In Search of New Web Site Tools to Replace iWeb, Part I

| John Martellaro's Blog

Preface

My faithful readers will recall that Particle Debris is my TMO blog. To date, I have elected to use the blog for a Friday wrap-up of offbeat, overlooked news items of interest to Apple customers. And, of course, I add my own commentary. However, there’s no reason why my blog needs to be restricted to that kind of article, and so Particle Debris now expands its scope to cover my technological journeys. I hope you have fun and even contribute in the comments as we learn together.

Website building

The Journey Begins

We now know officially that Apple will not be supporting web site hosting after June 2012. Also, the iWeb ‘09 app hasn’t seen a major update in some time, and Steve Jobs in a purported e-mail has confirmed that Apple customers will need to find another web site builder. So, like many others, I have embarked on a quest to both rehost my personal web site and select a new web site development app. This is the first installment describing that journey.

I, like many other Apple customers, assumed that once Apple elected to host our web sites that Apple would remain steadfast and courteous about that service. After all, part of being a large, respectable company means trustworthiness and continuity of vital customer services.

Sadly, that’s not the case with Apple’s transition away from MobleMe to iCloud. Apple has recently published an FAQ that describes what services will be supported in iCloud, and web hosting isn’t one of them after June 30, 2012. Apple advises, “You will be able to continue publishing iWeb sites to MobileMe through June 30, 2012, even after moving to iCloud. With iWeb you can easily move a site published to MobileMe to another web hosting service and you should do so before that date.”

Apple links to a Knowledge Base article that describes how to use the current version of iWeb ‘09 to load a current web site onto another hosting service. The problem with that apparently simple solution is that one will be locked, for all time, into maintaining that web site with an app that is no longer being developed and supported. The situation cries out for a migration to a new web site building app, one that the developer will be publicly committed to for a long time.

Decisions, Decisions

That decision to migrate, in turn, creates a new problem. I spoke with Terrence Talbot of Karelia Software, the makers of Sandvox, and he told me that it is currently very difficult to import a web site from the iWeb-created data files and then continue to use Sandvox to maintain the web pages. Apple has done some proprietary things inside iWeb, and decoding that process has so far proved intractable. As a result, if one is going to select a new, modern web site builder app to replace iWeb, it’ll be necessary to rebuild the site from scratch.

Many people will point to the Apple decision as further proof that we who maintain web sites should have never fallen for a GUI-based, WYSIWYG web site builder app from a company known for great ease of use but also some proprietary tendencies. They will point a finger at us, and you know who they are, and say, “See? You should have built your web site with BBEdit (or better, vi) and learned all that CSS code yourself.”

Indeed, that may be the route some of you will take as you rethink the entire process. Others, recognizing the trade between solid, early results and the time invested may elect to do some research and pick a new tool that looks to be simple, powerful, reliable and likely to be around far longer than iWeb. That’s the approach I will take here.

The Process

On the surface, the process seems fairly simple. Pick a new web hosting service, one that is stable and expected to be around for a decade or two. Next, decide on a new web site builder app. Third, extract as much text and photos from iWeb as practical and start to design and build a new web site. Of course, I expect there to be glitches along the way. And because TMO is an Apple oriented site, I will assume that you aren’t interested in Windows-based apps.

Also, I’m not going to exhaustively review all the web site builder apps for Mac OS X. That has already been done to some extent. That would be a huge project and a duplication of effort. Instead, I’m going to pick just two or three apps based on a basic list of criteria. I will make that recommendation to you.

Along those lines, a list of features is no longer sufficient. What we’re all interested in now is the commitment the developer has shown to the future of the app. As I winnow down the field to two or three apps, I’ll be chatting with the developers in person to make sure they, at least for now, own up to a long-term commitment. That’s all we can ask.

Here is my initial list of requirements.

1. Developer Commitment:
    - Is the app under continuous development?
    - Is the app being developed for the long term?
    - Is there a beta being developed for Lion?
    - Is there a money back guarantee? How many days?

2. Supporting Tech Features:
    - Can the app import an iWeb site?
    - Can the user see and hand tweak the HTML?
    - Does the app support slide shows?
    - Does the app support eCommerce & shopping cart? 
    - Does the app support a blog?
    - Does the app support SFTP?

Since building that list, I have found, as mentioned above, that it’s currently not possible to brute force import an iWeb site into a new app. Perhaps, some day, a developer will solve that problem. So for the time being, I’ll deprecate that requirement.

The Journey

As I go through this journey, I’ll tell what I’ve learned and how I did it. I’ll not be reviewing the web site building apps per se, but I will be making comparisons and describing the operation of the apps I am working with and recommend. I’ll be looking for and reporting on gotchas. In turn, I invite all of you to add your wisdom in the comments below.

Without shame, I’ll cite the traditional charter: the journey is the reward.

Part II

On June 14, 2012, Part II of this series was published, “In Search of New Website Tools to Replace iWeb, Part II.

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Comments

FlipFriddle

Could you also include a bit of discussion on where to host the pages we create?
Thanks for the series; this should be good.

I’m voting for Freeway Pro. smile

John Martellaro

FlipFriddle: Selecting a new web site hosting service is definitely part of the plan for this series.

Sam

Can you also include some research on podcast hosting? In particular how to replicate the Subscribe button that creates an iTunes link for the user, without the podcast being hosted by Apple in iTunes itself.

John Martellaro

Sam: that may be outside the scope of this series, but we have some podcast experts on the TMO staff, so I’ll invite them to contribute.

kevinlane

Thanks for the article and for understanding the nature of this problem.  Please consider adding an additional requirement:

- Can the app work hand-in-hand (or as closely as possible) with GarageBand in the creation of podcasts?

This is important for me.  As I have posted elsewhere, the true beauty of iWeb was how it worked seamlessly with GarageBand and the iTunes Store in podcast creation and management.  Please indulge me to explain:

I am an music educator who regularly publishes a podcast of my students’ classroom work (which, of course, exists in sound, and serves as a perfect application of podcasting in education.)  Additionally, I conduct workshops with teachers who wish to create podcasts themselves using GarageBand, iWeb, and MobileMe.  The response to my workshops is always positive with comments like, “I never knew podcasting could be so easy.”  Some of my participants have, in fact, even gone on to make their own podcasts.

In preparing for these workshops, however, I began to consider the fact that many of my participants were not Apple users.  So, I began to research podcast creation from a non-Apple perspective.  And, Wham!  I was struck by the complexity of the process.  Even though I knew I could eventually learn to do it, I knew that most of my workshop participants would NEVER take the time to do so.  Now, what will I tell them?

I don’t think it has ever been easier to create a website than the present.  But podcasting, at least from where I sit, is going to get much harder for me.

If I am wrong (and I really hope I am,) please enlighten me

brettod

For me the real killer feature of iWeb is WYSIWYG placement. In iWeb I can drag a few text boxes, shapes, and images together on top of each other to make a cool page. Most of its competitors lock the design into a Joomla-esque “Menu vs. Content” style page that works well for general use, but makes it much much harder to make quick/easy websites.

What I love the most about iWeb is that we can create websites with similar ease as Pages allows us to make paper documents. I wish they would have bundled it into iWork so we can have multiple display programs? a pseudo-design once, use everywhere approach.

TL;DR = I want to put my picture where I want! (Not in “top of page picture frame”)

alpacaguy

I have already made this journey and chose Freeway from www.softpress.com as my iWeb replacement. It still uses the wysiwyg approach but is a far more robust program with many add-ons (called actions) to perform specific website functions. It comes in 3 versions ranging from $29 to $249 with the $29 version available in app store.

exAppl088

I would recommend the hosting site i have been using since
2008, but you didn’t describe any $ cost requirement that
would be acceptable (if any) for hosting service.

Nor did you indicate how much storage, traffic,
or compute power, or RAM your web server might require,
nor if you want root access on a VPS (virtual private server)
or just a shared server with all the limitations that such
usually have.

My requirements went beyond a blog site with low traffic;
It has Tomcat6+ Postgres 8, and java web app as well as
a Joomla1.5+ MySql based web site, so the $22/month is
about a low as was/is available for such service (as i could
find in Feb 2008).  Their list of supported web server
applications is extensive and also includes WordPress,
Drupal, and email, spam filters, databases, webmail, ...
any of which can be installed (if you have enough RAM
in your VPS)

My hosting service’s, www.eapps.com,  least expensive
“Cloud VPS” is about $12/ mth. = 8GB stor, 256MB, 25GB traffic,
1 CPU core, 5mbps pipe, 1 static IP.

Lee Dronick

I am hosted here http://www.inmotionhosting.com/hostingplans.html

They have been very reliable and helpful, prices and features are very competitive. I have the $8 a month plan which compares to a single user at MobileMe. They do offer some cheaper plans. A few years ago someone here, a subscriber, recommended them to me.

Daniel

Finding a web hosting company is trivial, and choosing web design software is a matter of personal preference. For me, the real issue is how to replace the galleries. If anyone has found a company that offers this kind of service and if it works as well as the Apple galleries, I’d sure like to know. And no, it doesn’t have to be free.

Daniel

Quatermass

In all the fuss about iWeb (I never really rated it’s design, nor it’s output), I don’t see many mentions of RapidWeaver. It’s a fabulous CMS, absurdly simple to use and has a tonne of third-party add-ons. The templates are gorgeous and just a little fiddling creates sites of real utility and beauty.

http://www.realmacsoftware.com/rapidweaver/overview/

I’m going to be searching for a new web host now that .Mac/MobileMe can no longer be used, but RapidWeaver has been really great for the quick deployment of simple web sites for me.

Lee Dronick

For me, the real issue is how to replace the galleries. If anyone has found a company that offers this kind of service and if it works as well as the Apple galleries, I?d sure like to know. And no, it doesn?t have to be free.

There are a number scripts that you can plug in, some free and some you can buy. See http://visuallightbox.com and go to http://jquery.com, do a search on slideshow, gallery and such

Carsten Legaard

For my part I find it very strange that all the beautiful mac oriented website builders seem to know only static website building. Have the mac community (in which I have taken part since 1990) no clue whatever of the benefits in databases and dynamic web structures? Certain plugin developers have tried to fill the gap but with limited luck. So my recommendation will point towards open source AND mainstream AND mac OS friendly builders like Wordpress and Drupal.

John Martellaro

Quatermass:  RapidWeaver is one of my finalists.

Carsten:  Boy can I tell you a story about database driven websites!  Maybe I will in the next article in the series.

Le Flaneur

I tend to agree with Carsten. I use RapidWeaver to build my site, www.flaneurphoto.com, but the static approach is showing its age.

I’m strongly considering moving my photography to a site powered by Wordpress (though I may leave my Poe content in RapidWeaver - I got used to publishing podcasts via that app) so I can better take advantage of some commerce plugins and integration with MailChimp.

But something like RapidWeaver is a dead simple way to publish sites.

For the people looking to publish photographs, why not step up to Aperture/Lightroom and use the web gallery features of those apps? Just a thought ...

Duane Bemister

WebSonar can dynamically create and serve a web site from your own computer.Drag your IWeb site content into WebSonar’s library folder, change the index page file name to searchform.html and bobs your uncle.

Lee Dronick

For the people looking to publish photographs, why not step up to Aperture/Lightroom and use the web gallery features of those apps? Just a thought ...

Especially now that Aperture is priced at $80.

Bennyspam

My biggest need for a new website authoring app is the easy ability to password protect the site. I am using it in schools where we have teachers posing pics and videos of young children with names etc. and the content must be behind a password. iWeb did this with a click or two. Can the apps you consider (or the hosting service) include this feature?  Galleries are a close second.  We are looking closely at wordpress too…

richbowen

Be interested to know how Wordpress (both .com and .org) compare to the apps you review.

Lee Dronick

My biggest need for a new website authoring app is the easy ability to password protect the site. I am using it in schools where we have teachers posing pics and videos of young children with names etc. and the content must be behind a password. iWeb did this with a click or two. Can the apps you consider (or the hosting service) include this feature?

I password protect directories via the Control Panel for my website. My host uses cPanel, but there are similar control panels. See the password protect help page for cPanel. You can see other help topics by clicking on links.

DrShakagee

Apple has a much newer wysiwyg HTML editor already available in iAdproducer or what ever it’s called. It might not be as consumer friendly, but if they wanted to they could replace iWeb’s functionality and at the same add a ton of the nifty html5 components iAds have. I guess they think their money is better spent else where.

JonGl

Espresso anyone:

http://macrabbit.com/espresso/

Has anyone used it? I notice that it loads my published iWeb pages well enough, and allows me to inspect them, and as near as I can tell, I could also make changes that should work as well. Unfortunately, Apple’s iWeb code is so far beyond me that I fear to muck with it! I’d be curious what others think of this seemingly simple, yet potentially powerful tool.

-jon

phil coates

re espresso - bloody great app - I have used it for a few years now - BUT
its not compatible with the current version of Lion -
I’ll keep you posted at: http://coates.it/gold-mine.php

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