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Getting Started building a genealogy website 

Know your audience

I created this website in 1997, over the years I have been asked many questions about webdesign how-to and I have enjoyed helping others with their genealogy pages. So, I decided to create this page outlining what I think makes a good genealogy webpage. I think the most important thing to remember when designing any page is content. Yes, adding a few bells and whistles can make a page more attractive but adding too many hurts the design greatly. Many genenalogy pages seem to go over the line into overkill. Remember to keep your page simple and keep your focus on sharing information. Afterall, the purpose of a genealogy page is to share your information and to connect with others that are researching the same lines. Having a graphic laden page is great for a site devoted to webdesign or graphics. But, I have found that many of my vistors are running older machine with a quite a few of them having scripting and images disabled. If you are using images to navigate your page, always remember to add text links as well for those with graphics disabled. And always utilize the Alt tags on images. This is very important accessiblity feature for the disabled and all text mode readers.

The basics of HTML

There are many great tutorial sites on the net that can help you learn HTML and get started on creating your pages. All you need is a browser and if your computer is running on a Windows platform, you have the program Notepad that you can code HTML in. So grab a tutorial and get started on building your site.

HTML: An Interactive guide for beginners

Intoduction to HTML

The HTML Pitstop

HTML Editors

There are many different products on the market to assist you in creating your website. If you have a fair knowledge of HTML or you would like to learn HTML, there are many great text editors that you can download and use. The pro's of using one of the editor's is you have complete control over your code and do not have to spend any time cleaning up any sloppy code that a wysiwyg editor might have created. The downside (in my opinion) is coding HTML is monotonous and boring. ;)

Notetab - Notetab is a award winning text and HTML editor. I have used it myself in the past. If you are looking for a text editor this is probably the best one available.

CuteHTML - Not as powerful as notetab, but it does color code the tags allowing for ease of coding. The greatest thing about this program is that it is free! :)

WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) editors allow you to see on a display screen exactly what your document will look like when it is finished. They do not necessarily show you what viewers of your site will see when the document is published to the web. It is important after creating your site to test it with several different browsers.

Dreamweaver - Personally, I use and prefer Dreamweaver over all other wysiwyg editors. It is by far the very best wysiwyg editor available. The downside to Dreamweaver is that is expensive. A full version of Dreamweaver MX runs about $399.00. If you think dreamweaver is something you would like to try, you can download a trial version from the Macromedia website.

Front page 2000 - The previous versions of frontpage output some pretty horrible code and it was not a program I would have recommended in the past. But, frontpage 2002 addressed the coding issues and added many great features. It is a very solid web development tool now.

Adobe Go Live - Adobe, (Creators of Photoshop) developed a powerful and user-friendly program. It is a great choice for beginners.

To script or not to script

Java & DHTML scripts can help you create a dynamic site. But, a little goes a long way. Try to keep the scripts to a minimum and only use scripts that actually offer something. Creating a lake like effect on a graphic or generating the day someone was born may seem fun but they do not add anything to the site and slow down the loading of your page. At all costs I would avoid java applets, they are known for crashing browsers and are generally too large and take away from what could be a user-friendly site.

Javascript Source

Simply the best DHTML Scripts

GEDCOM to HTML Programs

There are not to many gedcom to HTML programs out there. Though most Genealogy programs come with an option to create a website, these options usually create more problems than they solve and you may end up spending quite some time cleaning up code and correcting broken links. I would recommend getting a stand alone GEDCOM to HTML program.




Making your site interactive

Adding a guestbook or a messageboard is a great way to interact with your vistors and to get feedback.

Pathfinder Guestbooks

Dreambook Guestbooks

Guestbook Depot

Bravenet Forums

*If you have any questions or if there is something that you think I could add to this page that would be helpful, please contact me and let me know.






Memoirs of Family
©1997-2003, Memoirs of Family
Last Updated April 19, 2003

Website designed and maintained by
Melissa Wells-Massey