Montana is home to some pretty cool people. CURIOUS people. SHARING people. TEACHER people. Five Saturdays a year, these people volunteer their Saturdays to come to Billings to be part of the Billings Tech Cadre, a venture started several years ago by my friend and mentor, Desiree Caskey. The idea is to bring together like-minded people who want to learn ways to better integrate technology in a day-long, hands-on, low-pressure environment where they can experiment, ask questions, get (and give!) help, and share ideas.
Tomorrow will be our fourth meeting, and we are going to have some nitty-gritty, site-building fun. One of our participants had asked the question, "How do you drive traffic to your site and encourage visits and use?" which in turn begged the question, "How do you get people to visit a site that doesn't even exist yet?" That launched us into a discussion about those of us who have sites, but never maintain them; those of us who have an idea and a purpose a site, but don't know which tool to use; and those of us who have visited sites, but don't even know where to begin in creating one of our own!
A quick search for "site building tools" yields these results:
IM Creator, Google Sites, Weebly, SquareSpace, Designly, Strikingly, Wix . . .
not to mention all of the blogging tools like
Wordpress, Kidblog, Blogger, Tumblr, Weebly . . .
Yes, that's right - I mentioned Weebly twice. That is because the line between "blog" and "website" is becoming more and more blurry because of the features of today's tools - you may be reading someone's blog and not even realize it's actually a Weebly site. Or you may be looking at someone's website, and not be aware that it's actually powered by Blogger. Can you tell which tool I'm using now?
The biggest mistake I have seen teachers make when they think they want to set up a website is that they do the same thing the kids do when we first show them Slides or Docs: they want to make it pretty. They are so distracted by the tool itself that they don't stop to consider their audience, their purpose or their content. That said, the most successful sites I have seen are those that are geared to specific readers, well-planned, and nicely organized. Sure, the pretty part is nice, but that's just the sprinkles on the cupcake - and anyone who has ever eaten a cupcake lovingly made by a 6-year-old knows that too many sprinkles kill a cake.
So you think you want a site? I'm here to help! Inspired by the participants of the Billings Tech Cadre, I have designed this "choose-your-own-adventure" style Form to help you narrow down not only your tool, but your audience, and your purpose. As I mentioned above there are MANY tools you could use to create your site, but for cost, simplicity, and compatibility, I have narrowed the tool choices down to 3: Google Sites, Weebly, and Blogger (you'll read why once you find your match). Once you complete the form, you will automatically be sent a document that will help you in the planning and construction of your site . . . or blog, because you just never know where this adventure will take you!