Why RapidWeaver is Like the iPhone

Later this month will mark the 4-year anniversary of when I joined the RapidWeaver community and adopted the application as my website design tool. This has had me reflecting on my experiences over the past 4 years, and reaffirming my position on RapidWeaver as the best solution for web design. Couple that with the current obsession over my new iPhone, and the idea that results is this: RapidWeaver is like the iPhone.

Background Story

Recently, after coming to the end of my contract with a competing cellular provider, I made the switch to AT&T for the sole purpose of owning an iPhone. I've waited a long time to experience the iPhone -- I can remember the first iPhone release, and going into an Apple store that following weekend to demo a product I wouldn't be able to own for quite a while longer. As much as I wanted an iPhone, I couldn't justify breaking an existing contract and tossing a few hundred dollars to make the switch early, so after a very patient wait the time has finally come.

I've had my iPhone for a couple of weeks now, and it wasn't long after getting it that I started creating comparisons between the iPhone and RapidWeaver. Now granted, RapidWeaver does dominate my thoughts for many hours every day, but the more I thought about it I determined that it wasn't a stretch at all to draw that comparison. So follow with me here for a few minutes and let's explore this idea a bit.

It Starts With Function

There's no doubt that Apple created a brilliant product in the iPhone. It worked the way people wanted a smart phone to work -- it was intuitive and well-designed. Of course the loyal Apple followers would adopt it regardless, but the massive success of the iPhone can be credited to the fact that its just a great product.

RapidWeaver is a great product foremost because it is functional. An intimidating or poorly designed product is going to struggle to be successful, and RapidWeaver succeeds because it makes a very intimidating idea quite simple. Website design is intimidating. As a young, creative, techie person I was still intimidated by the thought of designing websites when I first started exploring the idea. If a piece of software is done well enough to clear that first hurdle, then that's a big deal.

Based on my experience working with RapidWeaver users, RapidWeaver's demographic is Mac users, and that's it. As far as I can tell, there is no specific age or gender that the software appeals to most. That's a statement to how functional and intuitive this software is. One RapidWeaver user is a college kid wanting to create websites as a source of income to get through school, while another user is a recently retired woman who wants to sell homemade creations online as a hobby. RapidWeaver works the way people want a website design application to work.

Its Strength is Its Development Community

At some point in Apple's marketing campaign for the iPhone, the television commercials stopped talking about what the iPhone could do "out of the box," and started talking about what it could do with the available 3rd-party apps. The iPhone can certainly do a lot out of the box -- it is a phone after all, and so it makes phone calls, receives voice mails and does a nice job of organizing your contacts. There are some solid apps that come with the iPhone as well, expanding its usefulness so you can know the temperature outside, jot down some notes, or get directions to your destination.

I certainly appreciated what the iPhone could do out of the box, but it wasn't long before I was browsing the app store and downloading some apps to demo. Of course I ended up purchasing the ones I loved, and I'm always looking for others that will add new functionality, or that maybe even improve on the functionality of an app I already own.

I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this. RapidWeaver's 3rd-party development community is its greatest strength. Some might say that its community of users is the greatest strength, but I would argue that the community wouldn't be as large and devoted if a 3rd-party development community didn't exist first. The themes and plugins available for RapidWeaver take a great app to the next level, by adding features and functionality to extend the usefulness of the application.

The iPhone is a great phone without additional apps, and RapidWeaver is a great web design program out of the box, but both benefit tremendously from the add-ons that are available to them.

More Love for the Developers

I began using RapidWeaver when there was just a very small number of 3rd-party developers on the scene. RapidWeaver was good enough on its own to where I committed to it without understanding what was to come, but when Yourhead released the Blocks plugin and Loghound created PlusKit, it was as if I was using an entirely new product for the first time, and I began to see so much more potential with the improved flexibilty these plugins offered.

Jump forward to today, and the 3rd-party developer community has exploded. I remember when RapidWeaver users wanted an e-commerce solution, and now there are multiple e-commerce plugins, from multiple developers! Of course I have some favorite plugins, including some that I would define as "must-haves" -- but even a past must-have in Blocks has been almost completely replaced in my workflow with Stacks. Major props to YourHead for one-upping itself! As I now do my part with RapidWeaver Classroom, I am regularly having to keep myself updated with the steady influx of new plugin offerings from new developers. Where I could once list the developers and their plugins by memory, I now refer to one of the many great resource websites that stays updated with this information.

Last I heard there were over 80,000 apps available for the iPhone. With a number like that, what can the iPhone not do? The RapidWeaver plugin library doesn't boast a number quite like that, but the potential is there and I feel that I can already ask "what can RapidWeaver not do?" and have it be a legitimate question.

RapidWeaver is Like the iPhone

Convinced? Regardless of your answer to that question, it's tough not to be convinced that RapidWeaver is an incredible web design application, and that with infinite possibilites brought to reality by its development community, a very strong future is certainly to be expected.

-Ryan Smith
RapidWeaver Classroom
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