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Sandvox 2.10: A newcomer-friendly tool for publishing simple sites

Nathan Alderman | July 15, 2015
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.

Super-simple or ultra-advanced, with no middle ground

Like a tiny budget hatchback tricked out with elaborate aftermarket parts, Sandvox displays an odd gap between its low-end accessibility and its higher-end features.

A Code Injector window lets you add custom CSS, PHP, or Javascript code to any page or site, and even specify in which section of the page you want that code to execute. But unless you're adding user analytic tracking or working with custom code--Sandvox does let you add blocks of your own raw HTML to a design, or code entire pages by hand. I'm not sure how well that sophistication would mesh with Sandvox's basic, restrictive designs.

I was also baffled, if impressed, when Sandvox offered me a choice between Facebook, Disqus, or IntenseDebate for comments on my site. Sandvox also boasts support for jQuery scripting, although its default version is several decimal points behind the latest one.

While the bare-bones basics of building a site couldn't be easier, trying to fine-tune those features quickly got more confusing. Sandvox crams all its customizing options into a small, floating, multi-tabbed Inspector window. It often took me a while to figure out which section I needed to visit to adjust the desired setting.

Sandvox also lacks support for responsive design. My test site showed up OK, if teeny-tiny, on my iPhone screen, but there's no way to create different layouts for different resolutions. Karelia says that ability, new designs, and other refreshes will arrive in future versions, possibly as soon as the end of this year.

During my tests, I encountered a handful of odd, inexplicable crashes while using Sandvox. None recurred consistently, or kept me from using or enjoying the program.

Sandvox's secret weapon

Sandvox gets one aspect of site creation wonderfully right: moving those pages onto the Web. Once you've wrangled the initial setup, its built-in FTP client lets you whisk any changes to your site onto your server with the push of a button. Some files didn't transfer the first time I uploaded my site, but a second try fixed that problem.

If even that sounds too intimidating, Karelia also offers Sandvox Hosting. From within Sandvox, I picked a user name, let Sandvox work with my Mac's keychain to generate a secure password, and in less than 30 seconds, I had my own account. You can set up your own custom subdomain at sandvox.net, or point your site to an existing domain name. Once I'd finished that setup, my sample site showed up on sandvox.net quickly and completely. (Unfortunately, Sandvox forgot all my original FTP settings once I'd switched to Sandvox Hosting; it must not expect most users to switch between them.)

 

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