Building Your Own Website: Sandvox, RapidWeaver or Flux?

This post is part of a series that revisits some of our readers’ favorite articles from the past that still contain awesome and relevant information that you might find useful. This post was originally published on August 3th, 2011.

Remember iWeb? This former iLife member’s lofty goal was to translate the intimidating task of building a website down to the “drag and drop” simplicity of the Mac experience.

Apple’s brief foray into the world of DIY websites was impressive at first, but aged quickly and was eventually abandoned altogether. Discounting professional developer software like Dreamweaver, this leaves Mac users with three primary options for WYSIWYG website building: Sandvox, Rapidweaver and Flux. Today we’ll take a brief look at each and offer some advice on which you should use.

Sandvox

screenshot

Sandvox

Conceptually, Sandvox is the closest thing to iWeb on the market. The workflow here is very familiar: choose a theme, edit the text, drag in some images and hit the “Publish” button.

Sandvox has plenty of built-in themes and can easily be expanded via third party designs. As a designer, I’m definitely not crazy about the available Sandvox themes, the overall aesthetic quality of the set feels dated, but there are some gems. Non-designers will likely find something fun and simple that’s perfect for their needs.

The professional features here are limited, but very close to what you saw in iWeb. The app definitely isn’t geared towards coders or designers who want to start from scratch, but you can “inject” snippets of HTML, JavaScript or even PHP into the pages on your site.

Who Should Use Sandvox?

Anyone who used and loved iWeb should definitely check out Sandvox. The two apps are close enough that you’ll have very little trouble transitioning from one to the other.

In fact, Sandvox’s marketing heavily targets iWeb users. The website welcomes “iWeb graduates” and even has a guide for iWeb switchers.

RapidWeaver

screenshot

RapidWeaver

Occasionally, it seems as if a third-party developer understands the true “Mac experience” better than even Apple. RapidWeaver is not a slightly different version of what iWeb was but rather everything that iWeb should’ve been. It’s simply a beautiful program that is a joy to use whether you know anything about building websites or not.

To build a site in RapidWeaver, you add one page at a time, each of which conforms to one of eleven page types (blog, photo album, etc.) and the overall visual theme you choose. The interface is customized for each page type and the controls are simple enough for anyone to use.

The professional features here are pretty extensive. Overall, the design of your site is definitely driven by the chosen template, but you can customize code fairly easily and really bend the site to your will if you need that kind of flexibility. It really helps that the auto-generated code is actually human readable and conforms to web standards.

Extensions

The killer feature of RapidWeaver is definitely its expandability. The RapidWeaver Add Ons Library is not only full of gorgeously designed themes, but also some amazing plugins like that really stretch what’s possible. For instance, the Blocks plugin brings full-on freeform page layout to RapidWeaver and is a must-have for anyone who wants true control over their design.

Who Should Use RapidWeaver?

RapidWeaver is an app for a wide range of users. If you don’t know anything about building a site and aren’t crazy about the idea of going to school to learn web development, RapidWeaver will help you create a great site with little effort.

Also, if you’re a designer who knows his/her way around an HTML document but aren’t really the code-from-scratch type, RapidWeaver with the addition of a few powerful plugins could really help you convert your designs to basic but functional websites.

Basically, if you’re a newbie, RapidWeaver welcomes you with open arms and a user-friendly workflow and if you know enough to need some advanced features, they’re ready and waiting for you to dive in.

Flux

screenshot

Flux

Flux is by far the furthest app from iWeb in the bunch. In fact, it’s so different that it’s hard to group with the two apps above.

iWeb, Sandvox and RapidWeaver are all primarily aimed at making website creation available to the masses. They’re tools that allow everyone to get a taste of web design without necessarily becoming professionals. Flux on the other hand, really is a professional web design tool.

It has much of the charm that you get from a RapidWeaver-like WYSISYG, only it gives you complete freedom to design and code your own site. There are some templates available, but the strength of the app is that it isn’t in any way template-dependent.

In fact, you can import existing web projects that you’ve coded by hand right into Flux and then shuffle objects, add styles or create dynamic objects with easy-to-use tools. Think of it as an awesome visual front-end to your code.

Who Should Use Flux?

Flux has a little bit of a learning curve and will make the most sense to those that are at least partly familiar with how CSS works. If you’re a graphic designer who is either intimidated by or bored with the process of coding entire sites by hand, you should absolutely give Flux a shot.

I personally code sites by hand and generally avoid WYSIWYGs like the plague. That being said, I love Flux. It’s a really innovative concept and once I took the time to really learn how to use it properly I was surprised at how much you could accomplish with a really simple workflow.

Obviously, none of these options are going to replace traditional text-based IDEs for hardcore coders. If you fall into this category, check out Coda or Espresso instead.

Conclusion

To sum up, there are three primary applications in the realm of Mac-centric WYSIWYG website building apps: Sandvox, RapidWeaver and Flux.

Sandvox is probably the most iWeb-like tool on the market. Users that were sad to see iWeb go should definitely take a look at Sandvox. RapidWeaver is like a really slick iWeb upgrade. It’s more attractive, more powerful and more amazing in just about every way. It’s easy enough for complete beginners to pick up and powerful enough that users who are slightly familiar with web development will find the features that they need, especially given the wealth of plugins that are available.

Finally, Flux is the most advanced and most flexible option, affording you complete template independence. If you don’t know a thing about web development, stay away from Flux. If however, you’re looking for the best non-Dreamweaver WYSIWYG around for the Mac, give Flux a download.

Leave a comment below and let us know what you think of these three apps. Where do you fall on the web developer spectrum and which app do you think is best suited for your needs?


  • Chris

    For me, there’s only hand-crafted HTML and CSS. It just feels dirty working with WYSIWYG editors.

  • Chris

    Where’s Coda?

    • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

      Quote from the article:
      “Obviously, none of these options are going to replace traditional text-based IDEs for hardcore coders. If you fall into this category, check out Coda or Espresso instead.”

  • Whome

    I’ve used Rapidweaver to publish multiple sites and it’s always worked like a charm. I like that I can choose how WYSIWYG or bare bones I want to be with it. I long ago gave up the idea of rolling sites by hand, it’s just not anything that my primary job required nor is it something I take any joy in doing. So Rapidweaver fits the bill nicely for me.

  • Guy

    There’s also Goldfish by Fishbeam software

    • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

      Thanks! I’d never seen this one before.

  • Carmen Coronado

    Flux! It’s wonderful: fast, flexible, easy. It also has templates, but you can build your web from scratch without much pain. And it can import any site and edit it (even iWeb sites)

    • Priscilla Whiteside

      Can you please tell me how I import iWeb websites into flux?

  • http://www.apptorial.com Jeremy

    I like both RapidWeaver and Sandvox as an alternative to iWeb (for those looking to switch). I found them both to be fairly easy to learn, and pretty powerful in terms of what you can do to your site.

    For those interested, there are free SEO video courses for both Sandvox and RapidWeaver.

    Sandvox: http://www.ragesw.com/videos/seo-for-sandvox.html

    RapidWeaver: http://www.ragesw.com/videos/rapidweaver-seo.html

  • Zidizei

    thanks, I’m using Espresso and other text-based IDEs but I might give Flux a spin just out of curiosity. =)

    btw the link for RapidWeaver is borken and the link for Flux actually points to RapidWeaver

    • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

      Thanks! The links are fixed now.

  • BryanG

    I’d love to see a hybrid WYSIWYG/hard code/Hype app with themes like the caliber of those found at themeforest.net…

  • Wessel

    I use Espresso (for me better than dreamweaver), from these 3 I like flux the most.

  • FoxyOrb

    Quote “If you don’t know a thing about web development, stay away from Flux.” Well that is my case but I envy learning and using it. It seems to me there is an enterprise opportunity to explain how to use Flux, be it in books, videos or podcasts.

  • Jack

    Correction for Rapidweaver. You mean the Stacks plugin, not the Blocks plugin. Both by the same developer, but Stacks is the big cheese in RW.

  • SomeDude

    i’m leaning much more towards CMS like editors these days (WordPress, Joomla, Expression Engine, etc.). All the software cited here is great for sites that will remain more or less static, but if you have a site that is going to be updated regularly, it can become a real pain, unless you use a cms builder.

  • SecondDude

    Where did you leave Hype? It’s also a WYSIWYG Editor, really easy to use (drag&drop…) and full packed with cool functions (automatic transcription from WebKit to JS if it wouldn’t work in one browser…). There is absolutely no need to know anything about HTML, CSS or JS!

  • Andy

    I am just switching from iWeb and giving RapidWeaver a try. I can see how it’s better than iWeb but then again i think it’s a bit of a rip off!

    For $50 you pay you get hardly anything useful. Those basic pages are useless to build any reasonable site. So you start adding add-ons and they cost money again.

    Just bought the Stacks for $25 and yes it’s good, not amazing though, but something like this basic layout of pages should have been part of RapidWeaver, not cost extra.

    Now i am trying to replicate my photo album from iWeb and understand that i need to buy something called Collage which is another $15. Come on a photo album? There are some many free ones and RapidWeaver cannot include this for $50?

    Again RapidWeaver might be good but i think it’s a rip off due to all the add-ons you need. By the time you got all you need you might as well buy Dreamweaver!

  • http://applefanaticwonderland.blogspot.com/ Beepcool

    Nice list!

  • Pingback: Serif WebPlus X5 | Google Plus Search blog

  • http://www.hartethrobgraphics.com Steven Harte

    I have finished my 2nd site with Rapidweaver, having been a long time Dreamweaver user. I like the RW system but the program itself is only adequate. Seems very buggy to me after using DW. Has a clumsy way to make HTML and CSS changes, very unreliable in synchronizing site changes, crashes too much etc.

    Where RW shines is with stacks and stacks addons. You can do a lot of things with the diverse amount available. But beware when using them. They often do not play well together and give IE (7 to 9) fits. Even a simple page with a rotating banner and an accordion failed to render right in IE because of javascript conflicts.

    The RW addons are very cheap compared to DW. Someone was complaining about $15 for Collage but a similar DW extension from Project Seven is $95, although P7s stuff is impeccable. But Collage does not work with IE9 and you have to use a hack to get it to render correctly (or at all). Some RW plugin developers do not keep their products up-to-date.

    Also, many think RW is bound to templates. Not so, with stacks (or blocks) and the Blueball FreeStack template you can start with pretty much a blank canvas and build your own very quickly. For blocks, try the BlocksBox theme from JonasThemes. Another strategy is to get a professional level 3rd party theme from the many RW template resources. The higher quality templates have tons of ways to quickly customize the template.

    I own Flux 3 and plan to learn that very shortly. My gut feeling is this is a program to learn well. But there is very little help in the way of comprehensive tutorials or training resources. I am bugging lynda.com to do a series on it.

  • Dan

    This really was helpfull, thanks a lot for the comparison.

  • Gordie

    I’m surprised you also left out Freeway Pro and in particular, Freeway Express it’s cheaper sibling:

    http://www.softpress.com

    I bought Freeway Express from the App Store when it was really reduced in price for only 17 UK Pounds and it was definitely a bargain. The beauty of Freeway is you’re not tied to templates although there are plenty of them available. I needed to start with a blank page – as I did with iWeb when I created my site.

    Although it’s a slightly steeper learning curve, it’s still a WYSIWYG site designer and is really fantastic at what it does. In addition their support is second to none.

  • Pingback: 100 Mac Apps To Rule Them All | Design City

  • Martin

    Thanks for my heart, a real answer for all my quest an questions. GRACIAS.

  • Jay

    I have just shifted from PC to Mac. I like the Macbook air experience but for me it was much easier to work with Web Serif. Rapid Weaver is ages behind Web Serif in over all ease and richness. These two products are class apart.
    Following is the list of what you DO NOT get when you use Rapid Weaver when compared with Web Serif.
    So in the end I have to go back to PC and use Web Serif to publish.
    There is simply NO Mac alternative to this Windows application.
    I suggest everyone wishing to design and publish their own website and also expect a great support in updates and security, Please either install Windows on a partition on your mac and then buy WebSerif and if you are lucky enough to still have that Widows OS based laptop or desktop just use it for WebSerif.
    I also challenge Rapid to come up closer to Web Serif so that people like us are at disadvantage just because we use a Mac which is superior to Windows.
    I also plead to WebSerif to make a Mac compatible version so that everything is at level.
    Mac on the other hand has discontinued iWeb, so for me even the small hope for a Mac platform for Web publishing is gone.
    Trust this will be useful to the concerned.

    THIS IS WHAT YOU DO NOT GET IF YOU USE RAPID WEAVER AND WHEN COMPARED WITH WEB-SERIF FOR WINDOWS.
    1.
    Programming languages: XHTML, XML, XSL

    2.
    Design features:
    Keywords, Meta Tags, Online Templates, Rollover Creation, Site Backup, Video and Audio Multimedia

    3.
    E-Commerce features:
    PayPal Option, Real-Time Transaction Processing, Search Engine Optimization , Secure Payment, Shopping Carts

    4.
    Security features:
    Email Verification, User Account Signup, User Login

    5.
    Help and Support
    Manual, Phone contact and Upgrades.

    • Sam

      I use XsitePro. Any idea if Web Serif is better than XsitePro? Based on what you describe they are about the same. But I wonder

  • Ben Lister

    After a while of looking for a program to replace Adobe Dreamweaver I came across the three apps mentioned above.

    I tried Rapid Weaver and found that it was too ‘drag+drop’, I couldn’t get the overall result that I was after. Rapid Weaver is still a great application and has a place in the market, but it really is basic.

    Now I use a combination of Flux and Hype to build websites from the ground up.
    Flux is great, it’s easy to use and I highly recommend it. Hype is a awesome tool that is great for ‘flash’ style animations/navbars and it is really simple to create great results.

  • http://theperfectnose.wordpress.com theperfectnose

    What about Freeway?

  • K

    Thank you for comparison. This is hugely helpful

  • Silouane Gerin

    Answer : None of that WYSIWYG shit but wordpress or joomla or another CMS. So simple to configure, so powerful, free and clear for your visitors. And you can customize your site without computer knowledge with extensions and stuff.

  • Brian

    I’d also recommend Bluegriffon. It’s an open source WYSIWG editor that is focused on utilizing html5 and CSS3. It’s workflow is a bit like Flux in many regards and the developer has quite a selection of add-ons that can improve the experience. A future version and/or add-on is suppose to incorporate CSS3 animation features similar to Hype or Adobe Edge.

    http://www.bluegriffon.org

  • Blair

    What do you mean iWeb is gone? I have Lion and still using iWeb. Can’t I just take my iWeb site and upload it to a server using a program like Easy iWeb Publisher?

    I’m no coder but I am an artist with a heavy designer sensibility, so I can usually get a great looking minimalist website with iWeb.

    I’m just starting to build a new website with iWeb, so if I can’t use it, that would be great to know and I’ll look into one of the above options.

    Thanks

    • Takiar

      iWeb has been discontinued. People can’t buy it anymore.

      That means those who don’t have iWeb can’t get it, and those who have iWeb will not get any new updates. Of course, if you already had it, you can still use it.

    • Ric

      My understanding re: iWeb is that though it is no longer being developed by Apple it can still be purchased from a variety of sources. And though it has been dropped as a component of iLife11, it is still operable with OS X Lion and probably Mt. Lion. The concern going forward is at what point future OS X versions will no longer allow you to use that version with your past iWeb work.

  • George

    WYSIWYG is bad, almost universally bad. I wish people would stop recommending WYSIWYG. HTML & CSS aren’t difficult, if you don’t have the time, hire a designer/developer.

  • Jamie

    Thanks for a very helpful review. I have Dreamweaver but don’t have enough time to really get into it. I started a new business site in WordPress – but can’t find a theme with enough flexibility. I’ve done a Dreamweaver course and an HTML course, but my real problem is availability of time: otherwise I’d really like to immerse myself in developing a site. Would I be any better off, in terms of learning curve and time, using Flux instead of Dreamweaver?

    • Stevo

      You might be better trying Joomla!, and if you have the same problem with templates you could maybe try the Cloudbase 2.0 template from cloudaccess.net which is more of a framework like the Rapidweaver Stacks & BlueBall Freestacks but with far superior access to the code (plus you get the power of CMS). I got sick of WordPress pages all looking like blogs.

      Flux is obviously much easier to navigate than Dreamweaver but I found the WISYWIG bit of it so fiddly I ended up coding – and the Flux code editor has some really annoying habits eg deleting the white space that I like to use to make the structure easy to follow.

      I have a feeling too that if you put too much strain on Flux it might collapse.

  • Larry Robertson

    Do any of these programs allow you to upload webpages that were previously created in iWeb?

    • Takiar

      Many claim they can, but I’ve tried most of them (in demo) and they fail, or upload badly. The toolbar of the site especially is not readable and I can’t modify it. I have to start from scratch.

      Basically, the code iWeb produced is readable only in iWeb.

  • http://www.twowaystreet.org Timothy Kendall

    If you are using WordPress or Joomla (I’m using Joomla at work and for posted link) try Artisteer it creates Joomla templates for you.

  • http://www.erasmatazz.com Chris Crawford

    I have an oddball set of requirements. My website is about as plain-Jane as you can get; I started it in 1998. In fourteen years it has grown in size — I think it’s getting up around a thousand pages or so. Almost all of the content is text, and for me the most important element of the site design is a clear structure so that people can quickly find what they’re looking for. I am not a graphic designer and I don’t use columns or boxes or any other graphic niceties: the vast majority of pages consiste of just a title, a date, a lot of text, and maybe a few embedded images.

    I used simple editors like ClarisWorks way back when but about five years ago I switched to RapidWeaver. I hate this program! The user interface design is atrocious and there are times when I want to wring the developers’ necks. It simply cannot handle large websites like mine. It takes nearly a minute to launch with my website and usually takes a second or two to do almost anything other than simple editing.

    I looked at Sandvox years ago and concluded that it didn’t have enough power, but I’m going to go back and look at it again.

    Lastly, a response to the few comments denouncing WYSIWYG editing. I suppose that you prefer DOS to a GUI. Yes, the keyboard is faster if you already know all of the commands and just want to type, type, type. But you have to consider the ENTIRE time it takes to use a tool, not just the time required to enter a single command. The entire time includes the learning time for the tool. If somebody wants to build a website that would take three hours to build and 30 hours to learn the tool, the entire time cost is 33 hours.

    Sure, professionals should be using DreamWeaver and other “pro” applications; but there’s still a need for applications for tyros.

  • Dave

    Thank you for the overview, and the concise, no nonsense break down that was to the point instead of getting bogged down in a long article.

  • Takiar

    I wish to build a website on my Mac for my student body. That means that the next guy who will be responsible for the website might not have a Mac, let alone the same software. The former guy responsible for the site built it in iWeb. Hence, now I have to start from scratch again.

    So, what good software lets me build site somewhat easily (I am no expert, and can’t afford Dreamweaver, both in time and money), but also a site transferable from platform to platform, or at least software to software ?

    For the transfer part, that seems to rule out Sandvox and Rapidweaver. Flux and Freeway Pro look interesting, along with BlueGriffon (though I’ve read plenty of bad reviews on that one’s use of pricey add-ons). Wikipedia says Freeway Pro produces “valid” HTML code. Does that mean I can upload it easily in other software (unlike the iWeb mess) ?

    BTW, I know no true designer likes a WYSIWYG, but I don’t have the time to learn to code. I tried a bit of csl a while ago (for Papers2 styles), but there is no way I can learn html…

  • JayJaySm

    Would love to find something to replace iWeb. RapidWeaver and Sandvox are but really not the same thing. Flux is way to complicated for me. I wish Apple would update iWeb but I don’t think they will.

    Apparently there is another company working on an iWeb replacement. I really hope this is true as I have been reading a lot of news about it recently. Check it out;

    http://www.iwebreplacementapp.com

theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow