For everyday folks who want to build a website but don't know how, Sandvox (Mac App Store link) offers a friendly all-in-one solution. Web design pros who need powerful, versatile tools won't find them, however.
Once you've chosen from Sandvox's plethora of premade designs, it's a snap to customize headlines, text, and sidebars, drop in images, and create new pages. After watching a quick intro video, it took me less than an hour to knock together a simple site with a nice-looking photo gallery and a basic blog.
I particularly liked Sandvox's nifty nested system for organizing those latter two categories. Once I'd set up a primary page to hold the gallery or blog, I could create new pages for each individual entry underneath it, which were then automatically added to the full index on the main page.
Sandvox's designs are serviceable enough, but they're stuck about a decade behind modern sites' sleek stylings. You won't find big, bold graphical backgrounds, widescreen layouts, or precise control over style elements. This odd semi-obsolescence extends to the blend of premade objects you can drop into your pages. Some are pleasantly useful, including YouTube and Vimeo embeds and readymade "contact me" forms. Others seem head-scratchingly obscure or outdated: your IM status, a page counter, or your del.icio.us bookmarks.
A media palette hooks into your Pictures and Movies folders and iTunes library to make adding sounds and images easier. However, if you've upgraded from iPhoto to Apple's new Photos program, Sandvox's media browser won't be able to find those images anymore.
The comfiest of straitjackets
Sandvox also locks you into a series of standard layouts, no matter what kind of design you choose. You can move embedded images up or down the page, to the body or the sidebar, or change how they're aligned or how the text wraps around them, but that's it.
To be fair, Sandvox's rigidity has one notable upside. If you want to give your entire site a facelift, simply select a different design from the program's palette. All your existing content will fit neatly into the new look and feel.
Sandvox's outstandingly thorough online help files explain how to customize your own designs. But unpacking the application's contents and editing its .plist files seem like a big ask for a program aimed at making things easy. There's also no way to peek at any given design's CSS code without opening it up in a browser first.
If you tire of its own library of designs, Sandvox has a built-in menu of user-built creations to download and try out. Some are free, but other non-Karelia designers charge around $13 apiece for their work.
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