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General Guide To Personal and Societies Web Space at Oxford

Once you have decided to build a web site you need to start planning. You will need to consider what you want to achieve with the site, how it will look and work and how it will be maintained after it has been published. The following information is intended as a general guide to help you set up a web site on the personal pages web server. Guidelines for virtual hosts are also available.

1. Web User Guidelines

Detailed information regarding the Internet policy of Oxford University should be followed by all users of our services. Users should be aware that any information published electronically is subject to the same laws as hard copy publications. Under certain circumstances additional legislation may also apply. A code drawing this to the attention of all members of the University is necessary to avoid unintentional breaches of the rules and to allow the University to act when necessary. Full details of the Information Provider Guidelines For Oxford are available.

2. Web Space & Addresses

IT Services provides registered Nexus users with an allocation of additional web space with their email accounts.  This free space can be used to house your web site. Each space has an address or 'URL' (Universal Resource Locator) associated with it so that the pages stored on the server can be accessed over the Internet.

Users wishing to publish personal web pages must first activate their Linux and Web Space Accounts. This is an easy and quick process! Both accounts are part of your Oxford Account used to access Nexus and WebLearn.

2.1. Activating Your Web Space Account

To activate your web space go to where you will see the following web page:


Activating your web space
Figure 1. Activating your web space

Just click on the Activate button to set up your web space. Once done you will then see details of your web space account:


Users web space information screen
Figure 2. Users web space information screen

Your filestore on the web server has a set quota of 100 megabytes.

The web space account page also lets you add your name to an index of personal web sites. You can also set up site statistics through this page which will show you how many visitors have viewed your site on a weekly basis.

2.2. Activating your Linux Account

In order to use your activated web space you also need to quickly activate your Linux account via the registration page at:

Linux Account Activation Screen
Figure 3. Linux Account Activation Screen

Click on the Activate Shell Account button. The account will now be active and you will see the following screen:

Linux Account Activated Screen
Figure 4. Linux Account Activated Screen

You can change the type of login shell you use from the dropdown box, but for most users the default option is fine.

Please note: If you are working on, you will be able to see your web space within 15 minutes of its activation. After this time it can be reached via Secure FTP.

2.3. More About Your Web Space

All personal web pages at Oxford University have URLs of the form: where username is replaced by your own Oxford Single Sign-On (SSO) username. N.B. the `~' is critical in the URL.

So if your SSO username is merlin, the URL to your personal Web directory is

The directory in your filestore which corresponds to the URL is called public_html; this where the files which you want to publish should go. This is where your URL points to.

You should make a HTML file called index.html which people will see as your Welcome (or home page) document when accessing your site. This file should be put in the public_html directory. If index.html does not exist, the server will return a document listing all the files in the directory. Since this is not desirable, you should always make sure there is an index.html file in your public_html directory, even if it just contains a link to somewhere else.

Web pages can be prepared in a text editor, word processing package or html editor. IT Services runs a variety of web publishing courses that will help you make the best of your site.

N.B. There is another directory called cgi/bin. This folder should be used if you want to develop safe perl programs, see User-written CGI programs for more information.

WARNING:  Please see note that any files you save in your personal webspace is available to the public.  So, do not use this space for keeping data you wish to keep private.

3. Transferring Files to Your Web Space.

In order for your web site to be visible to the world, you need to publish it on a web server.

The default structure of your web space or file store has two directories:

  • public_html
  • cgi

The directory in your file store which corresponds to your URL, is called public_html and this is where the files you want to publish should go. The second directory (cgi) is used for safe perl programs (see safe CGI programs for more information). If you are using the GNU/Linux service and have just activated this for the first time you will already have links to your public_html and cgi folders. However, if your account was activated prior to Autumn 2008, you will need to use the command makeweblinks to set up local links to the standard public_html and cgi folders (the Secure File Transfer Client Guides section contains information about how to use the makeweblinks command in different programs).

The public_html folder is where your web site files should be stored. The home page of your web site should be called index.html and this should be placed in the public_html directory. If you do not have this file in your folder, the server will return a list of all the files in that directory. This is not desirable. Further directories can be made under the public_html folder to reflect your site structure.

The preferred method to transfer your HTML documents to the web server using Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP/SCP). The older File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is currently allowed, but we encourage users to switch to using Secure File Transfer Protocol Clients instead.

Please see the Secure File Transfer Guide for full details and client guides on how to use SFTP to transfer your files to your web space.

In brief:

The first time that you want to access your web space you need to:

  • Activate your Linux Account (part of your SSO Oxford Account) by visiting and choose Activate Shell Account
  • Activate your Web Space by visiting and choose Activate Web Space. You should be able to see your web space within 15 minutes of its activation.
  • You then need to follow the connection instructions below to access your linux account. Then:
    • If you are activating a brand new account links to your web folders will be created automatically.
    • If you are activating an older account, then you must use the makeweblinks command before you can see the folders (the Secure File Transfer Client Guides section contains information about how to use the makeweblinks command in different programs).
  • After links have been created navigate to your web space folder (public_html) by clicking on the folder name..

N.B. Only when you have activated both accounts is your web space fully accessible to you.

Each time you want to access your web space you will need to:

  1. Open your preferred SFTP program
  2. Fill in your connection details as follows:
    1. Host Name:
    2. Port: 22
    3. Username: Your Oxford Account Username e.g.oucs1234
    4. Password: Your Oxford Account password
  3. You will now see your account space. Inside this are your cgi and public_html folders. Click public_html to view your web site
  4. You can now transfer files to and from your web site using your SFTP client.

Note: Users uploading files using clients that do not follow symlinks can determine the full path to their webspace by SSH'ing into and using the realpath command:

$ realpath ~/public_html

4. Checking and Advertising Your Site

Once you have set up your Web pages, there are some things to you should do:

Check your HTML
Check your pages using a general HTML validator (like that at W3C:
Check Your CSS
If your site uses CSS (recommended) you should check it using the W3C CSS validator.
Check Site Accessibility
Check for page accessibility by using an online checker such as WAVE: University sites must follow the University's Accessibility Standard Rules.
Get Listed on the Personal Pages Index
You can add your site to the list of Personal Pages by logging into Personal Web Pages. On this page you will see a sentence saying: ‘Include "Your Name" in personal pages index’. Click the Yes radio button followed by the Save Changes button to complete the process.
Set Up Access Statistics
Get access statistics by logging in to Personal Web Pages, On the opening page you will see Web Counts and a drop down box. Select [Yes] and press the Save Changes button. You will receive an email once a week with details of the number of visitors your site has received. If you do not want to receive this information any more, return to the Personal Web Pages site and select [No] from the list and save.
Search Engine Submission
Submit your site to the top search engines. Each search engine has its own submission pages where you can tell them about your site. Once you have submitted the URL of your site, the search engine spider will visit and index your site. There are many factors that influence where your site comes in search results. The more accessible and correctly coded your site is, the more likely the site will appear higher up in the rankings. See for some tips about internet search engines and search engine submission.


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Written by IT Services. Latest revision 26 November 2019