One of the best ways to share your great digital images with friends and family is through your own personal Web site. You don't need to be a computer know-it-all to create a basic site to showcase an online photo album. In fact, even a novice can create a great site. You can create a wedding Web site for before, during and after pictures of the process. The same goes for a new baby. Or just have a site with several albums of family events and vacations. It's free and easy.
Time Required: A weekend
- Gather the images you want to post on your Web page. Make copies of each image, and resize them for the Web. You can also tinker with the photos to improve image quality. While this sounds complicated, it really isn't. The crucial point is to be sure your images are small enough. No one wants to wait several minutes for a huge image to load. Get tips from the About Graphics Software site on preparing images for the Web.
- Sign up for a Web page. There are numerous sites that offer Web pages for free. The About Freebies site features an extensive list of free Web hosting sites. If you want higher quality (and fewer mandatory pop-up ads), consider a pay site. I personally use Homestead, which allows members to create high-quality sites with ease. They also feature a tool for creating slide shows.
- Organize your site. Some of the most obnoxious sites feature one page crammed with big images. Not only is it ugly, it's inconsiderate of your dial-up friends. Instead, decide on themes for each album, and then put photos under each theme. For instance, have one page for the family vacation to New York City. Have another for the 2005 family reunion. Add yet another for little Susie's birthday party. Try to restrict each album to 10-20 of the best images.
- Create your main page. If the site is only going to serve as a photo album, great. That makes things easy. Odds are, though, you'll get hooked and want to add other pages. This is fine. Your main page should serve as a welcome sign for visitors. Type up a small note of hello. You could include your best photo to brighten thing up. Create a menu that is clear and will direct people to other pages. For instance, a typical menu would include Home, Photo Albums, Journal and a Contact page.
- Make your album page. For each album, you should create a main page that will link visitors to each photo. A nice way to do this is by creating small 1"x1" or 2"x2" thumbnail copies of the larger images. Let users click on these to reach the larger images. An easier option is to have a list of image names that link to the photos. For each album main page, give it a title that reflects the images, such as, "Our 20th Anniversary Party."
- Add images to your album. I recommend giving each image its own page so that you can type a cutline (a brief description) under the image. Also be sure each individual image page links back to the main album page, and the home page.
- Spread the word. Once the site is up and you're satisfied with it, contact your families and friends to announce the new Web page. A great way to do this is to send an e-mail out to several people at once (keeping in mind that this can cause some e-mail filters to block a message). Either way, send a message to those you want to invite. Be sure you leave the http:// at the beginning of your Web site address so they can just click through.
- Play it safe! You very well might be creating this site for a select group of family members and friends. That doesn't change the fact that the whole world can see it, too. Don't put any personal information on your page (such as last names, addresses, phone numbers, birthdates, and so on). Be careful to avoid any details that could reveal information about you or your loved ones.
- Protect your pictures. Be sure you protect your images from being taken and used against your wishes. Better yet, don't post any images you wouldn't want stolen. Find out more details about protecting your images online.
- Create a folder on your hard drive for your Web files and images. You can even create subfolders for each Web photo album. This will make it much easier to manage the images and the site.
- Copy any images BEFORE you edit them for the Web. The last thing you want to do is reduce your great 2MB image to a great Web size, then discover you can't get a decent print out of it.
- Maintain consistency on all your pages. Choose one background and menu style, for instance, and stick with it. While it might be fun to use a crazy balloon background for the birthday party album, and a stork background for baby pictures, try to refrain. Speaking of stork backgrounds, try to keep the design simple or it will detract from the photos. Pick one theme, make it subtle and clean, and stick with it. Let the photos be the focal point.
- Fish around the Web and look at other personal photo album pages. Just down notes on things you like and, more importantly, things you don't like. Click around the sites so you get an idea of what is and isn't user-friendly. This is a great way to get ideas and inspiration.