There’s no shortage of ways to build a web site using your Mac. Master XHTML and CSS via online tutorials and all you need is a text editor and Safari.
Or, you could build an attractive, professional looking site using Apple’s free iWeb, part of iLife ‘09 on every new Mac. Or, assuming you don’t want a web site that looks like every other web site, try something different with Sandvox. It’s the same drag and drop, point and click as iWeb, but with more bells and whistles, more feature control, and customized designs.
The school where I work has dozens of teachers running Macs and PCs. Many of them want to create simple web sites as part of their instruction plans.
iWeb does the job, but with a limited number of themes, the
jobs sites tend to look the same as every other web page built by a Mac user. What to do?
Fortunately, Mac users have multiple choices for web page construction. The two major competitors for the drag and drop, point and click crowd of would be web page publishers are Rapidweaver and Sandvox.
The former has long been a favorite of the Mac360 staff, and the latter has come a long way in the past couple of years. Sandvox is loaded with features and capability but still takes little effort to create an attractive web site.
Choose Features & Designs
In many ways, Sandvox looks and acts like Rapidweaver. Out of the box, Sandvox has 50 different site designs which can be customized with a few clicks.
Every teacher I know that builds a web site here and there hates the same thing. A blank page. Sandvox gets you started with a design, a theme or template, that matches your site’s objective.
Not to worry. Any of the included themes can be changed with a click or two for a completely different look and feel. Cumbersome CSS changes are reduced to simple point and click. Graphics and be dropped in to replace the default.
Not satisfied with the basics? Sandvox Designs has even more.
Building From The Ground Up
Every web site has the same problem. Content. What do you want to say and how do you want to say it? Just text? Images? Movies?
Sandvox makes building the site’s elements nothing more than an exercise in typing what you want, dragging and dropping the elements to match. Drag and drop photos into your Sandvox page and position to fit.
Drag and drop movies and audio files into other pages. One thing I like about Sandvox over Rapidweaver is the ability to edit and review changes immediately—no preview needed. It’s all live on your Mac.
Teachers in our school tend to like Apple’s iWeb because it’s easy to use and the results, though the same for everyone using a particular theme, are attractive and usable. Teachers like Sandvox because of the extra control.
Control? Sure. Web page building isn’t just drag and drop, but fancy features don’t have to be hand coded, either.
Read on to Page 2 for the extra details you’ll want—Flickr, YouTube, contact forms, Google Analytics, search engine optimization and more.
Continued from Page 1…
While there’s nothing wrong with trying out a Sandvox design and just messing around to get the hang of what it can do, the whole web site building experience is enhanced when you know first what you hope to accomplish with your web site.
Mac users tend to be early adopters and creative. Do you want a web site to be a photo gallery? A family publication? A personal diary or blog? Or, have you got a business presence in mind? The 50 included web site designs in Sandvox will get you started, but it’s important to know there is much more you can build than basics.
A Sidebar, Your Honor!
A web site should display information in a way that is easily viewed and understood by a site’s visitor. That means navigation buttons, sidebars, and other elements of design.
Sandvox lets you build your site one page at a time, therefore, it’s a perfect way to build a site that has a few or dozens of pages (after a few dozen pages, managing page-by-page can be cumbersome).
You control the navigation menus and how deep the sub-menus go. Make a change to the menu or a page, and Sandvox knows what to change to make the links work appropriately.
While navigation menus should be similar on every page, sidebars can be different on every page. One page can contain information text, while another contains links elsewhere in or out of your site.
Another page’s sidebar can contain Flickr photos or YouTube videos. Sandvox calls their sidebar elements pagelets, and you can choose from 19 to get started—news, images, information from other sites like news and weather (the kind that is updated automatically).
Pagelets let you add text, images, and movies, or, for the really creative and geeky, add your own customer features with a Raw HTML pagelet.
Professional Feature Creep
Sandvox is almost as easy as iWeb, but for those who just plain need to do more, there’s a version called Sandvox Pro.
Every page, pagelet, or collection in Sandvox Pro has the ability to be customized, including the PHP scripting language (assuming you have a web site host that supports PHP—most do).
Sandvox Pro uses a Code Injection Panel to make the customization process easier. Not to worry. The Pro version also features a built in HTML validation checker to make sure your code is standards compliant.
Publish Here, There, Everywhere
The earlier versions of Apple’s iWeb required publication to MobileMe and made users jump through a few hoops to put an iWeb site elsewhere. Sandvox makes it easy to publish your custom web site anywhere.
Yes, it’s easy to upload your Sandvox site to MobileMe. Just fill in the login and account settings, then click. Up it goes.
There’s more to the web than MobileMe. Most host servers provide uploading access via FTP or SFTP or WebDAV protocols. Sandvox makes it a simple point and click to upload your completed or updated site wherever you want it to go.
How do you get your site recognized by Google and other search engines? How do you track the visitors to your site? Sandvox covers the details. Each web page is built with search engine optimization in mind. You control links, page names, and keywords.
Sandvox provides simple instruction for optimizing a site for search engines. The Pro version lets you use Google’s highly touted Webmaster Tools and the ability to build a Site Map. Google’s free Analytics can be dropped into Sandvox pages to capture information about users, search engines, pages viewed, and more.
Obviously, there’s a lot more that Sandvox provides than iWeb. The price tag is nominal, the designs are attractive (a mix of personal, theme, and business), and the add on features plentiful.