iWeb, the new tag soup generator

Ok so I’m a little late to this because of my recent connection problems, but I can’t not say anything about it: I’m seriously disappointed by the markup Apple’s iWeb generates. It is the tag soup generator of 2006.

I haven’t played with iWeb myself, but after reading Todd Dominey’s iWeb’s HTML markup. Not so good. and Mike Rundle’s iWeb-Generated Source Code is Awful, and taking a look at the example sites they created, I don’t want to.

The code iWeb spits out is on par with that of a certain commercial CMS I have taken a closer look at recently. In fact, all that inline-CSS makes them look quite similar. It’s so bad I would have preferred Apple to be honest and just use tables and spacer GIFs instead. Valid markup does not necessarily equal good markup.

A few examples:

  1. <div class="paragraph Title_Red" style="line-height: 31px; padding-bottom: 0pt; padding-top: 0pt; ">
  1. <div class="paragraph Body" style="line-height: 20px; text-decoration: none;"> </div>
  1. <div style="background: transparent; border: 1px #000000 none; float: none; margin: 0px; vertical-align: top; height: 41px; left: 40px; position: absolute; top: 61px; width: 620px; z-index: 1; " id="id3"><div><div><div style="margin: 4px; "><div class="paragraph Date" style="line-height: 34px; padding-bottom: 0pt; padding-top: 0pt; ">Wednesday, January 11, 2006</div>
  2. </div>
  3. </div>
  4. </div>
  5. </div>

Wow. That’s quite impressive.

After reading the comments on Todd’s and Mike’s posts I am amazed by the number of people coming up with excuses for the shoddy markup this application generates. No, iWeb is not meant for web professionals, but that kind of makes it even more important for it to generate decent markup since the people who use it won’t be doing anything to clean things up. Yes, iWeb is at version 1.0, but Apple should be able to do better than this. Anybody should.

Posted on March 13, 2006 in Content Management, Web Standards

Comments

  1. Agreed. What a mess. Let’s hope they release iWeb 2.0 as soon as possible and fix everything.

  2. March 13, 2006 by Christopher Pastore

    Yes the code is awful and bloated that it puts out.

  3. Although I’m not excited to hear about Apple failing to reach is generally high mark of quality .. sometimes it seems that certain groups of people are overly critical of Microsoft products and let Apple “get away” with a lot of things that they wouldn’t with Microsoft … Apples and Oranges aside.

    I am glad to see that not everybody has their “Mac is infallible” goggles strapped on tightly .. but a rather disturbing amount of Mac users are total Apple Apologists ..

    I’m sure that Apple will address this concern as quickly as possible .. wherein Microsoft wouldn’t react without a pending lawsuit ..

  4. March 13, 2006 by Tobias

    I agree. The source isn’t what you would declare as well done. None of the WYSIWYG-Editors I’ve seen did come up with clean source code especially when CSS is involved. But I can see the difficulties when a program should automatically divide html and css, because someone would have to define the parts in which the layout is devided. The problem is, that most editors do not include the user as much as they may have to. The private user doesn’t care if the navigation and its elements are seperated in the css and their is no option to do so either. Without this option the software is not able do seperate css and html. It has to use the strange method “inline”. Please, dear developer, rethink of how a website is built in a WYSIWYG-Editor. We want clean source.

  5. Ouch, not good. I totoally agree that clean code generation is even more important to the non-web savvy. Could you imagine trying to delve into that mess if you knew little or nothing of HTML?

  6. March 13, 2006 by Scott

    Personally I’d rather see inline CSS than tables and spacer gifs. Inline CSS is a lot easier to fix afterwards, and if someone new to web development looks at the source code they won’t pick up the table-based layout bad habits.

  7. Ugh. That’s painful to look at. Maybe not so much as the writeup I just did on Writely and its lovely font tag — but pretty darn close. Might as well be the same thing with all those nested divs and inline styles. I really hope iWeb ends up creating some sort of filter that will group the styles together into a CSS file, rather than just leave it as is.

  8. March 13, 2006 by Mike Czepiel

    There will always be a place for an easy WYSIWYG editor. Unfortunately, clean generated source code is not a feature anybody cares about. The average user at this level will not appreciate the differences clean markup or separation of concerns will get them.

    That said, we need to calm down and just accept this. No worthwhile client or company would entrust their development to a teenager with iWeb or Frontpage or Dreamweaver experience alone.

    Sites generated by iWeb and the like are most likely short lived and low key. I am willing to forgive any WYSIWYG editor for not putting out pristine code, as long as it validates. Validation is the bar we have set for developers regardless of skill. As long as standards are followed I don’t see sub-optimal markup being a problem.

    You will never see future browser dragging their feet to release the latest and greatest because of quirky performance on any site generated by iWeb. As long as iWeb generated markup is valid who cares if it’s messy?

    I seriously doubt anybody that becomes even remotely serious about web development will think iWeb generated code is good reference; and if they do, they won’t be in business long enough to do much damage.

    I know I’ll be labeled an Apple apologist, but seriously clean markup is not a primary feature of this product. While I’d love to see them and everybody else strive to produce better code, these are not even of a prosumer level. iWeb users will never need to tweak any of the markup in their code manually. Clean code could eventually be a differentiating feature, but it’s not now so there’s no reason to think the markup will change soon.

    Again, I can’t consider this a danger or even much of a concern as long as the generated markup validates, and people are well aware that there is a BIG difference between iWeb and fine tuned hand coded markup.

    That said, I’ve only read the offered articles and haven’t played with iWeb yet. For all I know it’s invalid garbage we’ll be cursing for years to come…

  9. March 13, 2006 by Maarten van Soest

    Pretty bad markup indeed. A very bad thing because beginners might think HTML like that is the way to go. Let’s face it: WYSIWYG editors are often the first step to learning markup. Let’s try and learn them the correct way from the start. It doesn’t need to be perfect but it can be way better than this.

  10. @mike

    No worthwhile client or company would entrust their development to a teenager with iWeb or Frontpage or Dreamweaver experience alone.

    Oh you’d be surprised, you really would ;) Then real developers get stuck trying to clean up the mess!

    Plenty of companies out there (who are big enough to afford someone who knows better) still let people create their web interfaces with terrible software like Frontpage and - apparently - iWeb. I’ve also seen some code which suggests major application vendors have interfaces created in Frontpage…

    @web: Good call! I agree, I’ve encountered many people with a ‘mac can do no wrong’ faith, so they’re willing to explain away just about anything - including stuff that would inspire mobs at the gates if MS did it.

    Faith in Apple will probably also mean a lot of users will assume that the web pages iWeb creates are “good”, same as people did with Frontpage. Bummer.

  11. I don’t know… I agree that the code generated by iWeb is crap, but I wonder how possible it is to really do a great job of actually generating CSS that’s compact and not an inline disaster. I wonder if some decent AI isn’t necessary to do what us humans do. Or am I way off on this?

  12. For the fun of it, have a look at the markup generated by Microsoft Office Live. Not sure who wins: iWeb or Office Live?

  13. March 14, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Ara: You may have a point there. But whether or not getting rid of all inline CSS is possible, they could at least try. A good start would perhaps be using such exotic markup as headings and paragraphs. I can’t see any acceptable excuse for the complete lack of semantics.

    Jean: Oh. WOW. That makes iWeb’s tag soup look almost fresh. I like that XML declaration on line 145! :-O

  14. I wonder if some decent AI isn’t necessary to do what us humans do. Or am I way off on this?

    With a good use of templates and wizards, it could be done. After all, is this software not aimed at designers (and casual users) more than developers?

  15. I signed up with MySpace out of interest and found the HTML system to be equally as shoddy.

  16. @Roger AND @Jean: I liked that the entire page was wrapped in a form … qute.

  17. So who on WaSP is going to approach Apple over this then ;)

    Apple are generally not very open to feedback/critisism either.

  18. March 14, 2006 by Michael Tyler

    Talk about div city.

  19. Is it just me, or no matter what WYSIWYG editor you use your going to end up with crappy code? I learned HTML on Frontpage, but I’ll be forever thankful that when I was away from my University I didn’t have it at home. This forced me to learn at least a little HTML and how to reconize what was garbage and what wasn’t. That said I have a friend who is an Apple Fantic who won’t listen when told that her Mac may not be the most wonderful machine ever.

  20. Apple did something poorly? NO WAY!!! Not possible!

  21. March 15, 2006 by Mike

    @Maarten van Soest

    Let’s face it: WYSIWYG editors are often the first step to learning markup.

    This is so true. Perhaps we should also be looking at sites that promote using these tools. Check out FrontPage: A Serious Developer’s Tool. This site reaches hundreds of thousands each month. Scary!

  22. March 15, 2006 by alexander

    I must agree with Mike Czepiel on this, as long as its valid its “okay”. Sure its not nice but its not a tool ment for webdesigners, but rather people with no webexperience who want their personal website. As long as its valid it wont disrupt the standardsmovement, the only downsides are that people might have little bit trouble editing the code by hand, and that the sites might be slower.. bad things for the specific site (and its visitors) but it doesn’t affect the standardsmovement (although it could teach people bad coding habits, I dont think that will be much of a problem) so I wont complain.

  23. March 15, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    alexander: I disagree. First, validity is not all there is to best practices. Second, why should a tool produce rubbish code just because it isn’t meant for professionals? I maintain that if anything that makes it more important for the code it produces to be better than what iWeb currently spits out.

  24. Ok.. If you think that iWeb produces messy markup, imagine what it would look like if the target users would tear into the code instead of using a WYSIWYG :)

  25. Roger, I wrote about this a while back - in response to iWeb, the Microsoft Live services, and even Google Pages. I am in 100% agreement with you. Just because it isnt aimed at PROFESSIONAL web services gives it the right to output bloated code and tag soup? I was very disappointed with iWeb. I received a whole tutorial/walk through from an apple store employee right after it came out. Even when he was doing the tutorial, I was not impressed. I sure hope they do something to clean it up! I am getting tired of all of the cop-outs (not just from Apple, but from hack ‘web designers’).

    Peace, Nate

  26. Ok, it’s annoying, but don’t act so suprised.. It’s not uncommon for visual tools to output weird code that isn’t, in any way, optimized.. It’s very common in “real” programming environments too! :)

    .. and I think you all should be happy! If WSIWYG tools get any better a lot of you could possibly have a lot less work to do! :)

  27. Yep, maybe not so ‘differently thunk’?

  28. March 20, 2006 by flyingoyster

    I’m completely clueless when it comes to web page design and such. I haven’t understood most of what was said earlier in this thread and I have a feeling things like googlepages and iWeb are for people like me. I want to post pictures and videos for family and friends to view and these things make it easier, I think. I have to say the little bit I’ve done on googlepages has been VERY user friendly, but I like what I’ve created in iWeb better.

    What the “source code” of my iWeb page looks like is completely irrelevant to me (right now). If I get more involved in web page design in the future, I may be repulsed by iWeb or Front Page or whatever, I just don’t know.

    I am a mac fan (but not a “Mac can do no wrong” person) - maybe more of a “Microsoft seems to do so little right” thinker.

  29. March 20, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    flyingoyster: iWeb is meant for people who don’t do web development for a living, so you’re definitely in Apple’s target audience. What the source code of your iWeb page looks like should be irrelevant to you, but that doesn’t make it OK for it to look the way it does.

  30. Worse than the source code are the URLs it generates (what looks like GUIDs) and the fact that it lets you generate, say, weblog posts as rendered images.

    Check out an individual post on Ben Hammersley’s blog for example. (and the corresponding Greasemonkey script to fix it)

    These are far more in-your-face destructive uses of the web.

  31. The company with the name that big should be very sensitive to the reaction it’s products cause. And they should care about their reputation twice as much as a smaller company. It’s very difficult to gain trust having lost it once.

  32. February 13, 2007 by Mark B

    Sorry to post late in the day…

    I’m a professional web designer who tries to write clean CSS based websites, but having got a new Mac for home use I thought I’d give iWeb a go for a personal site showcasing my music and film efforts that I didn’t want to have to think about coding.

    As a WYSIWYG editor it’s great but I have to agree that the markup it produces is absolutely appaling. What’s worse though is that it renders whole swaithes of text as images and that it creates seperate folders for each pages content including images, CSS code and navigation buttons - so even though the same images are used throught the site for the background and buttons, they are written out as seperate files and have to be reloaded with every page!!!

    This means that the .Mac server must be getting hammered and webpages are very slow to download - it’s almost like dialup when I’m viewing my iWebsite, and I’ve got a 4mb cable connection! If I was a Joe Public First Time Web Designer I’d be very annoyed by this.

    Clean it up Mr Jobs!

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