How does the competition stack up? iWeb is at version 1.0. Sandvox is still in beta. Both show promise. Both bring a new approach to the web page design table.
The folks at Karelia Software must be dreaming deja vu all over again.
Their highly acclaimed Watson application (an integration of web search tools) was crushed by the free version Apple included in OS X. What was it called again? Sherlock?
The developers obviously like what they saw in Rapidweaver and the potential market and set out to create a better mousetrap.
Sandox has been in beta since late last year. It’s very attractive, loaded with features, and ease of use, one-ups Rapidweaver in a few places.
Then came the rumors that Apple would offer their own web page creation tool for .Mac. Deja vu all over again for the folks at Karelia.
So the Sandvox beta was released to the public before Macworld. The publicity helped, because now there’s something else to compare with Rapidweaver and iWeb.
If you like what you see of Rapidweaver, you’ll love what you see with Sandvox (SVX).
First, Sandvox ups the stakes. You have to have Mac OS X Tiger. Second, SVX takes page creation up a notch or two from RW.
Themes are called designs and they’re rolling across the top instead of the side as in RW.
Click on a design (theme) and the web site is created in a WYSIWYG display below. A familiar toolbar across the top is next.
Select Pages. The choices are obvious. A text page, movie page, photo page, raw HTML, and so on.
The similarities between RW, SVX, and iWeb are striking, yet all three are different.
SVX also has a new term—Pagelets. Think of these as elements of a page. There’s a Text pagelet, a Photo pagelet, a movie Pagelet, HTML pagelet, and so on.
These elements get embedded into a web page. Drop them into a theme, move them around, add or change content. It’s point and click and drag and drop.
Some elements of a page can be banded together to form Collections. Same thing. Weblog, Photo album, Photo weblog, links, and other things that just always need to be added to web sites.
The ever present “Inspector” lives in Sandvox, too. You can inspect, modify, add elements to a Site, a Page, or Details to an element on a page, including basic properties and images.
In fact, the similarities between Inspectors in RW, SVX, and iWeb are remarkable. iWeb’s inspector tends to look more like the Inspector in iWorks’ Pages, and has more options.
Simplicity is key to SVX and Karelia does a good job of keeping page complications away from the designer.
In short, getting a web site developed is easy. Including numerous pages; photos, movies, web log, plain content, etc. Bold, italics, paragraphs, cut and paste. You’d think SVX was a page layout application.
SVX uses a media browser called iMedia. Basically, it’s a pop up tool which displays iTunes playlists and music, iPhoto albums and photos, and any QuickTime movies in your Movies folder.
After that, it’s drag and drop. Sweet. But it’s the same kind of tool you’ll find already in Rapidweaver, and in Apple’s iWeb.
Seriously, it’s reaching the point where creating an attractive, complex web site is very easy. Though they’re different, RW and SVX share a similar approach, though both are different.
Rapidweaver is mature and the tools for page creation work well together. Even creating a site with a complex mixture of pages and page elements is handled well.
Sandvox shows great promise to do the same thing. SVX is beta and, as expected, not as stable. Don’t make it your life’s work until after there’s a public release available. No price has been set for the commercial version, while Rapidweaver is $34.95.
Apple iWeb 1.0
Apple’s entry into point and click, drag and drop web page development is similar to RW and SVX.
I’ve already done a more detailed look into iWeb, though now I have another week of experience, and more time to compare with RW and SVX.
Like SVX, iWeb is a very good version 1.0, but needs seasoning. While application crashes are fewer with iWeb than SVX, stability is an issue.
iWeb starts with templates (themes in RW and SVX; but they work the same way) and they’re drop dead gorgeous. Apple thinks different.
The whole approach to web page design in iWeb is design, drag and drop, elements.
Select a template or page design. After that, it’s drag and drop simplicity. While text and graphic elements of SVX and RW are limited to where they can be positioned on a web page, iWeb gives you more control.
Text elements, photos, headlines, all can be moved around as if you’re in a graphics or page layout application. Everything can be resized by clicking on the element, grabbing the handles, and moving until you’re happy.
Designers will love iWeb, if anything, just to show how attractive a site can be. Then they’ll be able to charge more to create a real site that looks like the sites iWeb does with a click.
iWeb has the familiar Inspector tool, though with more functions than SVX. Also available is the Media tool, which keeps track of iPhoto albums, iTunes playlists, and Movies.
iWeb’s focus is on design and layout, though getting up a web site with photos and albums, home movies, a blog, and other pages is just as easy as in SVX and RW.
Control over design is easier, better than the others. Overall control of the site, links, and complexity is not.
As with SV and RW, publishing a web site is just a click or two. You can publish to your Mac (saves the files to your Mac), publish to .Mac, but not FTP the site to a remote host (use Transmit or CyberDuck instead).
Contrary to the impression created on Karelia’s web site about iWeb, it’s not a .Mac only application.
Apple loves design and it shows in iWeb. PNG files show up and iWeb forgets to reduce them in size to comparable quality GIFs and JPEGs from time to time. You could get a small graphic that 12k or 320k. You never know.
Still, iWeb’s focus is .Mac, and there are additional hooks built in to take advantage of the .Mac features to justify the extra $100 it costs each year in the .Mac Tax.
This is what you’re waiting for, right?
I’ll keep all three applications on my Mac because they represent the future of web page design.
Notice I used “design”. Sites grow in size. Pages and features and functions get added over time. That creates management issues that RW, SVX and iWeb are not ready to handle.
For example, Mac360 has over 625 articles published in the past year. Try managing all that content in iWeb. From time to time we drop in banner and skyscraper ads. Try that in SVX.
You get the idea. Design is the focus for now. Not managing site complexity. Still, if you want an attractive web site, a few dozen pages of content, and need to mix and match design and content elements like photos, blogs, movies, and more, all three will do just that.
Rapidweaver does it better. It’s more mature, more features, more stable, more options. At $34.95, it’s a bargain, despite iWeb being included in iLife ‘06.
Sandvox shows substantial promise and approaches design elements a bit differently. There’s also more attractive sizzle in SVX than RW, though not necessarily more function. Yet.
iWeb has more sizzle than anything else. The design and page layout functions are a wonder. iWeb even modifies photos using the same kind of tool set as you find in iPhoto.
Drag and drop web page design is the way to do it. It’s like a word processor for web pages. But there’s a price under all the glitter. Resulting HTML code, though nearly W3C compliant, suffers from divitis. Too many DIVs and other hacks to keep the design pretty.
iWeb is more style than substance. SVX wants to move the bar up for design, layout, page management. Rapidweaver is already there and works.
update – I’ve been playing with new themes in Rapidweaver today; specifically, the themes from Rapid Ideas. Rapidweaver has a Theme control tab in the Inspector which is easy to miss, but offers tremendous power for design control on some themes, yet still builds XHTML and CSS standards compliant code, with point and click simplicity. It’s just one feature of many, and it’s not hyped enough, and shows why RW remains the top pick of the three above. Some themes allow for more control over design and layout by using the Theme tab, including flexible page widths, colors, images, and more. Since RW is a free download, give it a try. It’s very impressive what can be done with some of the newer themes.