Thursday, December 06, 2007

New Design

I have updated and relocated again.

I have had a home page of one sort or another practically ever since it was possible to have one. I do wonder sometimes if it is worth the hassle, but occasionally people do find me through it, whether for work or some friend or family member looses my contact details, I guess it is still useful.

I really had to do something about the design (clearly ripped from Blogger), I had got so sick of it. Being such a stickler for good code, I had always hand-coded my site before. This time, feeling a bit lazy, I decided to see how iWeb would work.

iWeb has the look and intuitive feel of the iWork applications, which I like. However, unlike Keynote etc. it seems to lack the ability for the user to build new templates, most of the built-in templates are pretty nasty, but luckily there was one (Modern) which I found bearable.

I found iWeb very easy to use. I found not having to write the code myself (and make it work across platform), freed me up to think much more about what the purpose, message and content of the site should be, which was refreshing.

The Prototype AJAX library is built-in to iWeb-generated sites, this brings some quite funky behaviour, like a half-decent slideshow widget etc. which I appreciated. The implementation is a bit over-the-top though IMHO. The slideshow dynamically loads photos using an RSS feed to specify the contents, which while being clever, is a bit pointless, every file is overwritten during export, so this could have just been burnt into the html. Some of the things they do are just plain silly. If you want a link that opens in a new window, instead of just adding a target attribute, they add several JavaScript Event Handlers to do the same job ;-)

One behaviour I definitely appreciated was the ability to dynamically pull html snippets into the page at runtime. I used this for my email address, crawlers looking for this info will not find it, unless they execute the JavaScript.

Since iWeb was never designed for someone like me, I inevitably had several issues with it, here are some of them :

Layout: Not surprisingly, considering how the program works (like a DTP program) all of the layouts are generated using absolutely positioned div tags. What is unfortunate is that Apple decided to use fixed units of measurement (a bad mix of pt and px) meaning that the layouts do not scale properly if a user presses command-+, the individual divs begin to crop their content or overlap their neighbours. Interestingly, Apple realised this, but instead of fixing the code output, they seem to have fixed Safari 3 not to zoom iWeb sites (Safari 2 and Firefox still zoom) which to me is a strange way of working !! The way I have solved this in the past is to place a default text size on the body tag (font-size: 10px;) then use a relative unit em in the elements I want to scale properly. In this situation 1px = 0.1em. Easy.

Meta-Data: The ability to control meta-data is almost non-existent. You cannot do things like add your own title attributes to links, alt attributes on images, or add your own meta tags to the head. I am used to having full control over stuff like this, I like proper Dublin-core and geotags in my pages, yeah I am geeky :)

Standards: I am used to making my sites fully compliant with w3 standards, I like to get WAI-AAA compliance etc. as well. Of course this is just professional pride, so few people visit this site, it does not really matter ...... but it could have been something Apple just got right ......

URLs: Being a Cocoon developer, I am used to having absolute control over all URLs. iWeb is not really designed like that. iWeb is designed for pumping multiple 'sites' out to a single dot mac address. Each 'site' in iWeb has the site-name at the top level of it's URL. So that you can go from my.tld/ to the default 'site' Apple output a /index.html with a meta-redirect. I do not like that and you do not seem to have any control over it.

Conclusion: Well, the fact I actually published the HTML made by iWeb shows that I found it just about  good enough. I did resort to some post-processing on the exported files to solve some of the problems above, but this is obviously a nuisance. The point of tools like iWeb is that they make it really so easy to make and publish changes, you are likely to do it more often. Having to post-process the HTML really spoils that experience.

Note: Since publishing this site a few days ago, it has gone from 1st to 2nd position in Google when you search for my name, hmmm what have I done that they did not like?

[1] The site was hosted as a favour by Andrew Savory for many years. Many thanks Andrew! Now it is on an old Mac Cube at home.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Your observations of Iweb are great. I have begin using it to design my sites while I am India. My HTML skills are non-existent. First I started with the Standard .mac stuff for my blog and photos. Now have been getting down into the nitty gritty of the other sites for my metalwork. Testing one site with to see if developing one of my ideas is feasible, I realized that no! I have no keywords at all for SEO! Of course all this is new to me. And I have my main site I am almost finished with. So I have been dreading the possibilities of chopping up the Iweb source code and screwing up all of my hard work of the past 2 weeks.
In my research, I stumbled across your site, (you are up there in the rankings) and Dan's Web Tips.
Dan says that google doesn't even bother to search keywords anymore "due to extensive abuse by spamdexers." Is it worth sticking the keywords in? Should I source out what I've done to someone more experienced. I notice alot of meta data about iwords in the source code.
Anyhow I'm having fun doing it and its enlightening to see all of your life's work in one location ready to publish.