We’re big fans of Facebook. Most of our family has signed up, which helps us to keep in touch. But it worries us that Auntie Joan can share the horror of our post-party exploits, and our nephews might be exposed to some choice language or interesting choices of YouTube clip. We’re not that keen on the world knowing our family business either. Here, we’ve created a website to which only our family can contribute.
Family-tree websites proliferate, but the usual premise with these is an expanding database (known as a Gedcom file) with all the information you’ve managed to glean on family members. Such sites are generally public - and show up in search results - because others may be able to help you fill in some of the blanks.
It’s bad practice, although it doesn’t contravene data-privacy rules, to publicly post details on such sites of people who are still alive. A private site can be a real asset, focusing on photos and family memoirs, as well as invitations to meet up.
Unlike creating a website for commercial purposes, a family site isn’t there to attract customers or make money. It should still look attractive and sound welcoming, of course. And unless it’s to be all your own work, you’ll want to encourage other family members to contribute and share their memories and photos, too.
A family or hobby website can be created from an off-the-peg template and customised with colours, backgrounds and typography of your choice. You should be able to create a site that does everything you need for free.
Google Sites: Create a family website
Step 1. Google Sites is an excellent free resource for building a family website. You can also use it to collaboratively organise such things as football-league meetings, and share information over a secure connection. Head to sites.google.com and click Create Site to get started.
Step 2. Choose a template on which your site will be based. Google Sites has six categories to choose from, covering almost any eventuality. Each contains a range of templates, including those created by other Google Sites users. We selected ‘Personal & Family’, then chose Family site.
Step 3. Add a name for your site in the following field. Google Sites automatically generates the URL. We chose ‘The Dalziel Clan’; if you have a common surname, such as Smith, you may find it more difficult to choose a unique website name. Google informs you if the site name you’ve chosen has already been registered.
Step 4. Select a design template. Avoid anything too fussy as it will make your site look cluttered. Many professional sites feature a plain background and clean lines. Specify whether you want to share content with friends or anyone in the world, then give your site a brief description. Enter the Captcha and hit Create Site.
Step 5. Google Sites generates a website using your selected templates at the designated URL. Navigate here, then use the settings to add content. You can add links to family blogs, photo albums, calendars, profiles and even recipes on the home page. Google provides plenty of tips to get you started.
Step 6. The first thing you’ll want to do is change the pictures in the template so they feature members of your own family. Images can be uploaded from your hard drive or an online database, such as Picasa. Click Edit Page, then choose Insert. You can re-size images as necessary.
Step 7. To add a logo to your site, click More actions, Manage site, Site layout. Click ‘Change logo’, then choose ‘Browse for your logo’. If you don’t want one, select ‘No logo’. You can resize the logo once it’s been imported. Save any changes as you go, and use the undo function if you’re not happy with your edits.
Step 8. Choose Google Calendar at the top of the home page and click Create. Add important dates, such as family birthdays, and enter a description for each event. Make the calendar public so you can share its contents on your website; alternatively, enter email addresses to share it with selected people. Click Save.
Step 9. The sidebar on the left of your website lets you add new content, including blogs, calendars, profile pictures and albums. Click Edit to make changes to navigation and text; you can even try to earn some cash from your site by signing up to Google’s AdSense scheme here.
Step 10. Google Sites also offers a comprehensive list of site settings you can manage. Click More actions at the top right, then choose Manage site from the drop-down menu. From here you can amend design and content settings and look at your recent activity. Enable Google Analytics if you wish to monitor traffic to the site.
Step 11. To add a blog, click Blog post on the home page. Add a title and submit the post. This can be added to family updates on your home page, so anyone visiting the site will immediately know what you’ve been up to. You can also set up RSS feeds and allow visitors to subscribe to your posts.
Step 12. To add a profile, click the relevant link and click Edit page at the top right. Click the Insert menu on the left, then select subpage listing from the drop-down menu. Choose the profile page template and enter the name of a family member. You’ll need to click Edit page again to add content to the profile.
Step 13. You can upload slideshow images from Picasa or choose images from your hard drive. Choose Picasa Photo or Picasa Web Slideshow. Browse to the image you want to add and click Ok. You can upload only one image at a time, and you’ll probably want to resize and reposition it. Add any relevant information and press Save.
Step 14. Open Google Maps and click the My Map tab. Choose My Places, then Create Map. We named our map ‘the Dalziel family home’ and then chose to share it with everyone. Find your own address in Google Maps and click Done. Next, click Edit page in Google Sites, add your map and hit Save.