BitDepth 559 - January 16

Bringing my website back to the Internet took years and several dead-ends. RealMac's software presented a compelling solution...
Return to the web

RapidWeaver from RealMac Software makes building modern looking websites pleasant if not downright fun. Image by Mark Lyndersay.

Several years ago, a gentlemen's agreement I had with a local ISP abruptly expired and the website project I'd nurtured from a couple of experimental hand-coded html pages into a 400-plus page opus went away.
I got busy over the next seven years and couldn't even think about resurrecting the website. When I finally returned to gainful unemployment a year ago and turned my attention to an Internet presence, I had a rude awakening.

While it's still possible to code a simple page in html and put it on the Internet, it's a little like bringing a Yugo to a BMW convention or, more competitively, a knife to a gunfight.
The advancements in web coding generally described as Web 2.0 demand a familiarity with much denser markup code than I was familiar with.
Of course, I could skip all the hassle and just pay someone to build the site, someone who actually bought and read all the books that seemed to be standing between me and the kind of website I wanted to host on my domain.
But that just isn't who I am, which is, of course, why I write this column.

I love to fiddle with technology in all its aspects, even when I can't engage everything that's happening under the hood.
Enter RapidWeaver, a clever bit of software written by Daniel Counsell, a Brighton-based developer who figured out that there were many people who wanted websites that looked like they were created by savvy professionals without actually having to hire said professionals.
Until RapidWeaver, software designed for easy website development had become something of a rarity. Dreamweaver and GoLive, the big two in the WYSIWYG web page building space, had become so sophisticated that you had to read the manual to figure out what to do after you launched them.
Both products are now owned by Adobe Systems, and the company is backing Dreamweaver, the market leader, and has consigned GoLive to the dead code department.

Although I've paid for two successive upgrades of GoLive, I don't see it's departure as any great loss. After three years, I still can't figure out how to do anything with the application. Freeway Pro, another product from the UK, is designed specifically for designers familiar with page layout applications, and the product successfully hides web code heavy lifting behind an interface that mimics Quark Xpress, page layout software that's popular with desktop publishers.
RapidWeaver dispenses with even a hint of complexity. The software is almost entirely template driven, using packages of designs called themes to create very basic but cleanly produced pages for popular pages like blogs and photo albums.
Designed for Apple's Macintosh computers, it makes use of the iLife platform to enable easy podcast posting and access to images in iPhoto.

But that convenience is also something of a curse. Creating pages with RapidWeaver practically guarantees that you will end up with neat pages that look just like those built by anyone who happens to use the same theme that you did.
The product shines on websites of five pages or so, but I had bigger plans.
Fortunately, Counsell's product is much deeper than it looks, with page hierarchies and renaming conventions that made it possible to seriously consider moving the 559 instalments of BitDepth back to the Internet.

Enterprising third party developers have jumped into the RapidWeaver mix with complementary applications that allow users to change the graphics built into some themes. Pair ThemeMiner or Multitool with a decent image editor and there's little you can't adjust to your taste in a site built with RapidWeaver.
Truly tech savvy web creators can build pages with custom HTML and CSS, and it's easy to open themes and change graphics and code within them to change the templates to your taste.
Once you have the basics down, updating and adding to a site built with the software becomes a little addictive. In a week, I've gone from wrestling with code to picking photos and formatting copy. I suspect most folks who want to have a presence on the Internet might like to have a similar revelation.

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