Personal Web Space

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Ten years ago, even five, having a personal website usually meant one of two things. Either you were either particularly creative or your left brain welcomed a new playing field. That is, a fledgling communication medium inspired either your design sense or your yen to try a bit of programming. Today the picture is simpler and the challenge considerably lighter. A basic understanding of HTML isn't even necessary. And as far as graphic design goes, the burden is no greater. Between the many interface templates and WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) tools, designing your personal website is as easy as you let it be.

The good news doesn't end there. Web hosting prices range from zero to downright affordable. At the low end of the scale, the freebies are your testing ground and even, if it suits, your permanent (as long as the company stays healthy) home. The downsides to free hosting include the relative shortage of technical support and customer service, a shortage of more sophisticated web features, and limited storage and bandwidth. It may be that these issues are not significant. If you just want to share photographs and travel log of your occasional treks to the Portuguese
Algarve or family photos from the last annual picnic, then you might not need anything more.

Blogs: Your Personal Web Niche

Blogs--automated online publishing systems, usually maintained in chronological format--are another option for personal web space. They require even less web savvy than website templates. At the same time, they've proved very attractive to users with plenty of savvy and design and application ideas. Take the weblog concept as a working definition. That is, you have a topic you're interested in fostering discussion on, whether on your own or with community input. The Internet is your medium.

You'll find two fundamental types of blog software. After all, conceiving a running online discussion is one thing, making it work is another. That's where blog software comes in. If you have a website, you can install some blog programs to operate on your site. If that's more complicated a notion, then taking out personal blog space on a provider is also an option. All you do is sign up and start typing.

On the one hand are the blog programs that generate static web pages. On the other are those that generate dynamic content. Among the first are Moveable Type and Blogger. Among the second are LiveJournal and Slash. For open source advocates who nonetheless aren't programmers, there's bBlog, which is both elegant and flexible. BBlog and Moveable Type are examples of blog software to install on your own domain. If the idea of having your own voice on the web is appealing, but for a start you just want to play with the idea with a user-friendly application, try Blogger.


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