Yesterday, we reported on a rumor that Apple’s website creation software, iWeb, is about a year away from obsolescence, along with MobileMe’s hosting of iWeb sites. An iWeb user allegedly sent Apple CEO Steve Jobs an email asking if he should start looking for another website builder and a new host, and Jobs provided one of his patented terse replies: “Yep.”
In my post about this, I mentioned some alternatives that TUAW readers might want to look at. Here I’m going to take a more detailed look at several easy website creation tools and hosting alternatives, so that you can start making your plans to move away from iWeb and MobileMe. I will not be covering professional web design tools in this post, as iWeb is designed for easy creation of sites. Instead, all the suggestions I’ll make here are aimed at the folks who just want to create a relatively good-looking website quickly, without a lot of training.
WordPress / WordPress.com
When I want to put a website or blog together quickly, I use WordPress. This blogging tool (content management system) has been around for years, and it is wildly popular. Over 14% of the top 1 million websites were created in WordPress, and the most recent major release of WordPress had been downloaded over 32.5 million times by February of 2011. There’s even a professional version, WordPress VIP, which our sister site TechCrunch uses as its underlying CMS.
WordPress is not a Mac application; rather, it is an AMP (Apache / MySQL / PHP) application that runs on a server (or on your Mac). You log into a dashboard from your favorite web browser, add content, change the look and feel of the site with themes and plugins, and then publish your changes. There’s no need, as in iWeb, to make changes locally and then wait for your modifications to be uploaded to a server.
For beginning WordPress bloggers, I recommend a free WordPress.com account. It’s a great way to learn how WordPress works, all your content can be migrated to another WordPress host at a later date if necessary, and the fairly new step-by-step tutorials are an incredible way to learn all about this powerful content management system.
If you decide to head out on your own, most major web hosting providers have one-click installers for WordPress. In other words, you sign up for a hosting plan, then say that you want WordPress installed. A few minutes later, you get an email from your WordPress site saying that you need to log in and create an administrative account. Do that, and you’re on your way to blogging superstardom. Among the hosting providers that provide one-click installations of WordPress are Bluehost, DreamHost, MediaTemple, andGoDaddy. Note that you’re going to have to pay for a hosting plan, so maybe the $99 you’ll be saving every year by not renewing MobileMe will pay for your web hosting.
WordPress is remarkably powerful, and a vast developer community is constantly creating new plugins to add functionality to the tool and designing new themes to make pages that are unique and beautiful. If you can’t find a theme to your liking, there’s always Artisteer, an app that you can use to easily create your own custom theme.
iWeb users who might have set up a small shop using something like Google Checkout or PayPal buttons can actually get a real web commerce site going with WordPress. There are several plugins now available for WordPress that integrate with shopping cart services like FoxyCart.
Finally, WordPress is an excellent way to get familiar with most content management systems. For anyone who has aspirations to become a professional blogger, starting with WordPress can get you familiar with the tools and workflow that you’ll need to move on up the ladder.