Blog Post

First Look: iWeb ’09


It’s been a heady few months. The updates to iWork ’09 and iLife ’09 have, for the most part, been as impressive and inspiring as we’ve come to expect from Apple (s aapl). I upgraded both suites the very second I could. I can’t tell you how much I love these products.

Except…iWeb ’09. (Liam looks to the ceiling, gathers his thoughts…tries not to get agitated.)

If you didn’t already know, iWeb is a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) website authoring tool. It’s an end-to-end solution that makes it supremely easy to create a complete, sort-of-professional-looking website from scratch. Only, I have some issues with it. Where to begin…

I should begin by explaining something: I’m not a “lite” user. I’ve been developing websites and web applications for over a decade, and I’ve become accustomed to the power and flexibility offered by the like of Adobe (s adbe) Dreamweaver and (yes) Microsoft (s msft) Expression Web. (Although, given the choice, I’d rather use Visual Studio 2008.) So I understand — I really do understand — that iWeb is not supposed to be competition for those other solutions. iWeb isn’t really for me. Nor does it try to be. It’s supposed to be something very simple, very easy to use. It’s supposed to be intuitive and accessible. It’s supposed to provide a seamless experience for anyone with even the tiniest bit of creative vision. And you know what — it does all the things it’s supposed to do. It just doesn’t do enough.

So, before I get agitated again, let’s take a look at the new release and feel thankful for what it does do.

The interface hasn’t change much, save for the introduction of a vertical panel along the right-hand side of the window, called the Media Browser. This gives easy one-click access to Audio, Photos and Movies on your Mac. Nothing the Media Inspector didn’t do before, except for the final tab – Widgets.


Widgets make it quick and easy to add rich-media to web pages.

MobileMe Gallery
MobileMe widget

While the Gallery pages iWeb creates always have allowed users to hook-in to their .Mac or MobileMe galleries, this widget makes it possible to add a single, self-contained gallery-link to a page without the need to use iWeb’s more cumbersome “My Albums” section to your site. What you get is similar to the Events view in iPhoto; a square panel that shows thumbnails of photos in your chosen MobileMe Gallery. When you pass your mouse over the panel, you get different thumbnails of the photos that lie within. Clicking will open a new page that loads the original MobileMe gallery.

YouTube widget

Exactly what you’d expect. You paste a link to a chosen YouTube video into a popup dialogue box. It embeds the video on your page.

Google Maps
Google Maps widget

I really like this Widget. It doesn’t move the earth, it does precisely what you’d expect, but it takes the hassle out of coding these things by hand. Drag this Widget onto your page and you are presented with a sheet asking for the address you want to display. You can set zoom level, and choose which user-controls are available (such as zoom controls or the Google Maps search bar).

Google AdSense
Google AdSense

Precisely what proportion of typical home-users are Google AdSense customers is an interesting question. I would hazard a guess it’s really not so many. In which case, this seems like a tip of the hat at providing something useful to more advanced users. Except I cannot see iWeb being used as a tool-of-choice by sufficiently advanced users (and by that, I’m referring to anyone who wants to create a truly decent, individual website — but more on that later).

iSight Photo
iSight Photo widget

You could have done this before using PhotoBooth. Only now it’s built-in to iWeb. This widget starts you iSight camera and allows you to take a photo for instant-inclusion in your web page.

iSight Movie
iSight Movie widget

Precisely the same as the iSight Photo option above. Only with movies.

Countdown widget

I could see this being popular with websites announcing upcoming weddings and birthdays. In short — completely pointless and not exactly something the websphere was crying-out for. Still, it’s something new. Enjoy selecting your birthdate for next year and watching it automagically work out the number of seconds between now and then. And count them down. (meh)

RSS Feed
RSS Feed widget

Finally! A truly useful widget that was not previously easily-done. Except there is a catch — it doesn’t create an RSS feed from content in your page; it imports a feed from outside your site. If that’s what you want to do, this is a nice and simple way of making that happen.

HTML Snippet
HTML Snippet widget

Ironically, this is the most powerful widget of the lot. It allows you to construct your own HTML and generate pretty much anything you want. Of course, Apple expects you to be doing nothing more advanced than adding someone else’s banner, visitor tracking button or analytics script. If you want to embed anything more fancy than that – why on earth are you using iWeb?

Nothing to See Here…Move Along…

After the initial excitement with Widgets fades, you’ll realize there’s nothing else of any real added-value in this version of iWeb. There are only two new themes — “Leaf Print” and “Fine Line” — that would have been impressive in 1997. Today they look rubbish. Oh sure, they’re tidy and simple. But they’re not particularly exciting or fresh. Apple must know this — after all, they’re never gonna publish websites using those themes, so I don’t know why they imagine it’s alright to foist them upon the rest of us.

There I go being a power user again. I’m sure Aunty Mavis would just love Leaf Print (rolls eyes).

Going to Press

The publishing options have been expanded somewhat. As well as the option to publish to MobileMe, you can also publish directly to a third party hosting service of your choice using the FTP connectivity new to iWeb ’09. The process is simple.

FTP Publishing

Once you’ve entered and successfully tested your FTP login details, it’s business as usual.

I Do Facebook, Too!

Since iPhoto ’09 so nicely integrates with Facebook, it seems the iWeb developers felt they had to do something — anything — to get in on the action. Sounds interesting…what could they possibly do, though?

Imagine it — by hooking-in iWeb to a Facebook account, the possibilities are endless! You could scrape your Facebook Wall updates into your personal website, link your Facebook/iPhoto galleries with your iWeb site so changes in one propagate automagically to the others, synchronize your iWeb blog with Facebook’s Notes, synchronize your Applications to publish their updates to your iWeb site, synchronize your Facebook Status Updates with your iWeb home page…actually, the more you think about it, the more exciting it becomes! The possibilities just go on and on.

Unfortunately, it seems iWeb’s developers weren’t thinking about any of these possibilities, because the Facebook integration we get in this upgrade amounts to nothing more than the following line, published to your Facebook Wall, whenever you make changes to your website.

Facebook News Feed

And here start the problems I find in iWeb ’09…

Crazy URLs

A perennial complaint (really — Google it — you’ll find a lot of people complaining about this for years now). Whether you publish to MobileMe or your own web server, iWeb still insists on creating bonkers-crazy long URLs. And there’s just no excuse for this, there really isn’t. For example, my personal website is and my iWeb website was originally named “”.

The effect this had on the final published site was a URL to a home page that looked like this:

I’ve since changed the site name to something shorter, but it’s still utterly ridiculous that iWeb doesn’t provide the option — just the option — to override this crazy URL structure/naming convention. Apple, I have a humble suggestion for you — not everyone wants to publish to MobileMe. Let your customers decide what’s best for them, and don’t make them suffer this laziness! A simple toggle in the Preferences ought to disable this kind of silliness so anyone more competent than Aunty Mavis will feel less embarrassed by the addresses iWeb spits out. This sort of thing is entirely avoidable. It’s simply shocking Apple hasn’t done anything about it.

Obsolete Themes

No one with any kind of appreciation for contemporary design, or accessibility concerns, is going to use the pre-built Themes that ship with iWeb. A very tiny select few look beautiful — but they’re still lacking. iWeb ’08 shipped with some nice new themes but, unfortunately, they dated quickly. The stingy two new additions in iWeb ’09 are laughable.

Nasty Markup

OK, this is something only more experienced web developers will care about so I won’t bang-on about it too much. It’s worth mentioning because 1) other WYSIWYG editors manage far cleaner code, and 2) there’s nothing semantic about this markup. There aren’t even any helpful comments to guide the curious. The CSS markup is packed-to-bursting with redundant markup (example: “border-top: 0px”, “border-right: 0px”, “border-bottom: 0px”…you get the idea.)

Painful Publishing

It takes forever to publish pages. Whether you use MobileMe or your own FTP address, publishing a simple 6-page site can take five or more minutes. This is ridiculous, given that any other (free) FTP software can get your files published in much, much less time. Not the “…within moments…” promised by the happy voiceover in the iWeb tour video. Oh no.

The fastest way to publish your site is to not publish it at all — by selecting the confusingly-titled “Publish to Local Folder” option. This dumps all the relevant web pages and assets into a folder of your choosing on your hard drive. This takes seconds, but then it’s up to you to get those files to a server somewhere.

As a sidenote, this may be the best way to overcome the problem with the crazy long-URL’s. Publish the site to a local folder, then use another FTP solution to upload the files to your own web server. You’ll have to mess around with links here and there to make sure the whole site works as planned, but at least you won’t have to deal with six-mile-long web addresses.

Punishing Publishing

Oh yes, and just a final word on publishing. If you don’t use MobileMe as your hosting platform, you can forget about your blog’s comments working properly. And kiss goodbye to your blog’s Search functionality. That’s gonna go, too. Seems Apple really wants you to use MobileMe.

Tough Love

It might sound like I’m bashing iWeb, but if I am, it’s only in the way a pushy parent might berate an under-achieving child for not doing as well as they could. iWeb could be, and should be, a far more powerful and impressive tool than it is today. I was expecting some interesting and exciting things with this upgrade — as it turns out, what I got wasn’t worth the wait.

I know Apple is not trying to compete with other more professional web authoring solutions, but that doesn’t excuse sheer laziness when it comes to upgrading this software. iWeb has the potential to be a killer-application. Seriously — plenty of professional web developers would be happy to use it if only it didn’t suck so bad. And, in truth, there aren’t so many fixes required, either.

Obviously, the Themes are a joke. Where Apple could shine here is build an iWeb Themes gallery, much the same as the Web Apps gallery that countless iPhone owners (myself included) practically lived-in until native applications could be installed on that device. Apple already features third-party developer software on its own website — why not showcase the best iWeb themes, too? Or, better still — why not create some really breathtaking themes worthy of that lugubrious (and indelible) credit, “Made on a Mac”?

As well as vastly-improved themes, add a long-needed fix to the crazy URL issue, CSS editing and the ability to fine-tune the (cleaner, semantic) HTML markup, and you have a web creation tool that is still simple and intuitive, yet doesn’t try to compete with the big-kids already dominating the playground. If that means releasing a standalone “iWeb Pro” package that does for my websites what iWorks does for my documents, I’d gladly pony-up the cash.

In the end, “simple and easy” doesn’t have to mean “crude and clunky.” Apple proved that with Pages and Numbers in iWork. The updates to iPhoto and iMovie (evolutionary and revolutionary, respectively) are nothing short of breathtaking. In this company of Kings, though, iWeb is an embarrassing, backward cousin.

67 Responses to “First Look: iWeb ’09”

  1. Hi Liam…

    I too had the same thing regarding the url ‘problem’with iweb…

    BUT… for instance, I noticed your url looked like this … It can be fixed thankfully!

    I’m assuming iweb automatically published all of the page folders into a root folder which you called … exactly the same as me with…

    What I was doing was dragging this root folder ( into my htdocs folder to upload my site… which gave me…. for example…

    How I fixed this was to open the ‘root’ folder (that iweb created with all of my other ‘page folders inside) in ‘Sites’ on the hard drive. I selected all of the individual files and folders within my ‘root’ folder (including the index.html file) and dragged all of them straight to the htdocs folder on the server.

    So, don’t upload the root folder, upload the files as they are within it…

    now I have

    Hope this helps…


  2. Angryshortguy

    I’m so disapponted with iWeb. FTP updates just stopped working.
    IE won’t view my site, and firefox is hit and miss.
    This app is unusable.
    Wish I could get a refund.

  3. Being the novice that I am, I’ve found iWeb to be just about right for me, but I can see how it wouldn’t suit advanced designers–especially for commercial sites. For my purposes it’s been great, I was able to get a pretty nice site up in just a few hours and expanding it has been a piece of cake. I’ve been hosting my site on Bluehost from the beginning using a separate FTPer, so publishing to a file has always been the way for me and don’t have to wait for iWeb’s new integrated FTPer to do it–it’s soooo slooow!

    My site includes a blog and I got around problems Liam mentioned above by publishing the blog pages in MobileMe and using text links in the rest of my site to get to it. I replace the nav bar on the blog pages with text links back to my main site as well. That way I folks get to comment in my blog and I don’t have to deal with all the other problems (addresses, etc.) of hosting the whole site on MobileMe.

    Though mine is not a heavy duty commercial site, it isn’t just a “personal” one either… I’ve used Adsense to try and make a little money with it and I’ve found the tight integration with AdSense in 09 really great compared to 08. As good as it is though, it doesn’t have Adsense for search built in like the rest of the content formats. It isn’t really a problem though as the search widget was easily built using the “HTML Snippet” thingy in iWeb.

    There is one thing I haven’t been able to get to work with Adsense for search and iWeb though–that be using Adsense for search to display search results on my own site. No problems getting it to go to a custom Google site to display the results, but haven’t been able to figure out how to get it to display using the HTML Google provides to embed on the search results page I set up. I don’t know if this is something Bluehost or MobileMe doesn’t support, or if it’s iWeb, or if it’s just me being so novice that I don’t know what I’m doing.

    If anybody has any ideas, I’d sure appreciate you sharing them with me…

  4. Scott Leverenz

    June – there are ways to “work around” placing PayPal buttons in iWeb ’08… but for an online storefront, that is waaaaaay beyond the ability of iWeb 08. You could set up online store elsewhere linked to your iWeb site.. but it’s not a viable solution for any more than a few items you could link to PayPal.

  5. Hello. I’m a newbie to building a website and decided to try iWeb 08. Currently, creating the site using my own theme, and adding paypal buttons. My goal is to sell my art products but now finding the need to also add forms. Considering upgrading to iWeb 09. Does the upgrade allow the ability to publish to using php files? Someone said I’m going about this online shop all wrong! For instance, I shouldn’t even be using iWeb at all to sell products. Help somebody… nearly finished with the site consisting of six months of work and hundred pages thus far. Really like the ease of iWeb and hoping iWeb 09 might help me out of my predicament.

    Any information most appreciative.


  6. Be aware that if you have a page in IWEB09 with media content, if you simply change anything on the page and republish to a folder, you will need to rename or reupload your media file associated with that page? IWEB09 now places a dash number (example, Testaudio-1.m4a) so that you need to fix the media file name at your FTP host or delete the original and upload the new one. IWEB08 did not play such tricks, however, it did republish the entire site to your local folder. IWEB09 only republishes the changed page. Be sure to check you local media folder and compare it with your FTP host media folder. BTW, you can leave the old file up there, but it takes space and serves no purpose! Then next time you change the page, the file name number will increase for the media file again, so repeat the above instructions!

  7. Jade True

    “it’s still utterly ridiculous that iWeb doesn’t provide the option — just the option — to override this crazy URL structure/naming convention”

    Amen, amen, amen.

    Snobby web developers need love too. I guess I’m in that category. But even as an elitist web developer, I want to like iWeb. I want to have a quick and easy way to publish my dorky blog on the internet, but iWeb dumbs it down way too much. And really, all we’re asking for is the OPTION.

    A lot of people care about the length of the URL, a LOT of people.

  8. Barrie Phillips

    Brendan, for what it’s worth I didn’t call Liam an elitist, I said that the tone of the review was elitist. I suspect though, that someone whose intellectual contribution to a discussion is STFU might have trouble grasping the difference.

  9. Brendan, thanks for that. I’m amazed how people don’t get the point. Must be my own failing, I obviously didn’t make it obvious enough with the following lines right there at the beginning of the review;

    “So I understand — I really do understand — that iWeb is not supposed to be competition for those other solutions. iWeb isn’t really for me. Nor does it try to be. It’s supposed to be something very simple, very easy to use. It’s supposed to be intuitive and accessible. It’s supposed to provide a seamless experience for anyone with even the tiniest bit of creative vision. And you know what — it does all the things it’s supposed to do. It just doesn’t do enough.”

  10. Hi Tim, yeah, that site is being upgraded this week by another developer/designer. Lousy timing for me, but hardly an indictment on Dreamweaver, iWeb or my own skills, though I can see why you would jump on that opportunity. A weak point, though.

    Re-read my article, Tim – I pointed out more than once (as have some people here in the comments) I never claimed iWeb was more than an entry-level tool. My point was entirely different. Go back, have a proper read this time, I’m sure you’ll get it.


  11. Tim Chorley

    Seems to me iWeb was designed for entry-level consumers. Nowhere is it touted to be a professional tool. I’m amazed how someone who proclaims to be a web-professional cannot even keep their own website up! Half the links on your own site Liam ( don’t even function. Really from the look of it you’d probably be better off whipping it up in iWeb.

  12. I think you are being a little too hard on iWeb but your points are valid. I don’t consider iWeb to be a coding/development/design tool like Dreamweaver or Visual Studio. It’s a Web publishing platform like, for instance, WordPress. The iWeb widget functionality takes its cue from a feature of the same name that you can use to bling out your blog with feeds from Facebook, Flickr, Digg, etc.

    The advantages of WordPress over iWeb are endless. But you gotta admit, the iWeb interface is way easier to use than the WordPress admin console…although WP 2.7 looks pretty spiffy. So in the end it’s power vs. simplicity, I guess. But it would be great if they’d broaden the selection of themes or at least allow greater variance in each theme…even better would be to STOP TRYING TO SUCK ME INTO MOBILEME, APPLE!!! I feel like I’m constantly being pitched to use it…in my Finder sidebar, in iPhoto, in the System Preferences menu. I hope (and doubt) that Snow Leopard installation disc will have a “No MobileMe” option.

    iWeb and MobileMe are a sign that Apple needs to increase its Web 2.0 IQ.

  13. Gazoobee

    Late comment I guess, but this article is kind of wrong IMO. iWeb *is* for beginners, and suer the author went on quite a bit about how he knew it wasn’t for him etc., but then he still basically just trashes it.

    Particularly laughable is the section on the “long URLs.” Sure, I can see how it’s nice to have a shorter URL and I can see how because he named his site the same as his domain, he got a ridiculous URL as well, but this is iWebs fault how? iWeb is for publishing multiple sites to your MobileMe domain, how else to keep them straight except for having top level folders named after each web?

    What’s really telling though is that no one but a super duper web designer like our author here would really *care* about the length of the URL. I mean WTF? who cares how long a URL is except a picky web designer? The users would care if it was a confusing or stupid URL like the one he shows, but the users of this program wouldn’t name their site after their domain either.

    I am a tech worker and a software expert but I don’t do web coding at all. So for me, the only real alternative to iWeb is Dreamweaver, and Dreamweaver is already far too much and far too complicated with too many options. What I’d like is something in between the two, but since there is nothing like that right now, iWeb is what I have to use, and it’s far from as bad as this guy makes out.

    Finally, the “nasty markup” is actually the way it’s *supposed* to be so that all the code is uniform and the automatic features work properly. The kind of code the author advises us to use is neither as easy to automate, nor as human readable as the code iWeb actually creates.

    iWeb is ugly-ish and this update is lame to non existent. It isn’t the best program in the world for making web sites, but for what it’s supposed to do and for the audience it was written for, it’s a perfectly serviceable program. IMO none of the gripes brought up by this author about it have any relevance at all.

  14. One thing the review didn’t mention, which is my major beef with iWeb, is the painfully long load times when you visit the page. Even when the background images etc are only few k in size it seem to take far longer than other sites. Or is it just me?

  15. Another thing that i think is missing is the ability to post from your iPhone onto iWeb. A lot of mac owners also have an iPhone and having that functionality would definitely improve iWeb and make iPhone users happy

  16. Christian

    I’m the webmaster (not a pro) for a primary school in Switzerland and have used iWeb and Cyberduck for 3 years. Impressing for me was the “layout-concept” of iWeb and the “no-problem-possibility” to finish this job and to find a successor for next summer. Helpful was the circumstance that teachers and parents generally don’t have sophisticated demands. So in a certain view iWeb is perfectly covering the basic needs.
    Beside that – concerning my person – I fully agree with Liams coverage. The up-date to iWeb 09 isn’t traceable. What about freeware?

  17. leverenz

    Josh – I do Mac training for a local Apple Reseller, so I guess my perspective is a little skewed. As a Mac user, I understand the “lame” part – and Apple sure COULD put a little effort into making iWeb much better product – but when you’re trying to teach someone in the baby boomer generation who has never used a computer, let alone a Mac, it’s been my experience that the more choices they have, the more confused they get. Most older consumers don’t have a point of reference when it comes to the iLife suite of applications. So, anything that is simple in it’s design, it’s interface and easily obtainable results works for them on that level. Younger Mac users do, and should, expect more. Maybe they should rename iWeb to Senior Web and upgrade to the suggested “Pro” version for younger users.

    • Many “Senior” web users are not as dumb as your bias supposes. Some of us are underwhelmed by the time it takes to become mildly proficient in HTML and CSS. As a senior, I’m not confused by choices – I welcome them. If I had interviewed you as a Mac trainer you wouldn’t have been hired. Aye-yup you little whippersnapper.

  18. @leverenz & Barrie Phillips: I think you guys are somewhat missing the point. Liam already stated he knows that iWeb isn’t for the “pro” level. But what he is saying is that Apple is selling the consumer-level users short with a sub-par product. They’re offering something less than today’s standards because they know the average consumer won’t give a rip…and that’s lame.

    • @Josh Pigford: I had just start my Mac journey, about a year now. Going from PC to Mac, yes it is easier and i do like it. I wasn’t looking for consumer-level user computer “The I-phone would do”.I thought the Mac was for the “pro”at least thats what i had heard for as long as i can remember.Maybe i should look for something like a Dell with a different running System.

  19. Marc-Andre

    Hi Liam,
    It seems like you’re looking for RapidWeaver with added plug-ins!
    iWeb Pro could definetly be something interesting and they could sell themes just like they sell lessons for GarageBand.

    One thing I’m thinkering these days is that iDVD is on its way out. Lots of people are predicting a new Apple TV with a new experience. Perhaps including interaction with MobileMe? Where I’m getting at is that maybe they are working on a uber redesign of iWeb so it creates new kinds of website to display on AppleTV and manage the content you want to use and share with others, etc? I haven’t given much tought about all this but there has to be something since Apple is not going the DVD route nor the Blue-Ray one.

  20. Yeh, where’s the iWeb Pro that we all heard about like 2 years ago? I use iWeb for 3 websites just because I’m locked into it. To migrate my sites over to something else like RapidWeaver would be a huge undertaking and one that I’m not looking forward to do. So for now, I’m stuck with iWeb. And, I do use MobileMe, so I do like the integration.

  21. Barrie Phillips

    The tone of the review was very elitist and seemed to miss the point of iWeb – it is not intended for the professional website designer but for the casual user who wants to share his or her photos with far-flung family and friends. To that end, in my opinion, it is a fine app.

    Leverenz hit the nail on the head with his comment.

  22. leverenz

    I, too have been using iWeb the past few days. I agree with most of your comments. But what I don’t understand is why everyone loves bashing iWeb. iWeb work great for what is was designed to do – and in my opinion it does it very well. I understand the desire to make iWeb more than it is – it seems like it COULD be more – but if you are a professional movie maker you’re not going to be using iMovie to edit you films – you’re going to be using Final Cut Pro. iWeb is not, and doesn’t claim to be, a high end web design tool. It’s for simple consumer level web page generation and with the integration with the other iLife applications, it’s a great alternative to Rapidweaver or Freeway, which both are beyond most casual users abilities. Don’t chase away the consumer level user by pointing out things that they don’t understand or won’t need to know. Click, type, drag and publish.

  23. Thanks for the comprehensive review! I thought of a quick way to circumvent the delay from iWeb to publish… and to circumvent downloading to local folder *then* upload to ftp. Why not setup a macfuse config to mount your FTP server and have iWeb dump the site directly to it and voila, it should get posted automagically right?

  24. I’m wondering if iWeb still turns .mp3 files into .mov files when publishing a podcast episode. Horrible piece of software. Once you publish something, don’t ever expect to find any given file in your web site on the remote host. It’s there, you just have to go searching in arcanely-named folders. Argh.

    I too, really want to like iWeb…but it’s still not quite done cookin’ yet.

  25. Dave Aldrich

    I concur. With a few, slight modifications iWeb could be both a more useful and more elegant solution to web design. Here are my suggestions, in no particular order:

    1. Allow user to create templates.
    2. Allow text to wrap around snippets (e.g., YouTube).
    3. Include a styles feature, as in Pages.