Thursday, April 15, 2010

So You Want a Website

Here's a question I get asked fairly often:
I want to make a simple website as a place to put PDF files, web links, etc. What's the easiest tool to use as the builder - and most reliable and cheapest?

It just popped into my email inbox again this afternoon. The teacher who asked has been replied to personally, but I thought it was a good question and one worth responding to in "public" as well.

So, here's what I had to say (more or less).
There are lots of options out there, but for ease of use and lowest cost (= FREE) I would go with either Google Sites ( or a wiki site with PBWorks ( One major benefit of Google is that you can sign in using an existing Google account if you use Google docs or Gmail already. So, there’s nothing to sign up for, you can just start building. Also, Google’s “themes” can make your site look really cool with almost no effort. PBWorks is much more utilitarian-looking, especially with the free account.

The major benefit of PBWorks is that you have better control over any other users that you invite to collaborate with you, including giving students access to “write” on the site even if they don’t have email accounts, which is pretty slick. It also has more plug-ins like calendars and easy ways to add video and that kind of thing. And on a larger site, I think the navigation and organization can be better and more complex.

They’re both quite easy to use and have nice, clean interfaces that are fairly intuitive. PBWorks is probably more powerful, but of course that also means there is more to learn about (if decide you want to learn about all the interesting features).

As far as reliability, I’d say you’re pretty safe in either case. PBWorks has been around quite a few years now, and has many business clients and seems to be making constant improvements and upgrades, which I take as a sign of business health. And I doubt Google’s going to go under anytime soon either!
After sending this reply, it occurred to me to also recommend Yola (, which is a free website building service. It's aimed at small businesses, but I know a couple of adult learning centers which also use Yola sites. Yola is less wiki-like than Google sites or PBWorks, so it's less about collaboration and sharing, and more about just building an attractive website.

Have you made a simple website for yourself or your students? What tool(s) did you use? Send us some recommendations!


Laura said...

Thanks for the recommendation, we really appreciate it!

Yola Support

Chris said...

I'll echo Laura's thanks--glad you like PBworks. Teachers should check out educator resources here: