I recently changed my website completely, shifting it to a new host and having it developed from the ground up by designer Paul Luker, then built by PHP guy Harrison Fan.

My original site was macDOTnz, now it's macDASHnz.


I had built the original site myself in 2007, just using iWeb, which comes free on all Macs.
Now, I have some website authoring experience (although I'm hardly a coder). I had built sites using both DreamWeaver and GoLive, for myself and for companies and individuals, plus a college. I have minded and updated these sites but it was always a mission. Laborious.

But once I saw iWeb, I realised I could build something a lot quicker to update, whilst retaining a slick look and feel thanks to the Apple-provided templates it comes with.

I used the plain white template and customised the fonts, background colours etc to look the way I wanted http://web.mac.com/mac.nz. Each morning I then just duplicated the last page and added new info and an image, thus retaining my signature mac.nz look and feel.

I set the colours I wanted in the Apple colour palette and saved the custom colours by dragging them to the little draw at the bottom - this is a great tip, by the way, for saving your custom colours across your system.

Which brings to mind: schools, if you want to enter your iWeb sites for NetGuide's annual school website competition, you should customise your pages too. Think about it - 600+ Apple-equipped schools all choosing from only 28 Apple themes... they really start to look pretty samey to the judges!

At first, iWeb was only genuinely useful if you had a MobileMe subscription. But later, with a bit of palaver, you could upload your iWeb site to any address you owned. Over the last year that's been as simple as uploading to a MobileMe account - it's virtually instant.

You get, for an approximately $140 a year Apple MobileMe subscription, 20GB of space on a secure server somewhere (USA?). You can use this to back up to, it's where your emails are stored, and it's where your website is hosted. Your iPhoto galleries load up there, plus any movies you 'share' to MobileMe, from iMovie, for example, or from the new QuickTime X player (both are in all the Snow Leopard Applications' folders).

This 20GB space can be mounted on your desktop like a hard drive as an 'iDisk'. Then you can just drag files to it.
You can also use this storage space to share files with anyone anywhere, using the 'net. It's password protectable, of course.

Despite my site being massive, and despite having movies and a few galleries of photos up there, by the way, I've only managed to fill up less than one gigabyte of the space available. So I have 19GB storage I'm not even using yet. Obviously, I should be posting more galleries and movies online!

You also get a MobileMe web address (mine's 'mac.nz') plus an email address (again, mine's mac.nz - they use the same name) along with some email aliases which you should book straight away. MobileMe email works pretty much like a Hotmail or Gmail address (in other words, you can access your mail from any computer by logging into the website). You can also add a MobileMe address as an account in Apple Mail, as you can with GMail and other services, so you can check your email in a normal email application.

MobileMe offers extra features to iPhone users. It keeps the data between Address Book, iCal and Mail in sync between your Mac and your iPhone, for example. If you read an email on one, it lists it as read on the other. Modify an address on one, it modifies it on the other. It also handles the sync between Microsoft Outlook on a PC (Windows XP or Windows Vista) and your iPhone. (Does anyone know if it works in Windows 7?)

A cool feature is using MobileMe to locate your iPhone if it's lost or stolen, on Google Maps. You can also remotely lock your iPhone if you lose it.

You control how MobileMe works, on the Mac, with a control panel in System Preferences. This includes how synching works, and lets you turn on Back To My Mac, which lets you access your Mac from another computer, plus run services like file and screen sharing. I set this up with my mum so she can show me what she's doing on her new iMac on my own Mac - this sometimes saves me a 20 minute car trip when she can't explain what she's doing in a phone call. But I have a friend in Holland who does this with his parents in the central North Island.

All the MobileMe features are listed here. Note that you can try MobileMe for two months for free, although you have to sign up with a verified credit card number, so it can keep running as a paid service if you decide to keep it.


So why did I switch?


Well, the iWeb site had hundreds of pages on it after three years, and was starting to become slow to load. Every three months or so I had to prune some old pages out to speed it back up again, but I felt I was reaching the point of no return.

The downside of iWeb being so drag-and-drop easy to use is that it generates fairly obtuse and laden code. Another downside is a long web address I could never remember properly.

Apple has rules about sites not being used for blatantly commercial purposes, although it does support AdSense directly: I want to sell more services over my site.

Using a browser for admin, I can still get my site updated before 8am, although I'm still learning the ropes.

And now, I can use iWeb and MobileMe for what it was intended, which is really quite liberating.

- Mark Webster mac.nz