Digital World: Why I like iWeb

Giving nontechnical users the ability to create beautiful Web sites.

By DAVID SHAMAH
March 3, 2009 09:41
Digital World: Why I like iWeb

iweb 88 248. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Last time, I wrote about reasons not to buy a Mac (even though I didn't follow my own advice). This time, I'd like to give you a good reason to buy one: iWeb. Note, however, that it wasn't the Mac I had a problem with - it was the service (more on that below). I'm very happy with my new "Aluminum Macbook," so far. But as several readers not enamored of the Mac pointed out to me, there are plenty of laptops out there that can compete favorably with the Macbook on features - many models have built in Web-cams or back-lit keyboards - as well as on processor speed, disk size, etc. There's a certain segment of the population that gets antsy when it sees such comparisons being made (are they Apple stockholders?). But a computer is just a tool, isn't it? You use it to get what you need done and you move on. So, the tool that does the job you need to get done in the best possible manner is the tool you should be using, regardless of the nameplate or operating system. There are good cases to be made for any computer/operating system, depending on whom you ask, like at this site (http://tinyurl.com/art68z), which compares Linux vs Mac OS X vs Windows Vista vs Windows XP. They've all got their pluses and minuses; what's "best" depends on what tools you need to use, whatever it is you're trying to get done. But the Mac has one big advantage over any other system, and that's the iLife package you get when you buy your computer (http://www.apple.com/ilife/). The package includes five applications: iPhoto (photo organizer), iMovie (movie/video production), iDVD (DVD authoring), GarageBand (music/podcast authoring) and iWeb (web site authoring). iLife (which only works on Macs) comes pre-installed on your computer out of the box (you can upgrade to the latest version for $79, a bargain in itself for a set of programs that provides so much. From my experience, having used them and their PC equivalents, I can tell you there are acceptable Windows substitutes for iMovie, iDVD and iPhoto. Like many Mac users, I've never really tried GarageBand, but it's got a lot of fans among those who make music or produce podcasts. Web site authoring Web site authoring, though, is something I know - and there is no program on any platform that compares to iWeb in giving nontechnical users the ability to create beautiful Web sites. And even though it's marketed as a program for the casual, home user, there are plenty of people who have used it to produce very professional-looking sites to promote their businesses, books or other commercial ventures. With iWeb, you don't have to know, or learn, any Web markup languages in order to create a site. The whole site-construction process is drag and drop, with all the commands located in a central Inspector toolbox that gives you quick access to everything you need - for text, graphics, video, audio, etc. iWeb '09, the latest iteration, includes several improvements over previous versions, such as allowing drag and drop widgets for Youtube videos, Google Maps and Adsense, and other add-ons that required some technical knowledge to add in the past. Don't get me wrong; iWeb is no Dreamweaver, but if you're not a professional Web site designer - but you do want a professional-looking Web site - you're not going to find a better deal than iWeb. There are, of course, plenty of on-line sites where you can mark up a Web page, some of them producing very nice-looking pages - such as the ones made by Google Sites (http://sites.google.com/). But they don't give you the flexibility you get with iWeb. There has been plenty of criticism of iWeb over the years: the HTML it produces isn't "neat" (true); it doesn't produce sites that can be easily read by Google Web crawlers (also true); you can't use it unless you fork over $99 a year to Apple for hosting (not true; you can host iWeb sites anywhere); the sites take too long to load (could be a problem for any site production program); you can't easily edit a site once it's finished (no longer the case in iWeb '09); and others. But there are performance/usage issues with all programs. There are solutions for all of these iWeb issues, and serious users of the program quickly learn a lot about all sorts of Web authoring and hosting issues, as they work around the program's limitations to produce a site that looks and acts the way they want. Empowering casual users I know that sounds like a strange idea - "working around the program's limitations." Why put up with any limitations: why not just use a "better" program? That, to me, is the beauty of iWeb; it lets casual users build very nice-looking sites for blogs, family photo albums, etc., with little effort, but also lets more sophisticated users tweak their sites, making them look and act more "professional." Take me, for example - a busy person who wants a nice-looking Web site but doesn't have the time or inclination to learn "deep" html, javascript, PHP, etc. Unable or unwilling to invest time in learning Web authoring, I have two choices: either to use a "canned" on-line service that limits the way I can make my site look and the way I can use it, or to pay a professional to produce a professional site. The first choice is clearly a nonstarter - and so is the second. Not so much because of the money, but because I would want to be constantly tweaking things, improving the site incrementally. You have to work according to the Web site author's schedule, nudging, pleading, and threatening in turn, in order to get their attention. But iWeb gives me the power to produce what I want, make it look the way I want, and do with it what I want - right away, without having to delve into the esoterica of Web markup languages. And the limitations in iWeb were what prompted me to break down and learn the Web authoring technologies I needed in order to get what I wanted done - which I would not have even attempted without iWeb. So, it's not just a Web authoring program - iWeb is a teaching tool, too! And as a result, I have two nice sites (http://digital.newzgeek.com and http://www.newzgeek.com) that contain an archive of articles I've written for The Jerusalem Post that I can proudly show people who want to see what I've written. I wouldn't recommend iWeb for a high-traffic commercial site that needs all the bells and whistles, but if you have a small business or project (or maybe something even bigger) and you want a Web site - and you are paying a designer to build one - you can have your site, and a Mac, for almost the same money! Regarding iDigital Here is the response to the article I wrote about my dissatisfaction with Apple service in Israel by a company spokesperson: "iDigital is the sole authorized Apple dealer in Israel, and goes out of its way to give customers superior service on all Apple products and accessories. Since the beginning of iDigital's operations in Israel a year and a half ago, the number of users of Apple products - and especially of Macs - has grown considerably, and we attribute this increase to the efforts of iDigital, especially in the area of service. In order to ensure even better service, we have just opened a new service center in Petah Tikva, staffed by top professionals who have been trained by Apple's worldwide training staff. "Customers at iDigital's flagship store in the Ramat Aviv Mall are invited to speak to experts at the Guru Bar - our version of the Genius Bar that can be found in Apple Stores around the world. Hundreds of satisfied customers make use of the Genius Bar's services on a daily basis. In addition, the iDigital Store sponsors daily training programs for both Mac and PC users on making the most of Apple's "digital lifestyle," enabling users to use their equipment to create music, movies, photos and Web sites using Apple and Mac tools. In addition, we advise PC users on how to make the switch to Macs. "Over the past year iDigital has engineered a true revolution when it comes to acquainting the Israeli public with Apple products, with an emphasis on high-quality service for our customers. Today, Israelis interested in Apple products have a true home at iDigital, enabling them to adopt Apple's 'digital lifestyle' technology. "Regarding the writer's experience in attempting to get his Macbook repaired: We wish to make clear that we are bound by the specific procedures set in place by Apple Worldwide when users seek to service products they purchased abroad under the one-year standard, or three-year extended Apple warranties. Apple Worldwide requires us to clear all requests for service with Apple Worldwide, and we are permitted to begin the repair process only upon that approval. iDigital has no say in the length of time required for this process, and we are not permitted to perform any repairs without the relevant permission. With that, iDigital works hard to prioritize service for customers once Apple Worldwide gives its authorization." http://digital.newzgeek.com

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