb, which has been sitting patiently on my hard drive waiting for me to find an excuse to use it.

Virtually No Configuration

iWeb is designed to be closely integrated with the other iWork and iLife applications, giving you easy access to photos in iPhoto, for example. It's also designed to be used with a .mac account, allowing you to publish a website with virtually no configuration at all.

The hallmark of Apple software is that it is supposed to be so easy to use you don't have to read the manual, but if you do, you can get more power out of the software than you expected. I found iWeb easy enough to use that I didn't need to resort to the manual, with only a couple of small glitches that might prevent a typical user from using it immediately.

iWeb

iWeb apparently uses a combinations of frames and zones to give you the illusion of placing graphic objects and text containers anywhere on a page (except for the marginal areas, which might annoy a new user.) Built-in fields for the page title, content containers, and a few buttons and badges plus a hit counter complete the parts available. Graphic outlines for graphics and text containers are easy to use, and the interface follows the same conventions as other recent Apple iApps with a Text placement tool separate from the Fonts control (which I find somewhat counterintuitive) and an Inspector that allows you to control web links, graphic placement, line thickness, and the like.

Too Simple?

In my version of Dreamweaver, to have an attachment, you have to upload the attachment to a subdirectory on your site, then point links to it using the tools in the attachment function in that software. In iWeb, I couldn't find any way to point a link to a PDF of a résumé I generated for my friend until I had a blinding glimpse of the obvious: I just dragged the attachment to the page. A link to the filename was automatically generated. Uploading the page uploads the attachment. Simple.

Adding pages via the template was easy (although, as with all Apple products, a few more template choices would be nice) and automatically added them to the index bar at the top of each page in the template. The inspector allows you to disconnect a page from the index bar, so you can use the directory for the truly important pages and leave the other support pages off the directory.

When you upload your file, it doesn't go into the "Sites" subdirectory in your iDisk account; it goes into a separate section called "Web". This seems a little schizophrenic of Apple, since they still support and offer the web-based Homepage functions for iDisk users. They kind of compete with themselves. Having two options like this is nice for intermediate users, but it may be confusing for beginners who attempt to use iWeb to manage Homepage files.

Advice

If all you need is a small site with a few static pages, you should definitely look into iWeb. The site I created for my friend has only one problem - because I don't own the root directory, I'm having a hard time getting Google to index it so it show up in searches. If anyone has any ideas about how to use Google's webmaster tools in this situation, please let me know. I've tried uploading the file Google provides to my root directory, but since it isn't at the first level of the directory, that fails.

American Dream Theatre

If you'd like to see an example of an iWeb based page, take a look at AmericanDreamTheatre.com. This site represents a grand total of about five hours of work, including the learning curve of making it run in the first place.

I don't do fancy things like RSS feeds and CSS tables and so on, so I couldn't advise you about that aspect of the software. iWeb is obviously not as sophisticated as Dreamweaver, but it may be good enough for the causal site-builder. As part of the iWork package, iWeb is a cheap and easy way to get a website up fast - especially for those of you with a .mac account.

If you haven't run it yet, check it out.

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is a longtime Mac user. He was using digital sensors on Apple II computers in the 1980's and has networked computers in his classroom since before the internet existed. In 2006 he was selected at the California Computer Using Educator's teacher of the year. His students have used NASA space probes and regularly participate in piloting new materials for NASA. He is the author of two books and numerous articles and scientific papers. He currently teaches astronomy and physics in California, where he lives with his twin sons, Jony and Ben.< And there's still a Mac G3 in his classroom which finds occasional use.

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