|Did you know that it is possible to build a web site without any prior experience with HTML or having to hire someone to do it for you?|
In case I got your attention, let me provide you with some information from my personal experience that you might find useful, as well as give you some ideas that I hope will be helpful. In a nutshell this is the message that I would like to get across - this is not a step-by-step guide for building a web site, but rather a motivational nudge with some information on where to get started.
Unfortunately, although it might seem like everyone has a web page, the reality of the matter is that there are still libraries and even hospitals that do not have a web site. The hospital I have started to work for did not have a working web site at that time and it was the main reason I decided to build my library web page. I had a lot of information to share with my residents, attendants, medical students and other professionals in the health related fields. I published and disseminated newsletters, put up announcements on the bulletin boards around the hospital, sent e-mails, and talked to people about everything that was going on in the library. Yet no matter how much I tried to keep everyone abreast of the current updates, it just never seemed to be enough. Newsletters can sit on a desk unread for days or even weeks. Bulletin boards have proven even less effective, since a lot of people do not even seem to notice them. E-mail might seem like a good solution, and for a lot of people it is, but there are still people who do not have e-mail at work.
I tried raising the issue of having a live hospital web site on a few different occasions. The answer I received was that we definitely need to work on it but undertaking such a project would be too costly, and that perhaps it would be attended to in the nearest future, but nobody knew when. A lot of you might find such a reply very familiar. After attempting to motivate my administration a few more times I finally realized that it would probably get accomplished faster if I were to do it myself.
I had a feeling that there probably were some companies that would allow their clients a limited amount of cyberspace for free. After spending some time researching my hypothesis I was able to locate a few of such companies. You might be able to find one of the numerous companies that provide this service through using a search engine such as Google or any other that you might like to use more. Be careful to check the terms of agreement, as they seem to vary greatly. Personally, I chose Homestead.com. At the time I signed up, their service was free. Currently the service cost is $2.50 per month. While free is always a better rate then having to pay, I think this price is still rather cheap and to my knowledge every library can afford it. The company offers 25 MB of storage space, which is a sufficient amount of space for building a web site.
When you first start, Homestead.com gives you the option of building a web page for personal or professional use. There is not much difference between the two. The major differences are the amount of web space that homestead allocates for the account (25 and 50 megabytes respectively), as well as the monthly fee that the company charges ($2.50 vs. $29.99). To give you an idea how much of cyberspace you need to build your web page, my site takes the space of 1MB only1. I built my site for personal use because as I mentioned above, there was no money involved at that time. With this particular host there is no need to know HTML. It works as a word editor program. There are many great features that you can activate by simple "drag and drop" movements. This makes the whole process of developing your own web page very simple, even for beginners.
You can build a site from ground zero, or select from their pre-designed, customizable page, it is as easy as ABC. Of course with some simplicity there also comes lack of choice, and if you are a programming guru, you might find this a bit constraining. However, I found that this method of developing a web page is more than sufficient and the end result came out looking rather well.
It took me about a month to put the site together without any help at all. The two first steps and the most important in the process of building a web site are deciding who is the audience and after defining it, organizing the information you want to share with it. The third one is choosing a name for your site as well as a username and password for a web master. Then you can go on to arranging the background, color, size, fonts, links, images, etc. After going through a few different designs you will be able to settle on something you like.
The design of a web site is not a one-time project but rather something continuous and ever changing. Being a web master of your library site makes this process very easy and pleasurable. You can make additions or changes on the site at any time you want without asking someone else for help. As well as the ability to forgo the bureaucracy involved with making requests for updates, having to write down the instructions, and then still having the final product look vaguely similar to what you described.
I know a lot of you may say that you work in a one-person library, or that you are too busy with other projects to take on being a web master as well. I also know that all of the above is true, that it is time consuming, confusing, and not at all something that you might start out wanting to do. However, as I became more acquainted with the skills needed to build a web site, the whole experience actually became fun. Completing the site and seeing it right there in front of me exactly as I wanted it to look was a great experience. Hearing compliments from the library patrons on how well the site turned out and how much easier it made things gave me a great sense of accomplishment. Seeing how valuable of an asset a web site can be, the hospital has started developing a web site right after I have announced about the library site. I can only hope that your experience with building a web site turns out as hassle free and pleasurable as mine did.