Design Matters: iWeb vs. Typepad

I’ve decided to stop trying to use a bazooka to kill an ant.

For the last several weeks, I’ve been constructing a report on what’s happening with the culture of participation surrounding Web 2.0 (which I’ve taken to calling “FutureWeb”, by the way) and am intending to deliver a free ebook and had thought of doing so as a PDF. I’ve got quite a bit of experience delivering compelling, screen pleasing and readable ebooks — and PDF is a ubiquitous container that is cross platform — and good page layout tools and Acrobat Professional offer the ability to deliver great design, some interactivity and, most importantly, rapid ebook creation.

I decided instead to deliver this report online. Hyperlinks are imperative within this ebook and I can also make this a living, breathing dynamic product since change is accelerating. Wanting to leverage Typepad (and commenting, trackbacks, etc.) due to its ease-of-use, I spent HOURS tweaking the Typepad CSS and ended up stuck on the inability to deliver good navigation and, most importantly, to have good enough design. The process was exhausting, building it out laughingly slow, and the “blog look” was just simply too pedestrian.

I went on the hunt for another tool to quickly deliver this ebook with good design and solid functionality before I gouged out my eyes with a spoon and ran out of my office screaming at random strangers.

I’ve used Joomla and Drupal (the open source content management systems (CMS) which I’m well aware are in a different league altogether) and could’ve delivered compelling content along with personalized functionality, but this was WAY too complicated for the task at hand. Also, controlling design in both — even with great templates — isn’t for the faint of heart.

I also spent four years at the enterprise content management company, Vignette, during the dotcom heyday so I have enterprise-class software and CMS understanding coupled with open source and desktop Web site and application development. As a result, I enjoy a fairly broad scope of understanding around the available CMS tools, but talk about a bazooka!

Consequently I explored numerous tools both hosted and desktop. Before I talk about Apple’s iWeb, let me state that I’ve been in the bowels of HTML coding since 1995 using a text editor and finally graduating to PageMill (a high level, WYSIWYG tool that was personally empowering for me in 1995) which let me focus on the content instead of twiddling the bits. At the time, it took my design and layout-of-a-Web-page to new heights and I graduated to NetObjects Fusion, then GoLive, then Dreamweaver.

Upon its release, I initially dismissed iWeb as a low level, novice Web creation application positioned to drive use of Apple’s .Mac service. “It’s not a serious, functional tool,” I snorted when first looking at it. Never having used iWeb for anything, I ended up buying a Connecting the Dots-like template and have built out 80% of the ebook in four hours!

Now I’m focusing on the content instead of twiddling the bits. Let me say that again: it’s the content…not the bit-twiddling on which I’m concentrating.

In the same way that Apple’s Keynote enables me to make presentations that actually look like design matters — vs. the THOUSANDS of incredibly crappy looking Powerpoints I’ve watched that made me distracted with the lack of design — iWeb is doing the same to my online ebook.

Yes…there are limitations and alot of them. No nested navigation is the biggie for me so it’s difficult to build something with complex, multi-section pages. It’s incredibly difficult to modify templates so there’s no concept of “master pages” with a design element (e.g., the header or Copyright/email in the footer) that show up on all the pages automagically. There are workarounds, but it takes me right back to bit twiddling, inelegant design and my focus shifts from the content back to the look-n-feel.

What about Typepad?

As I stated earlier, I just couldn’t get it to look and behave even close to what I wanted to deliver. It seems also that Typepad is spending alot of time on their new consumer offering Vox instead of investing in Typepad design, templates, and higher level tools for navigation and control of the existing templates.

This is puzzling to me since the Alexa graph below demonstrates the volume of traffic to Typepad blogs vs. the paltry number of pageviews with the newer Vox service:

 

Tvvox

 

 

So 6-8 billion pageviews on Typepad vs. in the low hundreds of millions on Vox*? Hmmm….where would YOU invest?  It seems to me that finding compelling upsells and cross-sells to the existing Typepad base — and satisfying us with more features and functionality — would be smart instead of trying to build up some kind of major company valuation by offering yet another participatory offering to those in the participation culture.

There are rumors that Apple is going to make a big leap forward with iWeb in the first quarter. This will be a good thing as they’re reportedly going to add capability with navigation. I’m just hoping that Typepad keeps pushing forward or they may end up like NetObjects, PageMill and other enabling tools that are in the trash heap of history.

*10-15-06 UPDATE: After poking around some more, it turns out Vox is not yet fully live which explains the low number of pageviews.

6 Comments

  1. David Wilcox on October 15, 2006 at 8:34 am

    I have a Typepad blog, I’m also working on Drupal sites, and share you frustrations. I’m encouraged to try more with iWeb, maybe with iWeb Enhancer. Apart from the ‘just too much’ problem with Drupal I’m finding other difficulties. If you go for the latest theme (currently 4.7) you may find the just-what-I-need 4.6 module hasn’t been updated. Your friendly Drupal developer who helped you create your site is snowed under with work because Drupal is gaining in popularity. You may be able to configure and manipulate your Drupal site, but can’t do coding. Wait? Find another developer? Or look for something just-good-enough and then add on other free Web 2.0 tools as they emerge at a great pace? Thanks for standing up for simple.



  2. Amy Stephen on October 15, 2006 at 7:26 am

    Very well written and insightful.

    I agree with not having a good place to work with books, learning material and text, we still are not there. I spend a great deal of time helping with the Joomla! project. And, it is not for everything. For example, I blog with WP. A bazooka for ant killing is an excellent analogy.

    Recently, I have seen seen two very nice implementations of DokuWiki – obviously, it has the wiki benefits to working with text you speak of, but that is not what caught my eye. It was the WP look I was impressed with.

    Keep sharing – you have good things for us to read!



  3. Steve Borsch on October 15, 2006 at 12:21 pm

    Amy and David,

    Great comments and thanks for weighing in. Just checked out DocuWiki…but it looks like they had their main page “edited” by spammers.

    Even though my post probably bled frustration about the state of tools…I nonetheless am still stunned and amazed at how far we’ve come in just the last several years.

    –Steve



  4. Noregt on December 10, 2007 at 3:37 am

    This is an interesting post. Seems like every tool has its own drawbacks. I also am constantly looking for simple and flexible toolsto offer my clients. Tried Contribute, Joomla, WordPress, Blogger, VOX as do-it-yourself systems. Either the system is just way too complex or you’re not able to really fit it too your own design.
    In the end, if you want flexible design and a decent CMS/ blogging tool I really want to do a good word for Expression Engine. Using a unique tag system, you can build any website you like.
    The first steps are not easy and you get way more then you need, but they do have video tutorials nowadays that get you started and the support is exellent.



  5. sayen on January 17, 2009 at 4:51 am

    Hi everyone,
    I would greatly appreciate any advice anyone has to offer regarding this:I currently have a typepad blog that I’ve used for three years now, I would like to move the site over to a content management system in order to make the blog more magazine like. So far of all the CMS systems I’ve checked out, I like Joomla the best. Does anyone know how I can move over all my posts/ blog content in to Joomla or any other CMS?



  6. website design Los Angeles on January 29, 2009 at 4:26 am

    I am a typepad user, iweb was new to me, this is the first time that i read about iweb. I have no idea what iweb is. anyway, thank you for this post.

    -faith-



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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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