Saturday, December 5, 2009

Website Creation - Free Tools to get your Overland Trip online

Do you need a website for an overland trip?  What are the benefits that a website and online media offer to the overlander?

In this blog, I outline my thoughts on the matter of creating a website, social media (facebook & Twitter),digital media (video & audio) and concepts like Geotagging and RSS.  In essence, the tools that will enable you to create your expedition website whilst keeping your financial costs low.



First up - websites...

There are a number of benefits of logging your trip via a website.  First up is the most important aspect - A website provides a journal of your trip.  Memories fade, but through a website (or diary) those memories are kept alive.  

A second element of the website is to tell your story.  There are many people that will never have the opportunity to do an overland trip but through the web, they will be given the opportunity to live, breath and experience your trip.

A third element of the website is to pass on travel information.  GPS waypoints, route information, bushcamps and even the local Visa cashpoint.  Prior to the internet, the traveller grapevine was an establish network for trading information.  Today, the internet enables this via website information or internet forums (chatrooms).

Creating the website:
Historically creating a website required knowledge of web technologies.  Today, however, things are slightly different. The average person does not need to understand web HTML coding.  Below are listed a few key elements to creating a website.  A few elements of the website are not included in this blog - namely, the design and graphics of the site ; self hosting & domain registration.



Website Features

Domain Names
Registering a domain name is a way of naming your trip. Although it is fantastic to have a personalised trip name (like BigSky Adventures), its not essential to hosting a website.

The following free services do not relay on a domain name but do allow for personalisation.


Blogs
In my opinion this is the easiest way of setting up your website.  A blog, in its simplest form, is an online journal.


Blogger
Powered by Google, this site offers quick and easy setup plus integrates into your Google account. Updates to the blog is easy - either edit online, or send an email to your account.



Wordpress

Preferred by guru bloggers, this site offers heaps of themes, addons and various different modifications.


Photos
Key to all sites is the graphic element.  Photos bring life to any site.  Two key websites offer full photo hosting and photo editing.





Picasa
Picasa is a software download from Google that helps you organize, edit, and share your photos. It's free, and easy to use. The software, which runs on Linux & Windows, integrates with your Google account to upload photos to the web.


Flickr
Flickr is an online photo management and sharing application. It integrates with your Yahoo account to upload and manage photos. 


Video
Digital media adds a new level of interaction.  Viewers can see and experience what your trip is all about.  Editing video is getting easier.  Both Windows and Apple operating systems offer free movie editing software.  The downside of digital media is the size of the data which needs to be uploaded to the web.  Internet bandwidth in Africa is limited so patience is required when uploading a video or audio podcast.


YouTube
Share you videos.
YouTube integrates into your Google Account for easy management and is a good way of sharing your experiences.




Vimeo
A search describes Vimeo as:

Vimeo is a respectful community of creative people who are passionate about sharing the videos they make. We provide the best tools and highest quality ...

Podcasts
This is a new concept - and todate, only one website has actively made it a theme of their trip.  'Listen to Africa' create podcasts almost daily about their trip. Publishing a Podcast can be automated through the Google Feedburner service.


Social media
Hosting a website is one thing - getting it known is the next bit.  At this point, we introduce Social Media.  Scary but pretty simple - register, invite your friends and update your status.  In other words, tell the world what you are up to!


Facebook
One of the busiest sites which attract millions of users.  Create a user account, form a group based on your trip and attract additional followers.


Twitter
A new concept of publishing status updates.  Limited to 140characters this makes it ideal to provide quick status updates via a mobile phone.  Below is an example:





Additional Tools

Geotagging
Wikipedia describes Geotagging as follows:

Geotagging is the process of adding geographical identification metadata to various media such as photographs, video, websites, or RSS feeds and is a form of geospatial metadata. These data usually consist of latitude and longitude coordinates, though they can also include altitude, bearing, accuracy data, and place names.
In layman's terms - additional GPS data will be added to your video or photograph.  This data will then be linked into Google Maps (or Google Earth) for users to see exactly where the photo was taken.  Creating the metadata can be fairly complex with older cameras however there are a number of new video and photo cameras that integrate a GPS.  These cameras will automatically metatag your photo with the relevant infomation.



 RSS
Create, Publish and Distribute.
This enables users to automatically be kept updated with all your website and photo updates.  All the above mentioned website features offer RSS feeds of your data.  Overland Live is a website based on RSS feeds and is a quick way of displaying forum, photo, and text content.





Webmaster Tools
There are a number of tools available from the likes of Google and Microsoft Bing.  These tools allow you to index your site and to gather statistics on site visits.

That's about all you need to get your website up and running.

In summary, follow these steps:

  1. Create a Blog account (Blogger or Wordpress)
  2. Edit title, layout and colour scheme to meet your requirements
  3. Register a Photo-hosting account (Picasa or Flickr)
  4. Register with YouTube or Vimeo for easy video hosting
  5. Opt to use Facebook or Twitter to expand your audience
  6. And Finally : Register your site with The Africa Overland Network