Creating a website has never been easier. So what are you waiting for?

I have to confess I have become a bit of a website voyeur. It's addictive... truly Big Brotherish
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The Independent Online

I've long since become used to my friends and family solemnly promising to do a website, but inevitably giving up halfway through the proceedings. It's either a problem with uploading images, or their FTP doesn't work, or their internet service provider's gone bust, taking their personal websites with them. Some unlucky people have even managed to put their websites live, only to discover that their domain names registrar forgot to advise them that the domain has expired and someone else has snapped it up.

I've long since become used to my friends and family solemnly promising to do a website, but inevitably giving up halfway through the proceedings. It's either a problem with uploading images, or their FTP doesn't work, or their internet service provider's gone bust, taking their personal websites with them. Some unlucky people have even managed to put their websites live, only to discover that their domain names registrar forgot to advise them that the domain has expired and someone else has snapped it up.

The digital world must be full of half-finished websites, with cyberspace being a graveyard for all those well-meant expressions of individuality fallen victim to vagaries of the FTP process or problems with incompetent ISPs.

However, over the last few months some of those website dreams have actually turned out to be real. I've been getting at least four or five e-mails a week with URLs and the warm recommendation, "hey, have a look at my new website". These are not just from Web designers, who as a matter of professional pride have their own website (usually chock-a-block with Flash and which take a day to download).

These e-mails are coming from seemingly busy people who have movies to see, books to read and careers to look after, but still find time to cook up a website. I have to confess that I have become a bit of a voyeur, bookmarking those bits of personal space in the big bad digital world. It is completely addictive and in some cases truly Big Brother-ish.

Currently, I am following the developments of one of my CD designer friends who has moved to Tokyo, met a Swedish model, moved in with her and constantly gets into trouble trying to keep up with the demanding drinking hours that Tokyoites pursue.

Gripping stuff, as he got fired at least three times over the last few weeks, so my money is on him getting married to the Swedish model and becoming a house husband.

Another friend I'm following has been setting up a clothing label, with all the accompanying trials and tribulations of a young fashion start-up. As he is based in California, it would be tricky to keep in touch so closely, but reading his diaries online has been great fun.

I have also managed to keep an eye on my little niece thanks to her personal webcam on her homepage. My sister's website covers the progress of her house building adventures, and despite the fact that she has terrible architectural taste, I have really enjoyed seeing her house coming along thanks to the little thumbnails she has been posting daily.

Personal websites seem to have their origins in diaries, which in the old days were very private and hidden from public view. Websites, although every bit as personal, are easily made available to a wider audience. This wider availability has not (thank God) prohibited people from continuing their intimate, one-to-one tone of voice on their sites.

So why have personal websites suddenly started to blossom? A lot of credit goes to one company, moonfruit.com, which has made the whole process a relatively painless one.

Moonfruit, a recent winner of a Bafta Interactive award for "Doing Useful Things On the Web", provides a Flash-based set of tools to allow you to concoct a relatively sophisticated website in under three hours. You can upload pictures easily, set up a discussion group, a calendar of your own events and passwords to allow access only to your friends and family.

I have played with it a lot, as there are numerous tools out there but so far all of them were falling short of being an "under three hours" solution.

Moonfruit is the first platform that is really fun and easy to use. Although Mac users might want to argue in favour of Apple's clever iTools feature.

With Moonfruit, you can express your personality by the colour of your background, muck about with navigation and generally be as creative as you feel. My only gripe is that putting more than one image on a page seems to be something of a challenge, which can be resolved only after studying the manual for half an hour.

Otherwise, Moonfruit clearly understands the requirement of the nation of diarists and passionate footie fans, and provides community, as well as family photo album tools that will delight the most fussy of Web authors.

It seems that people who dabble with personal websites suddenly develop a closer contact with their family or circle of friends. Although I suspect there is a high correlation between people who take lots of photographs and people who make their own websites, having a site forces you more to take pictures to document what is going on in your life. You have this fantastic audience and you want to keep them entertained with fresh material.

I never realised that most people have fairly engaging lives, with lots of things happening, new characters coming and going, and generally being more watchable than the television sitcom, Ally McBeal.

That's the mystery of the personal narrative -- life can create plots worthy of Coronation Street episodes, and as long as you document it, those conflicts, tensions and events will entertain your close circle for many years to come.

It doesn't have to be a web documentary of your trek to the Himalayas. One of the friends whose site I follow is learning to program games, and has been posting his little baby games online for others to keep track of his progress. Small stuff, but great fun, and he even got a job with a games company that found him by coming across his websites accidentally.

So if you want to get a great job, go to Moonfruit, build a website displaying a sample of your talents and wait for that phone to ring with offers you will not be able to refuse.

Meanwhile, get on with telling your website story to all of your friends and family. I can promise you they will love it.

eva@never.com

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