Moving from iWeb to RapidWeaver? A Few Thoughts...
This must be the most common move into using RapidWeaver happening these days, with iWeb having been loaded onto every new Mac now for a few years. iWeb is a fantastically easy way in to the idea of putting websites together, with everything feeling very 'drag and drop' and 'point and click'. You soon come up to it's limitations though, and this is what leads us all to see if there is something we can use that pushes those boundaries out, without making life too difficult or time consuming. For many of us, RapidWeaver is exactly that.
What we must all be ready for, is that not everything in this game works like iWeb, so treating all new apps like they should operate that way (like some sort of iWeb Turbo), is not going to lead us to the best results. We must try things on their own terms. RapidWeaver has been around for longer than iWeb, and takes a different approach, which has costs and benefits. It has a more complicated, but more open structure allowing for plugins to extend the apps functions by the way of new page types.
Hopefully the next few paragraphs will help you understand why RapidWeaver can benefit you, and point you in a few directions to make use of the benefits it has to offer. Don't give up too quickly, as the differences can seem harder to cope with than they are in the end.
The iWeb 'Style'.
iWeb uses a type of drag and drop, move and resize system that is very visual, but enforces the use of absolute positioning. This means in simple terms that each item or box you create will be positioned a certain number of pixels down and right from the top left corner.
This creates limitations with regards to what the visitor can do with their browser for example. Any attempts to enlarge the text for those with restricted sight have to be blocked, or the page structure is broken, with text hiding behind images, or overrunning other text and worse. Even different browsers rendering fonts differently will not necessarily be allowed for properly.
RapidWeaver can be made to work this way with the use of the plugin Blocks, but is not forced to, and many of us now make efforts to avoid using this type of structure where possible. It does however make the transition from iWeb significantly easier, giving you a more familiar way of working.
The RapidWeaver 'Style'.
One main difference with RapidWeaver is the approach of separating content from style, allowing an entire website to be manipulated for style later, in a way completely impossible in iWeb without a total rebuild. This is something many of us love about RapidWeaver, giving you the ability to change a website to match a companies new logo design for example, in a comparatively quick time!
The 'basic' page in RapidWeaver is called the Styled Text page. This allows you to style text like you would in a word processor, and also to include pieces or 'snippets' of code at the same time. This doesn't give you a WYSIWYG view while editing, as the content is added in the edit window, and the 'Style' is generated mostly by the theme chosen. Many themes have options to change colors, sidebar options and more. 3rd party themes (and there are literally hundreds!) often have many more options.
On top of this, we now have an astonishing array of 3rd party plugins available, with quite a few as freeware/donationware too. New page types like Stacks or Tabloom add obviously new ways of constructing content, but there are also the more subtle plugins like @stash and Pluskit which become more prominent in use the longer you use RapidWeaver, improving the power of all the other plugins you use.
Stacks on it's own now can provide more layout options than many other applications can, not just iWeb. RSS feeds, Twitter feeds, 20+ image gallery options, tabbed layers, accordion style layouts, lightbox style video and audio players, it just keeps on going! We're unlikely to build a new RapidWeaver site without it these days.
What this adds up to is a less obvious start, but such a flexible future, that it does take time to see quite how many possibilities there are. It isn't really any surprise that a greatly increased flexibility leads to some increase in complexity. If you can afford the time, you will be rewarded with results.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
This is a strong reason for iWeb users to look for something new. There are many controls useful to SEO that iWeb lacks. All put together, these can make a very serious difference to how easy it can be for people to find your site. Hopefully Apple may see fit to address some of these in iWeb updates. Here are just a few.
The 'title' in HTML terms (Browser Title in RapidWeaver) as displayed across the top of the browser window is set using the same dialogue as the built in navigation system in iWeb, hardly practical for best use. RapidWeaver will allow the two things to be set independently (some of us used to hand code this later in iWeb) from the Page Inspector.
Meta tags, while not as important to Google as they were a few years ago if blogs by Google employees are to be believed (and why wouldn't we), but are still a valuable addition. iWeb ignores the existence of these for simplicity (are they really that complex??). RapidWeaver gives you dialogue boxes for each page, and one in the Site Setup to automatically add these for each newly generated page.
Headings in HTML (h1, h2, h3 etc) are used to prioritize words and phrases in search engines as well as style headings and titles both in the page's top area and the content area of the page. These are under the Format menu in RapidWeaver, in the HTML sub-menu. There is again, no control of these in iWeb.
While there are apps by people like Rage to improve matters, it's a messy process which only addresses some of the issues. RapidWeaver can still do a significantly more complete job.
iWeb was always made for the casual user to make a personal/family site for fun in the easiest way possible, and to that end Apple have achieved a great deal. It wasn't designed to build SEO friendly small to medium business sites, or more complex personal sites, with great flexibility and extensibility. RapidWeaver was, and achieves that job admirably. It's about how much time you want to put into the design, and how many options you want for it. There are many of us who have made the RapidWeaver move, and are delighted we did, but there will never be one piece of software to suit everyone. Take your time to decide, and don't forget to use the RapidWeaver forum, it's a powerful and helpful community resource.