How to build a family website?
June 20, 2006 3:43 AM   Subscribe

How do I build an interactive family website?

How do I build an interactive family website?

I'm just now getting up to speed on XHTML and CSS thanks to all the great suggestions in this thread (I'm almost finished with the Head First book, woo hoo!). Now I want to try my hand at building a simple family website which would (1) require a password for entry (2) allow family members to post text and images (3) allow for thread-like discussions and, perhaps (4) permit members to have their own separate pages or sections of the site.

Suggestions? So far I'm doing everything through a text editor to make sure I learn the concepts, but I'd be happy to use appropriate website software. Is this something I should be able to do with, say, WordPress or Moveable Type? Does the interactive element mean I need to learn PHP? My website host says they provide PHP and MySQL Replication, if that's any help.
posted by mono blanco to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You should take a look at phpBB. It's a common forum system that should allow most of what you require.
posted by jozxyqk at 4:48 AM on June 20, 2006

A blog might be the easiest thing for all of you. You could easily buy a domain name and then use's or's simple interface to operate it. You don't need to install WordPress or Moveable Type for a blog just for your family.

If you guys end up being some sort of famous blog and you want more control over your site that or allows, then you can move your blog over to one of the other platforms.
posted by k8t at 4:50 AM on June 20, 2006 does much of what you're asking for. The only thing it doesn't do is allow members to have their own seperate pages...or at least, I don't believe it does.
posted by Atreides at 4:56 AM on June 20, 2006

So let me get this straight, you're trying to build an interactive family website? (sorry, I couldn't help myself!)

There are a number of ways you could skin this cat. Forum software like phpBB would be one way. That would excel in the "thread-like discussion" areas, but maybe not so much in the "I just want family members to be able to edit free-form web pages" department.

Another route would be something like Wordpress + plugins. With WP being so popular these days you can find plugins to do just about anything.

A third route would be a full CMS like Drupal. This will probably have the hardest learning curve but the most power. It could be overkill though.

In any case, from what you've said you have most certainly departed from the realm of "just edit plain HTML+CSS files with a text editor." To get the kind of interactivity needed for allowing discussion threads and the like you really need to turn to scripts, be they PHP, Perl, Python, Ruby, whatever.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:44 AM on June 20, 2006

My suggestion for this is to set up a Wiki site. Using this software would allow you to make pages on the fly, and allow users with access (which you would set up) to edit or add on to these pages - much like a threaded view of a discussion. They could also create their own pages very easily, with their own content. There is a lot of Wiki software you could use for this site. The only downside I see is that it's one of the more complicated programs to install.

Good luck!
posted by aurigus at 5:48 AM on June 20, 2006

I created a Wiki site for my family to share personal stories and family history, but I discovered that the family members felt that it was too complicated to use. They (especially elderly members) preferred to write what they had to say by email, and these entries never made it into the Wiki.

So, my suggestion isn't any particular software, just some advice that you think carefully about your family members, their technical skills and comfort level with different types of interfaces. What will work best to encourage them to participate in your web site?
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:54 AM on June 20, 2006

I started a family website four years ago and it has had mixed success. The biggest hurdles I have experienced are technology related. Family members lose their password, forget how to post, and can't figure out how to edit existing posts. My goal when setting up the site was to get my family members to post to a website instead of forwarding multiple articles a day.
I would suggest that you first get a good sense of the tech level of all of your possible website contributors and then use that to find the right solution. Although a wiki would be awesome, I know that my family would have a hard time figuring out how to write posts in the unique wiki format. My family has gone from a website with a forum to a hosted blog solution (Typepad). The advantage of a hosted blog is that there is someone your family members can contact other than you with tech problems. One of the disadvantages is that the whole world can see your postings, not just your family members. My family has had some problems with random people trying to take over over the blog in the last year.
If I was creating a dream family website, it would have to the ability to create posts just for family members and for the general public. You would also be able to upload files, pictures, comments and articles through e-mail. It would be great to include a Google map mashup with family member locations and favorite places and also a chat function. There also should be a good way of archiving important posts into a wiki-type knowledge base.
Best of luck finding the right solution. If you decide to install your own blog software, I recommend Wordpress. For a wiki, MediaWiki is great. For a bulletin board, I would shy away from phpBB and look for a simpler solution. My family had a tough time with phpBB.
posted by JuliaKM at 7:15 AM on June 20, 2006

Not much to add, just that I hear the jotspot wiki system allows users to email new entries, so perhaps that could work if you did the moderation. I haven't tried it though.
posted by MetaMonkey at 8:00 AM on June 20, 2006

Just something to add. If you want to setup something feature rich, using something like XOOPS might be worthwhile. You can integrate blogs, news, forums, image galleries and much more into it making it easy to administrate as well as keeping a common theme among all the sections. Many nice open source web softwares have been ported into XOOP modules and once the time is put in up front getting it setup, the administration part of it is pretty easy.
posted by chrisroberts at 8:18 AM on June 20, 2006

Check out Jot - a family-targeted wiki
posted by DandyRandy at 9:17 AM on June 20, 2006

I agree with Rhomboid, but disagree that it would be overkill, Drupal would be perfect for a family site.
posted by m@ at 10:46 AM on June 20, 2006

Drupal will do all this and more. To make it easy on your family, you'll have to spend some time creating custom "content types" for them using FlexiNode. It also can be integrated with image gallery apps of various sorts. In fact, there are many extension modules for it which expand on the core capabilities.
posted by wheat at 10:52 AM on June 20, 2006

Mono blanco, if you e-mail me, I'll point you to our family site. It does some (but not all) of what you're after. It's based on freefilter, a metafilter knock-off. We love it.
posted by jdroth at 12:09 PM on June 20, 2006

I'd like to put another vote in for MyFamily. They haven't added any features over the last few years and the cost for bandwidth/storage space on their servers has gone up, but it is still a fairly well-done site.
posted by yellowbkpk at 12:36 PM on June 20, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks all. This is very helpful and I'm going to explore a few of these alternatives. I'm realizing I have two goals. One is the family website. But the other is to give myself a project to provide focus to my self-study in learning web design and its major tools. Very good points about keeping it simple for family members to use.

Once I decide what to do and actually implement it, I'll post a follow up to AskMe since this thread will long have been closed by then. jdroth, I'll pop you an email. Rohmboid, your comment made me still does!
posted by mono blanco at 4:22 AM on June 21, 2006

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