Easy, elegant web publishing for the Mac

The latest version of Steve Sande’s ebook Take Control of iWeb ’09 is out!

The latest version of Steve Sande’s ebook Take Control of iWeb ’09 is out!


I’m excited about this for two reasons. One is that I was the editor of the book, and it’s wonderful to see a project completed and released to the world. The other is that Apple’s iWeb’09 (part of the iLife suite) is a great piece of software for anyone who wants to do a simple, attractive website without paying a fortune or having to learn web design. The Apple-designed iWeb templates include pages for blogs, movies, podcasts, photo albums, and more. Steve’s book provides all the guidance you need to put up your site, including some amazing tricks for photo special effects.

I’m currently using iWeb ’09 to publish my own online resume and for a website I run for a friend. My resume is hosted on Apple’s servers as part of the $99-a-year .Mac service. But my friend’s site is hosted on a third-party server — this is the first version of iWeb that makes it easy to publish to any host you want.

Here’s a free sample from the ebook in PDF form.

Can we talk type size?

The Writer Way blog looks fine to me in the Safari 4 Beta browser, but I’m finding the type is tiny and hard to read in Firefox 3.0.7.

Obviously, I could control my own reading experience by adjusting browser preferences, but what I’m really concerned about is your experience.

Is this font (type size) too small for you? If so, please leave a comment to let me know, and tell me what browser you’re using. After collecting some data, I’ll take whatever steps are necessary to improve the reading experience.

Many thanks!

Getting down and dirty with domain names

Domain names cost $10 a year, but can be worth thousands of dollars.

As a client of mine has painfully discovered.

She purchased a domain name for her small business and built a website. (Let’s call her Jane Doe, and let’s call the site “www.janedoesbreads.com.”) Then she started advertising her business on the web and also in print newspapers, newsletters, and magazines.

Then the trouble started. It’s common for people to mis-type a URL, so many of her customers and prospective customers were typing in:




Both of which are just slightly wrong.

What surprised them, and Jane, was that these wrong URLs took them not to some error page, or to some Jane Doe’s website in Nebraska, but to the site of her arch-rival (let’s call them Evil Empire Sourdough).

Turns out Evil Empire had bought up, for $10 each, a half-dozen domain names that sounded similar to Jane’s. (And, being not just evil but very savvy, the sourdough purveyors had also purchased a batch of sound-alike names for their own site to protect themselves from retaliatory traffic pilferage.)

How do we know this? We looked up all the site ownership info at Network Solutions.

So, how much traffic is being diverted from Jane’s site, and how many people, once diverted, are instead ordering their loaves from Evil Empire? It’s hard to tell. But if you see Jane wielding a bread knife any time soon, I’d advise you to run the other way.

There’s not much my client can do about this situation, but I’m telling you her story for obvious reasons: If you’re investing in a domain name for your business, buy up a dozen or more of the sound-alikes and look-alikes to protect yourself.

Web content: We’re (probably) doin’ it wrong

This piece by Kristina Halvorson on A List Apart raises some excellent issues about web content strategy. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it unflinchingly describes some of the problems with the content a lot of us are involved in producing. And it reminds us of the tools we could employ to do it better.

That said, the sites that I find produce outstanding content (Twitter.com, LinkedIn, FaceBook) don’t seem to be doing it by systematically leveraging the content-related disciplines this article describes. They’re doing it by first breaking a lot of rules to create a unique web service, and then evolving based on the way that users and third parties make use of their innovative structures.

Of course, very few of us are developing content for a Twitter.com or a LinkedIn. We’re working on more traditional sites we’d like to see do a better job for both organizations and users. For us, Halvorson has an important message:

“But until we commit to treating content as a critical asset worthy of strategic planning and meaningful investment, we’ll continue to churn out worthless content in reaction to unmeasured requests. We’ll keep trying to fit words, audio, graphics, and video into page templates that weren’t truly designed with our business’s real-world content requirements in mind. Our customers still won’t find what they’re looking for. And we’ll keep failing to publish useful, usable content that people actually care about.”

The 11 deadly sins of web design

“Don’t annoy users,” the Internet Marketing Blog reminds us, and goes on to list 11 frustrating website behaviors.

My vote goes to #2, “Sound or music when the page loads.” For every instance in which I’ve enjoyed unsolicited music on a web page, there are 99 others when I’ve simply clicked away from the offending site.

Nothing on the list would surprise most web users, but apparently it would be news to many expensive web designers — since they keep designing sites that actively drive user traffic away from their customers’ businesses.

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