A personal website is like owning your own house in the cyberspace. Like house, it comes in all shapes, sizes, features, flavors. It also has its own advantages and issues. Craze for personal website started with GeoCities and AltaVista making it easy to create a website for your own. While it satisfied the narcissist within us, soon we realized its limitation.
One puts up a website for various reasons. Most important that comes to my mind are:
Web presence: You may like to grab a piece of cyber reality, have your identity known around cyber world. At times, you feel comfortable to have a bill board that people may give more attention than they give it your card.
Information dissemination: You may like to tell those things that no one seem to listen. Putting them in nice font and format may look more promising than standing on the podium at market corner
Collaboration: You may need to share information that require little more structure than what is available in simple mail
Consolidation of information: You may use web mashup or pool information from other web pages for analysis. Facebook, orkut, Google News, iGoogle, myYahoo are good examples of these
Showcasing talent: You may want to show case your skill of photography, performing art in picasa, flicker, you-tube etc.
E-Commerce: You may be interested in buying and/or selling things online
Data Repository: Some may use cloud computing, and shift their information repository to online
Today there are number of option to host the website. You can use a free site like google-site or take some shared box webhost service costing less than $10 per year or chose to host it on data center. It all depends on what kind of traffic you expect to get and what kind of material you want to distribute.
If your page is like Richard Stallman – simple with only text then you will be able to manage even very high hit rate with relatively low end server. On the other hand a website heavy with flash and graphics, say like J K Rowling’s will need a high end server even for a modest number of hits.
Apart from cost, there are other consideration of service reliability and connection speed. In such cases many free sites offered on piggyback of big players offer advantage.
Web space requirement is the next improtant factor; essential but can be managed. Once I had a request from a professional society to make them a Content Management System. Now a CMS like Joomla or Drupal takes almost 5MB space just for the core software, your own stuff comes over and above that. But with careful redisn, it is possible to reduce even a CMS to less than 1 MB. tinyCMS was result of that effort. In similar line you have simpleBlog and TigerWiki.
This is not a problem, if you plan to setup the server from your own home. If you have a broadband connection and willing to put up your machine always on and connected to internet then setting up a website at your home desttop is a simple thing. (more of that in my later blog)
One thing personal website, in own setup suffers is ranking in search engine. These gives higher rating to known popular sites rather than low traffic pesonal site. As an example my blog – http://soumyanath.blogger.com has about ten times more traffic than my earlier blog http://www.soumya.name/blog
In current context perhaps, it is not going to be a choice of setting every thing up at one nice little site with a monolithic site. Current age is of clound computing and mashups. So put your stuff in various places, mixthem and present at a site with consolidation, parts of the stuff may come from various other sites which may or may not be owned by you.