Genealogy blogs and websites have a purpose, but lately I've been looking for a private family sharing site that is friendly to both geeks and luddites. Does such an animal exist? From posts I'm finding on Facebook and Twitter, I'm not the only one in search of a secure site to share family photos and stories.
Not all my family members are eager to share photos of their children and family outings to the entire world wide web. They might be persuaded to post a photo or make a comment, but only if the site is restricted to family members and super-easy to use.
My requirements seem fairly minimal, but as I started exploring options, I found that I might be wanting too much for too little:
- restricted viewing, password or member-only
- multiple editors, although this be a moot point because I may be only dreaming that anyone else will actually post photos or stories
- polls and surveys, seems like an easy way to build engagement
- photo galleries, a place to upload family photos and browse
- comments to photos, to posts, to everything
I've spent some time exploring options suggested by other family historians but still haven't found the perfect answer. Do you have use one of these services? or have another recommendation?
The creator of Moultrie Creek Gazette, Denise Olson, designs websites in her sleep (I think), and she's a big fan of Posthaven. This inexpensive blogging program was started by the designers of Posterous after the demise of that service. The low fee is designed to give users a measure of security in the future of the program, and so far it's working. I like the idea of Posthaven, but it's pretty much a blogging program rather than a full website. It offers privacy and multiple editors, two features I am looking for, but I don't see how I can build an easy to find gallery of photos or add polls or surveys. I thought that might help build interest in family members/visitors. If I do use Posthaven you can be sure I will be working through Denise's Posthaven Primer tutorial.
A lot of people like the features and low cost of Weebly websites, and I liked what I saw… until I learned that multiple editors and password-protection bumped the price considerably. On the Plus Side, Weebly offers easy drag-and-drop design, polls, and some nice looking templates. It has more features than Posthaven, but you pay for them. As I was playing around with building a Weebly site it reminded me a lot of Squarespace, the program I use for TheFamilyCurator.com.
LIke Weebly, with Squarespace 6 you can use building blocks to custom-design your site. I'm using Squarespace 5 which doesn't have the same template features, but 6 looks pretty good, and I already know how it works. Sort of. My biggest complaint with Squarespace is that the blog editor defaults to teeny tiny microprint. I get around the problem by using MarsEdit to compose my posts (it's easier than Blogger and WordPress editors too) and I can work offline. The photo gallery features are great, but again, the price increases with more features.
Shutterfly Share Sites
FREE is always good, so I had another look at Shutterfly. The sites are pretty basic, but they do offer limited access, easy photo uploads, comments, blogging, and it's FREE! I know some of my family already uses Shutterfly for photo print and book orders, so they would be easy to lure to a family site.
Photo sharing started me thinking about other photo sites -- Flickr, Picasa, and Photobucket. I looked at some of these, but decided that the focus on photos might become a roadblock if we want to start adding stories or comment on family get-togethers.
For ease of use, and the greatest chance to bring in reluctant family members, Shutterfly seems like a good choice right now. But the jury is still out. Are you using a family website?
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