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I've Made the Switch (from iWeb) & Lived to Tell About It.

2487 Views 16 Replies Latest reply: May 5, 2012 6:16 PM by Old Toad RSS
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Jim Mahoney Calculating status...
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Aug 13, 2011 8:42 AM

I've gotten a lot of help and useful information from this forum over the years and I will certainly miss it. I've just completed a 2 month transition where I've migrated my site from iWeb/Mobile Me to a new site made in RapidWeaver and hosted by Host Excellence. I figured I'd write a little (or a lot) about my experience, to give some others an idea of what they've got to look forward too. Hopefully it will arm you with some things to do and look out for.  While I am describing RapidWeaver here, a lot of this process will be the same no matter what new software you use. I started off being pretty happy with what I had going in iWeb and not being thrilled at all about making the switch. Now I am so glad I made the switch and I am far happier about the new site than I was with the old one. BTW: the new sites address is: http://grillinsmokin.net . Feel free to visit. I think you'll quickly notice some things you simple can't do in iWeb. This isn't a knock against iWeb. I was very happy with iWeb and had no plans to switch. Where it hasn't been developed actively for four years now, it has been left behind somewhat.

 

To begin at the beginning: I've had a site made with iWeb since January of 2006 called Grillin' & Smokin' that combined my love of outdoor cooking and photography. Over the years it had grown rather large, with 375 photo entry pages and 230 blog pages. The Domain file was around 1.4 GB. This was not something I ever wanted to have to recreate from scratch. However losing MobileMe as a host was taking away Value Added features like the Hit Counter, Slide Show, Blog Comments, Blog Search etc. The handwriting is on the wall for iWeb too. I might have gone on using iWeb, but between losing key features and the fact iWeb was starting to show it's age, it was time for me to move on. Just before the iCloud announcement this Spring, I began researching website building software. I looked at their features, working methodology, themes, plug-ins and extensions. I download trial versions of the software where it was available as well as some of the themes or plugins I might be using. I gotta tell you, at first I was very frustrated and upset, because I was not finding anything that had the ease of use of iWeb and looked like it was going to be able to recreate the appearance of my original site. It appeared to be a series of compromises. I'd like the features of one package but I hated the themes available for that software. Another looked promising but isn't being upgraded regularly. My biggest frustration was some of the iWeb page types just don't exist in other packages. For example the Album Pages where multiple Photo Pages can be grouped and displayed, don't have a direct equivalent in any other package I saw. As part of my discovery process I read reviews of the various packages, including head to head comparisons of some of them. I also visited their discussion forums. After doing this for 3 weeks I "settled" on RapidWeaver. It was under active development; had a thriving developer community turning out a wide variety of add ons, plug-ins and themes; had an active user community & had lots of help resources available.  The web pages it produced were standards compliant and you could get nice effects without resorting to Flash. I think the biggest selling point was all of the add-ons-kind of the same advantage the iPhone has with it's App Store.

 

Once I bought RapidWeaver  & a 3rd Party theme, I tried the demo versions of some of the plug-ins and made sample versions of my page types from iWeb in RapidWeaver. I wanted to have a process in place, before I started mass production on the site. You really do need to do some of this homework in advance to avoid unpleasant surprises. The biggest minus I'd turned up about RapidWeaver (RW from this point on) is it didn't handle big sites well at all. The equivalent of the iWeb Domain file is the RapidWeaver Sandwich file or RWSW file. Once the RWSW file reaches 100MB or so you can get crashes or hangs uploading your site. Now 100 MB doesn't sound like much particularly when I was talking about a 1.4GB iWeb Domain File for my site, but RW doesn't include the photos in the RWSW file. Still I knew I was going to have to divide my site across several RWSW files. Initially the plan was to divide it into 3 sites: The main landing pages was one RWSW file and is the site reached by the url for the site. I was going to have a second RWSW file for my blogs and a third for my photos. Ultimately I ended up dividing the photos into 3 RWSW files. These extra files are hosted on sub-domians whose name goes in front of the main domain (http://sub-domain.main-domain.com). This meant some extra setup for me with my web-host, although they made the setup for the 4 sub-domains very easy and they were free. If you have a huge site and will need to split it, you'll want to check with your prospective web host if they charge extra for hosting additional sub-domains. For small iWebs sites this is not an issue-you have one RWSW file and one web address, just like you do now. My having sub-domains also meant more work linking files together across sites. RapidWeaver has something called an Offsite Page which helped with some of this, but having to split my sites up was the biggest PITA for me about the whole process. But knowing about this going in was better than finding out at the end when I tried to upload a single massive site. If you have a small site, the setup for uploading it is as straight forward as iWeb. RW has a built in FTP uploader or you can publish to file and use an FTP client like CyberDuck.

 

Once I had my site organization in place and had experimented with best practices for recreating each iWeb page type in RW, it was time to begin. I've gotta tell you when I started out I was not a happy camper. I liked the iWeb way of doing things about 70 percent of the time vs 30 percent for RW. At the end of the first week I told myself I have to move on and give up on the past. I was no longer going to be using iWeb and the sooner I embraced the RW way of doing things, the better off I'd be. At this early point it was still hard to see down the road to the end results. No matter what new package you buy, you should try to go with the flow and learn a new way of working. You'll be happier and less frustrated in the end. In my case after having gone through the entire process now, I've ended up changing my opinion. Now that I've gone through the entire process, I like the RapidWeaver way of doing things about 95 percent of the time and 5% for iWeb. That 5 percent is mostly the large site issue I've described. As I began working I was able to reuse much of the text from my iWeb blog in RW. I did have to paste it in as unformatted and reformat it in RW. My pictures were well organized in Aperture which also helped speed the process. One of the things I did is automate some of the tedious repetitious tasks. I created Quickeys macros to do things for me when ever possible. For example I could go to a particular photo page in iWeb and select the first caption. I would then trigger a macro that asked how many captions are on this page. It would then select the caption in iWeb, copy it, switch to RW and paste it in place and repeat XX times. If you know Quickeys or Applescript (I am guessing) there are plenty of opportunities to put it to good use.

 

RW present a different way of working than you are used to in iWeb and you'll just need to get used to it. What I am describing here would be true of any of the other packages I looked at too. First off it isn't WYSIWYG while you are editing. You are working with fairly basic looking text with few clues as to what the real page looks like. You switch to a preview mode to see what the page looks like in a browser. At first blush iWeb seems to win here. But what I soon realized is RW allows you to mix regular text and pictures together with html snippets right in the same text box. This makes adding counters or badges easy. Plus you can  use HTML formatting for things like Titles occurring through your page. Instead of increasing the font size, making the text bold and changing its color, you can simply say this is Heading style 2 or 5 and this happens automatically per the predefined style. Better yet if you change a style everything on that one page or the entire site (your choice) inherits that change. So by working in a non-WYSIWYG mode you gain some long term. advantages over how iWeb works. The same is true with positioning. In iWeb it is fast and easy to place things on a page right down to the pixel. RW just doesn't give you that type of precision and next to splitting my site, layout was my biggest frustration with RW. At least to start. But there is a good reason for this "lack of precision" that may not be apparent until you view the site in a browser. When iWeb came out, you really didn't zoom your browser. iWeb uses Absolute Positioning where it uses anchored boxes for everything, whereas RW uses Relative Positioning. Objects with anchored text or picture boxes like iWeb start having problems if you zoom in or out more than one step. Text starts over flowing other text  because the text boxes are anchored by one point. Pages just start looking scary if you try to zoom in or out too much. RW is looking at items relative positions and their relationships with one another. So initially you aren't placing the objects in the same way, it is more like eyeballing things in a way. But when viewed in a web browser you can zoom in or out to your heart's content. So what seems at first like a big disadvantage at first for RW, is actually a HUGE advantage.

 

This is why you need to go with the flow and try to embrace the new way of working. I mentioned earlier that I wasn't able to find a page type that was equivalent to the iWeb album page. I was able to use a very flexible plug-in for RW called stacks, which allows you to create various single and multi-column or multi-row layouts using empty stacks. You then populate the empty stacks with content, pictures text etc. These pages were not like iWeb albums where you nest the Photo Album Pages in the Album page and they create a  skimmable preview and an automatic link to the album. Once I actually started making these new "Album" Pages in RW I realized I was gaining as much or more than I was loosing. The skimmable preview pictures was eyecandy I could live without. Nice touch, not essential.  I never liked the way the preview  picture shown on the Album page was the first photo in the Photo album. You couldn't change this. Now that I am placing my own photo on the Album page, I could use any picture and make it any size I wanted too. In iWeb the Album Caption was the name of the Photo Page. If this name was too long the caption didn't go to a second line, it got cut off. Any link in RW can have a description added to the link which is what you see in the yellow box when you hover your mouse over the item being linked. I used to hide text boxes links under the pictures on the Albums page for SEO and navigation help. So yes now I have to manually link the Album picture to the Photo Page, but I am no longer creating a hidden text box with a link that I have to remember to move when I add pages to the album. So once again my first impression was wrong. Advantage RW.

 

Another advantage to RW is any page type can have a sidebar. You can easily add favicons and site logos. You can easily add metadata to any page and customized the names of the path to your pages. The Themes can be more powerful and customizable too. About one week into the process I was begining to really go with the flow and see this new way of working had far more advantages for me than disadvantages.

 

By the time I finished my new RW site, my iWeb site was looking tired and dated. My biggest and most pleasant surprises were saved until the end. Any kind of SEO was a PITA with iWeb. You had to embed snippets on each page with a code from HaloScan or Google Analytics. Problem was, iWeb erased any such HTML code while you were uploading. So you then had to use a regular expression in the text box ("HaloScan goes here"), upload your site and replace the regular expression with the actual code using a 3rd party tool. Oh and don't do that on any blog page where you are using the built in Apple commenting system because the comments will disappear. I also had problems where the new comment badge would not show up for weeks or months after a comment was made. It was getting so the things I had to do AFTER I uploaded my site to MobileMe were taking longer than uploading the site. Once the site was recreated, it was time to add blog comments, a guestbook, a contact form, Google Analytics, and publish a site map. In my iWeb-influenced mind, I was saving the fussy PITA things for last.  I was dead wrong. Unlike what you go through with iWeb, it couldn't have been been easier in RW:

 

-Blog Comments: Set up an account with the provider. Then I had to go into the page setup in RW for my blog page and click on a popup menu of comment providers & select Discus. If your provider isn't listed you paste some HTML code from the provider into a dialogue box provided by RW for the blog page. In my case it was simpler, just set Discus in the popup menu. Now instead of the iWeb badge showing me new posts (and only when it was in the mood), I now get an email.

 

-Google Analytics: Set up an account with Google. Go to the Stats area in the RW side bar, click on Configure, paste in your code from Google and you are good to go. You can monitor your Google analytics stats right from within RapidWeaver. (Also works this way for GoSquared Live Stats).

 

-Guestbook: Same as iWeb. You add a page with an HTML snippet from your Guestbook provider in an iFrame.

 

-Contact Form: This is a RW page type which masks your email address from the spambots by transferring the information to an invisible and inaccessible  page within your site. This page then emails you the information.

 

-Full Site Search: This doesn't exist in iWeb. You can search your blogs right now, but this is one of the features you lose when MobileMe shuts down. By adding an inexpensive Plug in called RapidSearch Pro I enable full site search. You set up a MySQL server for your site. Host Excellence walked me through the 4-Step Process via a well written Help File. You then control what pages are indexed via your sitemap.xml file. You let RapidSearch Pro index your site and you are good to go.

 

-SiteMap: There is a simple SiteMap generation feature built into RW 5. There are third party tools for doing this for iWeb. I purchased an inexpensive RW plug in called SiteMap plus that not only generates the sitemap.xml file, it allows you to customize what pages get searched and at what frequency. This ties into what is searched via RapidSearch Pro.  This plug-in also generates a visible and customizable sitemap page to help your site's users find their way around. Another bonus of being hosted off Mobile Me is when I went to add my sites to my Google account they had already been indexed. It seemed like they never crawled MobileMe unless you told them you wanted them to look at your site.

 

Link Checking: This doesn't exist in iWeb. I bought another inexpensive plug-in called Link Inspector for RW. It checks all of your internal and external links and generates a report showing the status of all links. This was just what the doctor ordered for my large site. I will run it periodically to make sure external links are still working and that I haven't broken any internal links.

 

My site was pretty much wrapped up on Monday August 8th. I just had to add in Blog Comments, Google Analytics, the Guestbook, Full Site Search and the Site Map. I figured I would go public on Tuesday or Wednesday. To my great pleasure these 5 items took all of 2 hours to get set up and working. This was a nice touch after 2 months of hard work.

 

So there you have it. This is the process I went through converting my site over to RapidWeaver. Your mileage may vary. I am not pushing RapidWeaver for everyone. You have to find what program is the right fit for you. You may find staying with iWeb on a new host is the right fit for you. You need to decide if you can live with the features you lose once you aren't hosted on Mobile Me.  For me there was great pain, but in the end there was a lot of gain too. I do like my new site and I feel it will serve me well for years to come. Good luck to all of you in whatever path you choose. Lastly thanks one last time to the helpful folks around here

 

Jim

http://grillinsmokin.net

 

Message was edited by: Jim Mahoney

  • Roddy Level 6 Level 6 (17,255 points)

    That's a really impressive review of RapidWeaver and I'm sure it will be of interest to many people looking for an alternative to iWeb.

     

    I have been trying out various other apps and anybody who is interested can download a list with links HERE.

     

    My personal opinion is that RapidWeaver is a move sideways rather than forward and that most of the essential extras should be available in the basic package. My RapidWeaver "shopping list" added up to a substantial amount. There's no doubt that it will suit a lot of people and its main competitor - Sandvox - suffers from the lack of ability to start from a blank page.

     

    Freeway is about the only app that allows you actually see what you are doing as you do it but the interface is really poor and the application is sluggish.

     

    Given that most of them require you switch windows to preview, I like the idea of doing so directly in the browser of your choice.

     

    BlueGriffon does this really well and uses the Firefox rendering engine. This is a big advantage now that this is the most popular browser on the planet. The app is free and an add-on package for all the "essentials" is available for less than the basic cost of most other apps. It also works in Windows and Linux and, if you really want to, you can import iWeb built pages into it.

     

    I've found that a lot of the techniques I use to get Movies, Music, Slideshows, Comments etc working in iWeb are actually easier to implement in more "advanced" apps.

     

    iWeb is definitely the easiest way to get into website construction. Its main problem is that it deludes some into thinking that they have built a website that will actually work in all popular browsers and devices!

     

    "I may receive some form of compensation, financial or otherwise, from my recommendation or link."

  • Roddy Level 6 Level 6 (17,255 points)

    My main objection to something like RapidWeaver is that it suffers from the same limitation as iWeb in that it has no import facilty. I really don't want to have rebuild all my sites from scratch!.

     

    The sad thing about iWeb is that Apple didn't see fit to encourage other developers to produce widgets that are actually usefull. The big thing was the HTML Snippet but the others are pretty much a waste of time.

     

    Imagine you could drag a movie file onto a FlowPlayer widget and it would appear on the page like this or an audio file onto a JWMedia widget that would appear like this.

     

    It would seem to me that the world needs an entry level web design software like iWeb far more than it needs a recording software for dummies like Garageband. But what do I know compared with our Great Auntie Apple?

  • Cravenater Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)

    Your site looks really good I really liked your contact form too very simple yet works well. Is that something that is exclusive of RW or did you find code for that elsewhere?

  • abelincolnzombie Level 1 Level 1 (50 points)

    Yes, RW is great, but you do have to shell out some bucks for the add-ons.  I'm using a few free ones and just editing the CSS by hand.

     

    I like your site, great layout, nice color scheme.  If I am able to offer one critique (from designer to designer), it would be to lose the "Made with Rapidweaver"/Use these web browsers/Counter/Made on a Mac/Webring.  These would have looked commonplace fifteen years ago on websites, and just interupts the flow.  Also, try to simplify the front page, because there is too much information.  You really need to clarify a purpose (is it about your hobby? your story? your recipes? the credit? the site layout?)  Otherwise, again, I like it a lot.

  • Roddy Level 6 Level 6 (17,255 points)

    I notice the problem you are having with the popup movie. I've just been experimenting with flowplayer which is a really easy and neat way to get away from the QuickTime v Flash problem.

     

    While doing the popup version, I noticed that Chrome chops the bottom of the window. I checked yours out to see if it was my screwup but yours does the same and the vertical scrollbar appears. I had to add 30 px to the window height to compensate.

     

    I've started to use Chrome a lot since the latest version of Safari is kind of disfunctional.

     

    Most web design software allows you to choose the browser to preview the website. Does RapidWeaver?

     

    One thing that's always annoyed me about iWeb is the fact that you can't set your choice of browser. What's the point in viewing it in Safari when less than 4% (and falling) use it.

     

    bs.jpg

  • Wyodor Level 6 Level 6 (19,335 points)

    One thing that's always annoyed me about iWeb is the fact that you can't set your choice of browser. What's the point in viewing it in Safari when less than 4% (and falling) use it.

    When iWeb entered the market, Chrome didn't exist.

     

    But if you want, you can change the default browser in the Safari preferences, and iWeb will happily open the browser. I doubt iWeb knows about it, since it's a system setting.

     

    It still amazes me that a highly skilled professional like you, a discerning one no less, is still using iWeb.

     

    Shouldn't you be in the forefront of webdesign? Where you are among your peers? Using the latest cutting-edge technologies?

     

    http://www.smashingmagazine.com/

     

    Unfortunately most of the articles are beyond copy/pasting code in the HTML Snippet.

  • Roddy Level 6 Level 6 (17,255 points)

    I'm using Safari V 5.1 with OS X 10.6.8. Chrome 14.0.835.35 beta.

     

    This is the way I would like to have seen iWeb develop. A toolbar like Keynote, a "Preview in the browser.." button and the ability to open html files...

     

     

     

    wd.jpg

  • Roddy Level 6 Level 6 (17,255 points)

    Thanks. I guess I need to revert a little with both browsers.

     

    I'm running three different versions of Firefox for testing pages since it is the most popular browser now. I don't ever use it for browsing because its so slow compared with Chrome. Chrome is stealing customers from IE mainly and will probably rule the world soon. The new PC version has a really slick transparent interface.

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