First of all a big welcome to the Rapidweaver community.
Rapidweaver is, in my head, a bit like the circus big top. By itself its cold, the seats are hard and there can be a bit of a faint pong about it. However, once you get through a couple of payment gateways, which I’ll get onto, you’ll find yourself mesmerised by what you see going on before you. By then you won’t mind quite so much that there is the odd leak in the tent.
The key to RW is plugins and in that space the king is Stacks. How anyone gets anything done in RW without it is is a puzzle to me. So I would absolutely factor the cost of Stacks into the RW outlay.
You can get it here:
Now, with Stacks installed into Rapidweaver, you can then create pages of type “stacks”. This is where the magic starts and the world where building visually, while fine tuning settings via an inspector is the way work gets done. And pleasantly powerful it is too.
You’ll also want to think about a decent quality theme. I can recommend themes by Nick Cates, ThemeFlood and Elixir.
Have a nose around here:
Now, if you are only ever going to make one or two sites then maybe a standalone theme will serve you fine. However if you think you will need more power then give serious consideration to investing in a ‘framework’. The two which I am aware of and have worked with are Foundation ( by Joe Workman ) and Foundry ( by Elixir ). Foundation is based on the Foundation framework and Foundry is based on Bootstrap. Both can take you a very long way to becoming a self sufficient designer/producer of quality websites.
These frameworks typically come with a special theme which sets up the baseline structure and initialises dependencies along with a suite of stacks (note the smaller ‘s’ which denotes the individual elements available to you to compose your content).
You can also use other stacks from other vendors to augment your designs and content - compatibility, party due to the carefully designed underlying architecture and dependency governance imposed by the Stacks plugin itself which takes a great deal of the sting out of that area.
I should mention that you’ll also get an ‘html stack’, so there is nothing at all stopping you from pasting in the html needed to render any of the supported elements from the relevant framework, I sometimes do that.
There are also blank themes which you could use, some of which are free. So you could build up your page using stacks from potentially lots of different vendors and experiment to see how far you can get then buying individual stacks to fill in any gaps.
There are now many solutions to most of the challenges which used to face Weavers. I’m talking about Contact Forms / CMS Systems / Shopping Carts and even booking calendars.
It is generally easy enough to integrate third part code ( from Eg PHP Jabbers or CodeCanyon ) into your projects too. So even if there is not a perfect stack or plugin for your needs it’s often possible to source something and integrate it. How much of an appetite you have for doing that depends on your own proficiency, but help is usually available.
Best advice is to take your time, plan what you think you will need and ask lots of questions. Once you start getting into buying stacks and themes it’s hard to stop; it’s addictive. So instead think carefully about what you really do actually need, research it as much as you can then, if you are anything like me, end up buying everything anyway
Best of luck and I hope you enjoy the journey!