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42. Monitor visits with website guestbook

By Mark Alberstat

Personal websites are common on the Internet today. These sites contain everything from favourite family recipes to pictures your Aunt Ida took on her trip to the Lizzie Borden B&B and gift shop.

These websites can be a real slice of life for those who take the time to visit them.

But the people creating them are often interested in who visits them, where the visitors are from, how they stumbled across their humble, or not so humble, site and any thoughts they might have on the site's content.

One of the most popular ways of getting this kind of information from your visitors is through a guest book. A wide range of guest books is available with a variety of options, features and ease of use for both the website owner and visitor signing in.

Guest books are small programs that either run on your website or run remotely but display on your site, and they feature various options that you establish. Often these programs are called scripts and can be written in a few different programming languages.

The Internet offers several script archives, some better than others. Some are strong in some areas of programming, others have different strengths.

There are sites that have dozens, if not hundreds, of scripts that you can download. Some scripts are free, some are not. But all can add to your website's ability to attract visitors and can also add some interactivity.

One caveat is that not all website-hosting companies will allow you to run scripts on their computer because of virus and security concerns. It would be best to find out if you can have a script before going through the customization troubles.

One of the most popular guest book scripts, and a freebie too, is HTML Gear's version. HTML Gear is there to host your site (through the Lycos network). The guest book is customizable, has privacy and screening features, and if what they claim is true, you don't have to be an HTML wizard to install and use it.

But you do have to join Lycos, either as a free ad-supported member or through one of the various paid-membership options.

If you would prefer to download a script, try out Matt's Script Archive. The scripts have good installation and configuration instructions and are relatively easy to use if you have some basic HTML and Perl knowledge. The compressed size of the script is small, only 8.3kb, and worth downloading if for no other reason than to see how this programmer tackled the task of a guest book.

One of the most interesting guest book-type programs on the web is Bravenet's Guestmap service. This program allows visitors to add a pin to a world map, or other pre-selected map, to show where they are from. The pins also give a bit of info on the visitor if so desired.

Bravenet also has a traditional guest book that is not only fairly customizable but also can play background music for your visitors to listen to while they read over other visitors' comments.

Whether you are interested in learning where your visitors are from or what they have to say about your site, or whether you just want to have a bit of discussion with others, a website's guest book is an ideal way to accomplish these goals.

With the pre-written scripts found on the Internet today, it couldn't be easier to implement a guest book.

Some useful guest book links:

HTML Gear:

Matt's Script Archive:


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Originally published 5 September 2004


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