iWeb: A First Look
A few days ago I purchased the new iLife Suite. It arrived and I have spent the weekend exploring some of the new features in this year’s edition. I was most interested in the new application, iWeb. The old applications have been upgraded, but not modified enough so that a user of a past version would experience any trouble. So, this is strictly a review of iWeb so that you can decide for yourself if this new package is worth your money.
What iWeb is
It is very important that any potential buyers know exactly what iWeb is. It is an application for creating personal websites. Now, this personal website can easily include pictures, slide shows of pictures, movies, podcast and of course, any documentation you feel like publishing. Furthermore, if you have a .Mac subscription, you will be able to get much more out of this software than if you don’t subscribe. It is heavily tied into Apple’s online service. So, if you already have a .Mac subscription then this application should be much more appealing to you. If you don’t, then you need to seriously examine whether or not this applications limited feature set is worth the money.
What iWeb isn’t
IWeb is NOT a general purpose website creation application. Do not make the mistake of thinking it is a scaled down version of Dreamweaver, as it most definitely is not. This application is designed to publish personal websites either to .Mac or to a folder to be used via another hosting service. It does nothing else.
The iWeb experience
When opening iWeb you will notice that it doesn’t give you the option to create a blank webpage, instead you given a choice of 12 templates to use. Yet, even within these templates you do not have complete control. You can move, insert and rearrange things like pictures, text and special links. However you are prohibited from changing the links that connect the pre-generated pages. So, if you created a site with four pages (a homepage, a music page, a pictures page and a info page for example) you could add all of the pictures you wanted. You could create a slide show of those pictures. You could type in as much text as you wanted. You could add background music, links to a file, links to another website or even have a page full of Quicktime movies.
What you can’t do, though, is change any of the main links at the top of the page. You see, every time you add a new page (from one of six template pages), a link to that page is inserted at the top of every page in your website. You have no control of this process. So, you had just better like the fact that the homepage’s link will always be in a preset font with a preset color. This lack of control over your website can prove frustrating to those of us wanting more customization.
Pros - Why you should buy this software
This new application is ideal for anyone who meets the following criteria:
- has little to no experience designing webpages
- doesn’t mind spending $100 a year for a .Mac subscription
- won’t mind giving up lots of creative control in exchange for the ability to easily and rapidly create a slick looking site
If you fall into this category (and a lot of users will) then iWeb might be for you. I must admit, it does look very good. And it is remarkably easy to operate. You can open this program for the first time (and assuming you already have all of your picture. music and movies ready to go plus you already have .Mac) and in 30 minutes or less have a brand new website. This is one of the simplest Apple programs I have ever used.
Cons - Why other packages might serve you better
If you were hoping for an easy to use, general purpose, website creation app . . . keep hoping. Anyone wanting more power, more flexibility and more control is better served with another application. Maybe iWeb Version 2.0 will offer more features and thus appeal to a larger crowd. But for now, any one above the novice level of website design will be left feeling frustrated at the lack of options iWeb provides.
Even though it is remarkably easy to use, iWeb is so heavily structured that only the most basic of users will find it adequate. Everyone else will chafe under its restrictive templates. And while its extreme tie-in with .Mac is useful, those unwilling to subscribe will find that they are missing out on a big part of iWeb’s capabilities. So, the real cost is $79 +$100 a year for as long as you decide to keep .Mac around. Thus overall I can’t recommend iWeb as a compelling enough reason, by itself, to buy iLife ‘06. If you are content with an older version of iLife then spend your money on Dreamweaver or some other, similar application. Maybe one day iWeb will grow up into a real application, but until then save your money.