Geocities Com Simple And Usable Page Building
Posted on 09 Feb 2001
by frank gaine (gainef)
Rated 3.45 (Ratings: 5)
- More articles in IA/Usability
For many, the process of establishing a presence on the world wide web is still a daunting one. There is a perception that building web pages, web hosting and maintenance is a costly business. However, there exist free and easy alternatives.
Yahoo! GeoCities provides free server space and one of the most straightforward and powerful 'drag and drop' web page builders around. Useful features such as fully customisable page counters, web forms and accurate site statistics are available at no extra cost. "All" GeoCities ask for in return is the ability to place pop-up advertising throughout your site.
The beauty of GeoCities is its simplicity. Registration, like most Yahoo services is efficient and not unduly inquisitive. Access to the member's area and page building facility is available immediately after registration - no waiting for an email to verify membership (and finding something else to do in the meantime). The member's area is clean and uncluttered. Relevant information is readily available and elements are explained in unconvoluted terms. Indeed, 'GeoCities Help' asks the user whether the information supplied for any query is sufficient for the user's purposes and presents them with a form to make further inquiries if necessary.
Most significantly, GeoCities goes to great lengths to cater for both the novice and advanced page builder. The novice user can begin designing their own pages with the online 'drag and drop' PageBuilder. Alternatively, they can choose to build pages through the step-by-step PageWizard. No knowledge of HTML is required for either of these processes.
PageBuilder is launched through an applet window and may take some time to download through a normal modem. Once loaded, it is obvious to anyone familiar with Windows how to begin building your pages - and it is probably a fair assumption that GeoCities users will have experience with Windows, although this may not remain the case.
For the more experienced user, GeoCities incorporates an advanced HTML editor. The expert can build and preview more intricate pages using the editor and need never have recourse to PageBuilder. Providing these alternative input mechanisms is an elegant way of ensuring the GeoCities service alienates as few users as possible.
Unfortunately, if you wish to edit web pages in PageBuilder that have been built with other tools (such as Dreamweaver, for example) the page layout can become slightly distorted. You may need to spend some time in order to make them visually coherent again. Another frustrating feature is the fact that it is not apparent how the user can make or undo changes in PageBuilder. Control-Z, which is something of a standard elsewhere, does not seem to operate and the menu bar does not contain 'Undo' or 'Redo' functions.
Overall, if you can tolerate the popup ads, GeoCities is indeed a great free web provider. The service offers great tools for creating and maintaining your site, and a generous 15 megabytes of free web space. Fast, reliable servers mean that your page is virtually always available. Frequent users might have appreciated a downloadable version - after all, long sessions of page building and alteration only means more money for local ISPs.