Using a Mac for your library’s website (or how to fake being a web designer and impress your colleagues)

Let’s understand one thing upfront.  I’m not a web designer but have somehow fallen into that role in whatever job I have taken in my library career.  It started in college where I was the Co-Chair of the Student Chapter of the ALA.  I thought it would be a good way to begin being involved in the ALA when I knew little about its organizational structure.  But after I was given the position I was told I was also to be the web-coordinator and was in charge of the ALASC’s entire web-presence. Now, I’ve had blogs/vlogs for a long time, I have an online portfolio, and have made many websites.  But that’s just out of necessity in an online era and not because I really consider myself good at it at all.  In fact, I would say I know just enough to really mess up a webpage if I had to make it from scratch or try to fix it.

So because of this history but more so (I believe), due to my age in the library world where the median age is in the forties, I am expected to know all of the technology stuff that has ever been invented and I am now expected to work on our library’s website (in fact I made it originally and am solely responsible for it).  So how did I do it knowing so little about it?

It’s easy.  I got a Mac.  I know there are a number of large drawbacks to using iWeb to design webpages.  So let me tell you why I decided to go this route, besides my lack of really strong scripting and programming skills.

1)      I wanted some way to make a website that could be easily updated by other librarians with little to no HTML knowledge.  Since, in essence iWeb is as easy to use as Microsoft paint or Powerpoint and contains many of the same functions it is easy for others to update the website.

2)      Functionality of the blog and other features.  I know that there are ways to integrate a lot of the iWeb features into a website and make it look great.  But honestly, I don’t know how to do it and neither does anyone else in this library system.  I could learn, but then if I left, or got sick, nobody else would be able to fix it if anything went wrong.  So instead we are just using the features from iWeb.  It works fine.

3)      Since it’s a Mac, everything just works.  No viruses, no software conflicts, none of the kind of stuff you put up with in a PC.  (I am biased here because I am a Mac user to begin with)

4)      All of the programs work together.  You can integrate a calendar of events, a slideshow, make movies, and so much more so seamlessly with all of the features of a Mac.  And it’s easy.

5)      It’s super cheap.  It costs us $100 per year for hosting and after the initial cost of the Mac (1,000-2,500 depending on what you buy) it is still far cheaper than the $1,000-10,000 per year to hire a web design company and not be able to update it ourselves or be limited by them and the structure they create.

So what are the drawbacks?

1)      Some web features are hard to integrate using HTML.  Such as drop down buttons.  This is because iWeb makes new frames for every HTML snippet.  But there are ways around that.  Most other HTML snippets work.

2)      Slow loading.  If I make a lot of boxes with shadows and special designs it can take a while to download.  That’s fine anyway I think a website needs to be simpler not more complex so I’m eliminating them.

3)      There are some limits to design.  But not many, once you figure it out.

4)      Internet explorer.  Well ok this is a problem everywhere.  I’m surprised anyone still uses it.  But for iWeb occasionally you’ll design something that just won’t work with internet explorer.  If I was a better programmer I could probably fix this.  But I’m not, so I’ll leave it to you.

Some Myths…

1)      At first some people told me that we wouldn’t be able to use our OPAC with it.  This isn’t true, that is a separate platform anyway and usually comes with your Library System Software and needs to be designed outside of your library website.  It’s easily integrated however, with a WebWidget.

2)      You can’t have your own web address.  This is not true anymore and in fact, I have a personal business with its website designed on a Mac and its own web address.  For our library however, I chose to mask the website so everywhere you went it showed our website in the URL box.  Another easy fix.

3)      You’re limited by not being able to use HTML or other web language on the website.  This isn’t true with a webwidget.  I have made quit a few HTML/JAVA based features on our site.  Such as scrolling text, rotating banners, search boxes, and a few others.  Occasionally some problems crop up (usually with IE) , but not often and there is almost always a way around it.

That’s about it.  If you want to visit the library website I made on a mac its located at http://www.libraryatlincoln.org but I don’t work their anymore, so if you see something you don’t like on it, I’ll just say they did it after I left.  If you have any questions let me know!

2 thoughts on “Using a Mac for your library’s website (or how to fake being a web designer and impress your colleagues)

  1. Hi webmaster – This is by far the best looking site I’ve seen. It was completely easy to navigate and it was easy to look for the information I needed. Fantastic layout and great content! Every site should have that. Awesome job

  2. lol some of the feedback folks enter are silly and unrelated, commonly i ponder if they really read the stories and reports before leaving your 2 cents or whether or not they mearly read over the title of the blog post and pen the very first idea that pops into their brain. in any case, it really is relaxing to browse through keen commentary occasionally instead of the exact same, old oppinion vomit which i generally , observe on the web i’m going to have fun with a smattering of rounds of facebook poker adios

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