Simple Web site in a dozen clicks

I think I've discovered the easiest do-it-yourself Web pages on the Net: Ventura Communications Internet's TreeWay (http://www.treeway.com), which walks you through setting up your own site in about two minutes flat. And did I mention that it's free?

TreeWay offers a couple of dozen templates in formats appropriate for displaying photos, posting a FAQ, or espousing your opinion on whatever moves you. Predesigned themes set the look of your site -- background colours, headings, buttons and so on -- in choices ranging from computers or outer space to chess boards or roadsters. TreeWay provides stock photos of people, animals and other common images, and you can upload your own photos and images.

For the basic eight-page TreeWay site, the only personal information Ventura requests is your e-mail address. You can upgrade to a 25-page site, which is also free; registration for the upgrade requires a street address. The company doesn't ask any nosy questions about your age, income or spending habits.

Ad-Free advantage

Another plus: though Ventura shows you advertising while you design your pages, their ads do not show up on your published site when others visit.

You can also opt to promote your site when you publish it by having Ventura send e-mail announcements to anyone whose e-mail address you're willing to surrender.

What's the downside? In the trade-off between simplicity and flexibility, many users will find that TreeWay leans too far toward simplicity. The design environment provides no control over text heading levels, background colours and so on, nor any option to customise page layouts.

And unlike Netscape's Site Central or Lycos's Tripod, Ventura hasn't tried to fashion TreeWay into an online community. It has no "neighborhoods," no chat rooms, no surfing suggestions, and not even a directory of other TreeWay members.

But for people with no design background and not much more patience, TreeWay makes Web page creation about as automatic as possible.

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Dan Littman

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