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RapidWeaver 6.2.3 review: A good start for building websites (accessories sold separately)

Nathan Alderman | July 22, 2015
If you want to quickly assemble a sleek website without too many bells and whistles, RapidWeaver provides an excellent option. If you want to do even more with your site, Rapidweaver can help you there, too--but it'll cost you a good deal extra.

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If you want to quickly assemble a sleek website without too many bells and whistles, RapidWeaver provides an excellent option. If you want to do even more with your site, Rapidweaver can help you there, too--but it'll cost you a good deal extra.

Not bad for the basics

A freshly installed copy of RapidWeaver 6 feels like a more sophisticated version of Karelia's friendly, super-simple Sandvox. Both programs allow you to quickly build up the structure of your site in a left-hand navigation menu, selecting from a variety of different page types including contact forms, blogs, and photo galleries. Both build in FTP capabilities, so that you can create and upload your site without switching to another program. And both offer a wide selection of premade themes to apply to your content.

Most of RapidWeaver 6's themes, like Sandvox's, feel dated--one theme's name clearly betrays its 2007 origins. But the new version does include five attractive, modern themes that support responsive design. Cleverly, the themes come preset with versions for multiple devices and screen sizes, ensuring that your site will look equally good on an iPhone, iPad, or Mac.

That's one of the smartest, least headache-inducing solutions for responsive design I've seen among the web design programs I've tested thus far. But it also exemplifies one of RapidWeaver 6's biggest tradeoffs: You can present your content within an appealing template, as long as you're OK with surrendering most of your control over how your site will look.

To its credit, RapidWeaver's Master Styles settings let you tweak each design's colors and font sizes, and sometimes cycle between different preset header images. But you can't easily replace those stock images with one of your own. In some themes, you can't change fonts, while others only offer a handful of different options. And beyond adding or removing sidebars, you have very little control over the layout of individual pages.

Split personality

RapidWeaver makes the odd decision to keep its edit and preview modes separate. You make changes in the former, then click the adjacent tab to see the results in the latter. This works better for some page types, such as blogs and contact forms, than for others like basic styled text. And while taking away the styling does allow you to concentrate on the substance of your site, I quickly tired of having to flip between modes to get even a rough idea of how my changes would actually look.

RapidWeaver gets points for augmenting its basic text styling abilities with bullet-pointed and numbered lists--a surprisingly rare feature in modern Web editors--and the ability to determine whether any images you drag and drop into your layout will align left or right. But that's about the limit of your ability to customize the text or how it appears.

 

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