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Websisters from Oz!
Award-winning sisters provide free Internet space for kids.
By Alicia M. Thomas

This month, Kidspeak interviewed Emily (18), Sarah (16), and Elise (12), an Australian sister set that destroys the image of your typical Webmaster. This team has been involved in Web authoring for the past four years, and recently won the Youth Award at the Australian Internet Awards. Their foray in competitive Web authoring had come in previous years, when Emily won the Youth Award for her Brielle Online site, the Internet presence of the rising Aussie country music star. That same year, younger sister Elise was a finalist with Emily for their Rugrats site, which has received almost half a million hits to date!
Three sisters: Emily, Sarah, and Elise
"We each do the things that we’re best at. We now share the maintenance of the site."

The team won their recent prize for MatMice, one of their more recent Web creations. Sarah, Elise, and Emily explained the site to us: " MatMice gives kids the chance to make their own free home page on the Web. By visiting the Web site, kids can create their own home page by choosing colors, entering text, and adding pictures with the easy-to-use online home page builder. Kids can also learn to write HTML to add extra features to their page (the site includes an HTML tutorial for beginners). To date, over 11,000 kids have used MatMice to make their mark on the Web."


The girls decided to make MatMice after many visitors to the Rugrats site asked how to make their own home pages. Emily and Elise teamed up with Sarah, who provided graphic design and photography, to create MatMice "to provide free home pages to all the kids out there who want to make their mark on the Web."

The site’s professionalism is impressive, from the clean design to the intuitive navigation. Parents and teachers will like the section for grownups; kids will benefit from the HTML tutorial, privacy policy, and Internet safety tips -- in addition to the free home page of course. Kids will also love the home page of the week and the MatMice Chart, which lists the 10 most popular MatMice pages.
Currently, MatMice users are between ages 8 and 14 years old.

Although they have all taken basic computer studies in school, Sarah, Elise, and Emily taught themselves most of what they used to create MatMice, from code to design. "Emily wrote all the code that makes the site work. We also used Adobe PhotoShop for the graphics," they said, The girls didn’t find it very difficult, but it was a complex process. They mentioned, "It took eight months for Emily to write the code for the home page builder and the site."


"We hope that people will understand how to create Web pages and learn from our site, then go on to create better things."

Each sister has a stake in the running of the site. The ladies said, "Emily does the programming, Sarah and Elise work on the graphics, and Sarah also takes photographs which kids can use on their home pages We each do the things that we’re best at. We now share the maintenance of the site."
These young Web architects hope that their site will help other kids learn how to design and write for the Web world. Aside from their basic HTML tutorial online, they have these tips for aspiring Webmasters: "Take a look at the Web sites that you like, and think about what things make those sites cool. Then when you’re making your Web page, try and use some of those things in your own creation." They add that kids shouldn’t be shy about using technologies that are new to them: "Just experiment! Look at how other people do things and learn from them."


As with many rewarding undertakings, this one requires dedication. The sisters advised, "Be prepared for a lot of hard work! It took months and months to create our site." Such perseverance has obviously paid off. Emily has her own Web design business; Sarah has professional photography aspirations; and Elise plans to use computers when she gets out of school. They said, "We think that technology will play a large role in our futures. We all want to use computers in our jobs, and we think that technology will also become more important in everyday life."

Just as Elise, Sarah, and Emily plan to take the lessons they’ve learned as young designers and apply them to their future lives, they also hope the kids who visit their sites will be inspired to do the same. They said, "We hope that people will understand how to create Web pages and learn from our site, then go on to create better things."



Interested in MatMice? Visit these sites!


The MatMice HTML Tutorial teaches basic HTML for young Web designers.
Want to sign up with MatMice?

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Students interviewed for KidSpeak are nominated by teachers. Send nominations to the editor.

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