Let’s get one thing straight since some people seem to be harping on the whole idea of a free website… There’s no such thing as completely free for anything, but there are free content management systems you can use for free. Meaning, instead of having to pay someone to create your website for you on your own domain, you can download and use an open source CMS such as WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal for free.
Now, this comes up a lot, and quite frankly it’s a bit ridiculous. People wanting to have a nice website and it cost them nothing, is like someone wanting to live in their house without paying taxes! Eventually, somewhere, there is a cost unless you want to live in a cardboard box!
Let’s do a quick recap as an analogy just like living in your house…
To have a website on your own domain you need three things:
- A registered domain name (cost: $10/yr) – YOUR LAND
- A web hosting account to host your site (cost: $3.95/mo) – YOUR UTILITIES
- Website files or CMS to publish your pages (cost: FREE) – YOUR HOUSE
Just like your home, if you don’t pay your taxes annually, they take your house. Same with your domain name… If you don’t pay your annual registration fee (tax essentially to ICANN, the governing organization of domain registrations) you lose your privilege to use it. Okay, easy peasy… so we have to pay $10 bucks a year, no big deal!
Now your web hosting account, is much like your utilities. In the same way your house would be useless for anything other than shelter without utilities, is the same way you can’t have a functional website without a web hosting account. Your hosting account is what serves your website files to the world, and is usually held in a large data-center somewhere that has high speed access 24/7 for faster connection speeds from around the world.
The third component, is your house… The actual structure you reside in. It has many functions, both aesthetic and mechanical, and your website is exactly the same way. Now this part, you can get for free if you’d like, instead of paying someone to create a website from scratch for you. The main difference between a CMS and using website templates, is about the difference between a track home and a custom house. There’s only so much you can customize, but the price is much much lower (free in this case).
How Do You Set Up Your Website After You Have Your Domain Name
So how does this work then? It’s easy… you register your domain, setup your web hosting account, and publish your website with one of the free open source CMS platforms I mentioned above. I have tons of tutorials that walk you through step by step on how to do that for free as well in the How To Section.
If you’re just starting out, and this is going to be your very first website, I recommend following one tutorial to a T start to finish… That way you don’t get frustrated and quit, and you’ll be proud of yourself when you get done!
But Matt, So And So Said I Could Create A Website For Free On Such And Such A Platform… Should I Build It There Instead?
Well the biggest problem here is what you plan to do with this website in the future. if you have big plans for your idea, or you think that it might evolve into something else that becomes an e-commerce store, a Blog, any type of dynamic website in your final rendition, then you’re sort of setting yourself up for a lot of frustration using a free website builder that’s set in stone.
What I mean by that is, if you were to go with a free account on say Blogger.com, WordPress.com, or a free sub domain (matts-website.wix.com for example) on a Wix.com website builder, it might work okay for a little while for getting your feet wet. But the fact of the matter is, once you realize the limitations of those platforms, or you decide that you want to add an e-commerce store to your website to list your products, or even simple things like adding certain types of Amazon advertisements, could turn out to be restricted if you’re not in full control of your website files / hosting account. It’s better to know that up front rather than waste time building a site on a particular platform, and find out later it won’t let you do what you want to anyway!
The learning curve to develop your first website as a beginner on a self hosted WordPress installation, isn’t much steeper than learning how to use one of the drag and drop website builders like I mentioned earlier like web.com, wix.com, etc… The difference is you will own your domain name, you’ll have full control of your web hosting account, and then you can customize any aspect that you choose later on, without any limitations. With as much open source development that goes on with free WordPress plugins and themes, the design and customization options you have at your fingertips is pretty much endless. (btw, I use self hosted WordPress here on CleverLeverage.com as well, so it’s good for beginners and veterans alike)
But What About Starting A Free Website On One Of Those Free Website Hosts?
If you read some of my other articles, you’ll also see that I’m very against starting a blog on a sub domain of a free blog host, simply because they can terminate your account at any time for any reason of their choosing. Now that might be okay for some, but I don’t want to put work into something that can be deleted overnight without any say on my part, and I wouldn’t want you to either.
So my recommendation for new website builders, is to just get started off on the right foot from the get go. If you haven’t registered go domain name yet, I recommend you register it through Bluehost, simply because they will set up your name servers and DNS entries automatically, so you won’t have to worry about pointing your domain name at your web hosting account to get it to work. That’s not a big deal if you have a little bit of experience, but if you’re new and don’t have any hosting admin experience it can be a lifesaver, and also save you from wanting to throw the computer out the window.
How do I know all of this? Well about eight years ago I bought into some bullshit online website builder called, Site Build It. It costs $300 a year just for the domain name and website builder access, and that didn’t even include anyone doing anything for me. Now do I regret that and think it was a ripoff? Not really, if it wasn’t for Site Build It I would have never gotten my start online and that’s how you learn right? But you don’t have to follow the same frustrating path pulling your hair out trying to get it to work like I did. If you follow these simple steps, you’ll be up and running with your new website online in less than an hour, with no computer experience necessary. If you have any questions comment below and I will help you out.