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Geocities lets you put together a website without spending any cash. I wanted to put together my own website for a number of reasons: so my friends could see some of my photos, to enhance my employability by attaining new skills and not least just for the experience of it. Not having a PC at home, I needed a cost-free connection that was simple to pick up and use. Geocities fitted the bill nicely.
FREE SPACE I already had a Yahoo! mail account and so I just clicked through the hotlink, filled out the form and voila, I had a username and password granting me access to my very own website. They allocated me 15M bytes of space and access to more tools than I could shake a (virtual) stick at, or at least more tools than I could be bothered to learn how to use.
BIG TOOLS Aside from the efficient file management system there are several options for adding content, including an interface to Front Page (should you wish to use it!), a raw html editor and for real novices a wizard that’ll do it all for you. There are handy add-ons like counters, a guest book, games, news updates and a link to the Messenger service. Yahoo! also help you out with advice on site promotion and how to use their infernal and ever-present ad square to your best advantage (I turned mine into a GeoGuide – which was aesthetically better for my site – although somebody who posted below came up with an excellent idea for getting rid of it altogether). In other words plenty of space, plenty of functionality, plenty of advice on tap, exactly what was needed for Paicey’s first website!
<The following part details some of the pros and cons of the Yahoo! service – if you just want to get the general idea you may want to roll forward to the summary: IS IT ANY GOOD?>
ARE YOU EXPERIENCED? My opinion really focuses on two areas, a fairly general one - the service provided by Yahoo, and a more specific one - the quality of the Page Builder HTML generator as part of that service.
When I started my site I was pretty much ignorant in the wily ways of HTML and web design in general, after the idea was for me to learn as I went along. As a method of content generation I selected Yahoo!’s own HTML generator, Page Builder, and launched into my site construction with great gusto. I took to Page Builder quickly as all the functionality was intuitive and it enabled me to access all the Yahoo! accessories I was likely to need.
Page Builder works a lot like a DTP package, such as Quark Express. It provides you with the facilities for adding and manipulating your material, but overall how it fits together is down to you. This is a definite advantage, as is the fact that you can get started with it very swiftly. It’s downfall, I have found, is threefold. It lacks a few basic niceties, for example if I want to prepare a chunk of text in a text editor (like I’m doing with this opinion) and cut and paste it into a Page Builder text box, I can’t – it won’t let me. The second, more obvious problem is the fact that usage tends to be bandwidth dependent – the more traffic sloshing round the Internet, the slower Page Builder is to load up initially (it’s initiated from Geocities itself), to upload material and save your pages. Drop outs and crashes can ensue.
The more I use this software, the more frustrating I find it as I discover more of these niggly difficulties, and the third problem will perhaps illustrate why. Once you’ve started building a Page Builder site, that’s it, you’ve got to keep using the software. I added some raw HTML I cut and paste from elsewhere and it made the page I was editing completely screwy (took me hours to re-format). So I’m trapped, unless I want to print out all the code and painstakingly edit it myself, paste it back and re-create the whole site – no thanks.
Geocities provides a rich set of facilities and a generous amount of free space and all they ask is to slap an advert on each page. In my book that ain’t so bad. Once I’d got my site vaguely into shape I thought I’d take advantage of Yahoo!’s promotional facilities, so I applied for the “Banner Exchange” (where you can make a banner ad for your site that’ll show up on other people’s sites – if you see what I mean?) and to be added to the main Yahoo! search engine. I wanted to boost my hits. Several months and several applications on, I’m still waiting for my banner to be accepted and I’m still waiting to crop up in a search. They take their time.
IS IT ANY GOOD? Yahoo! Geocities is free, and therefore worth recommending just for that! It’s feature rich, intuitive and easy to use, but it’s worth investigating the tools at your disposal a little bit first to see if their capability will grow as your experience and ambition grows. Yahoo! is a big organisation and promises much – and fair enough they have the clout to follow through. But bear in mind that with all big organisations the simplest thing can take time…
<By the way (shameless plug coming up) you can see my site at: www.geocities.com/paiceyjohn>