The Trials and Tribulations of iWeb and .Mac Hosting.

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[UPDATE:] For all the reasons articulated below, I ultimately left iWeb/.Mac hosting and moved my blog to a new home at WordPress.

Nearly three months ago I switched from using Blogger to iWeb and .Mac for my blog. Overall I’m happy with my experiences, but there are some gripes I’d like to point out here.

Before I get there, let me just say that I love the fact that I went from never having even seen iWeb (any version) to having my site completely ready in just a few hours. I love writing my posts in iWeb. Love the WYSIWYG. Love the ease with which I can just drag in and position graphics. Love the built-in Instant Alpha and other tools. And love the one-click publishing. Bottom line is I do not want to code HTML, I just want to write my blog, and using iWeb/.Mac has let me do that very easily. On a day to day basis I’m happy with this solution.

Having said that, here are my gripes:

No facility for feed redirect and/or statistics.

In Blogger it was a simple setting to enter a feed redirect to FeedBurner, but not so with iWeb. Further, in order to get blog stats out of FeedBurner code must to be added to the pages. I’ve tried using Web Widgets for this but it’s not getting into the correct place; my stats are maybe half-correct. I’ve taken to putting a page counter on my pages just to get a feel for hits, but I can’t see them all in one place, don’t think it’s as accurate, and would prefer not to clutter each post with a count in the first place.

Clearly, the inability to edit any HTML was seen as a weakness in iWeb 1.0 (which I never used), but Web Widgets in 2.0 is not quite enough. Since Apple is such buddies with Google, I’d settle for a tie-in to Google Analytics. Just check a button and go with it would be fine with me. I just want accurate stats and don’t want to have to hack iWeb’s HTML to get them.

As it is, I’m getting somewhat accurate page visit counts, but my referrer stats are all wrong.

Font size cannot increase in Safari.

My eyes aren’t what they used to be. It’s very common for me to visit a site and then use Cmd-+ to increase the font size a few points. This is especially useful when I’m with my wireless keyboard and leaning back in my chair.

But iWeb sites do not honor this in Safari (it works fine in FireFox). What’s up with that? I prefer Safari to FF now so this is really annoying. This may just be a Safari issue, and not related to iWeb’s code, but I’ve included it here anyway. Guess I’m lucky most the sites I read aren’t .Mac hosted.

Archiving.

After only three months it’s not an issue now, but the way posts are archived is too simplistic. Blogger nicely rolled them up into months by year and it worked great. Nothing fancy, but you could go for years with a scheme like that. But on .Mac the list just keeps getting longer.

At some point it appears I’ll have no choice but to begin another set of pages, and then have them refer to the earlier archives. Buy why should I have to do that? Can’t .Mac be a little smarter at this? Just roll ‘em up each month and I’d be happy.

Performance.

This is the big one, and don’t even get me started here. Look, on a desktop machine with a broadband connection performance is not a big issue. Mac or PC, with any browser, I believe .Mac sites are slower than most, but it’s not that big a deal.

However, on the iPhone speed for .Mac sites is horrendous! Forget about EDGE, I’m talking even over WiFi my site is slower than a pregnant turtle when loading on the iPhone. Apple, what’s wrong here? I’ve taken pains to do what’s necessary to speed things up, to the point of the following, some of which were documented as guidelines for performance:

  • Use a “web” font. It said if a “web” font isn’t used it may be treated as a graphic, so I chucked Helvetica and used Arial.
  • No reflections or drop shadows on graphics. I’m not keen on reflections but I liked a subtle drop shadow. Still, I chucked it for performance.
  • Swapped out the “Browser Background” from a pattern to a solid color.
  • Only display 15 posts on my Home page. This bothers me because with a small graphic and excerpt it’s a great way to browse for content. I was hoping for a couple dozen or more on this page, but with performance so bad I settled on 15.
  • Don’t usually use a lot of graphics.

Still, it loads so slowly on my iPhone that I cannot use it with EDGE and rarely even bother with WiFi. It’s that bad.

This is a site written with Apple’s software (iWeb), on their platform (an iMac), hosted by them (.Mac), and then being rendered on their platform (iPhone) in their browser (Safari), so why is performance a joke? Seriously, I consider this a problem in either the iWeb code or the iPhone’s version of Safari. Given desktop Safari’s inability to increase font sizes on these sites (noted above), maybe there are certain “bugs” between Apple’s iWeb-generated code and their own browser?

Other stuff.

There are other issues, too (e.g., can’t change the font for comments, can’t moderate comments before they’re posted, no facility for writing drafts), but these aren’t really that big of a deal right now, and I expect no solution is perfect. Still, the four areas above are pretty big issues for me (more importantly, possibly for my readers). In the case of performance, I think it’s even a little embarrassing for Apple.

I love the fact that iWeb let me set all this up and go easily. I’m smart, but my geek days are pretty much over because I have better things to do with my time. I just want to do the work I want to do. I selected iWeb/.Mac to simplify things. The “hardest” thing I had to do was redirect my domain. Otherwise it’s pretty much point, click, write. Sure, I tweaked my chosen template quite a bit so I can’t use “Add Entry”, but I just duplicate a previous one and it’s only one click either way. I’m sure there’s a way to hack the HTML iWeb generates, but that’s not where I want to go.

If I was asking for major stuff I could see requiring a higher-powered solution. But I don’t believe I’m asking for much. If you contend that iWeb is a simple solution for the average Joe to build web sites, I would counter that Blogger is pretty darn simple as well (and free), and can’t even build a complete site like iWeb can. Of what I’m asking, I think performance should be a given. As for the rest, how can a product that builds entire web sites and provides one-click ads not expect that we would want feed redirecting, statistics, and realistic archiving?

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3 thoughts on “The Trials and Tribulations of iWeb and .Mac Hosting.

  1. awful software. Creates terrible code. Can’t Save As… so can’t edit on another platform, backup, create a new iWeb site or give to a friend to . Lose your partition – lose your work.

    RapidWeaver is a reasonable alternative but I wouldn’t host it on MobileMe/.mac

    (having a bad time myself with iWeb – mainly trying to help a friend out)

  2. Well said! I completely agree with your comments and gripes about iWeb. I’ve been using it to build my site and find the ease of use wonderfull, but it is at the sacrifice of SLOW loading times, limited editing capabilities, font rendering issues in different browsers, and much more. Did I mention when you post audio files from iTunes that your visitors will have to have Quicktime in order to listen to them! That sucks. Anyway, I’m glad someone else has felt the pain and limitiations of iWeb, and that we are not alone in this battle.

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