How to Create & Maintain a Website for Free
By John Phillips
Thanks to the development of a range of site-building tools, there are a myriad of straightforward ways to build and maintain a website for free. We can broadly divide the main methods into two categories: installing and building a site on your own hosting account with a Content Management System (CMS) or taking advantage of the free services of some of the online site-building applications. There are pros and cons attached to both options. It's up to you to weigh them up and decide which method is right for you.
Hosting your Own Site
Find a free hosting company. When choosing a free hosting company, you should consider the storage allowance, the server software (Cpanel is the most popular) and additional features like Fantastico, which allows you to easily install a range of applications. Some free hosts worth considering are 000webhost ($0.00 web host), and Black Apple Host. Both sites use the free service as an inducement to get users to upgrade to premium services.
Register a free .tk domain. Tokelau is a territory of New Zealand in the Pacific that allows anyone to register a .tk URL for free. Obtain your (DNS) Domain Nameserver settings from your hosting account and configure the URL to point to the server.
Choose a CMS and install it on your hosting account. There are a handful of open-source CMS packages, with Joomla and Drupal being among the most popular. Wordpress and Moveable Type are simple to set up, but aren't really suitable for doing anything beyond blogging.
Using a Web Application
Understand how Web apps work. A Web app is a browser-based interface hosted by the company that's built it. There is often a drag-and-drop interface that allows you to create your web page without any knowledge of HTML or programming. Compared to installing a CMS, a Web app is generally easier to use, but a CMS might offer more flexibility.
Choose an app that fits your requirements, such as Wix or Weebly. Wix is a site-building app that lets you build Flash websites, even if you've never used Flash before. There is a library of dozens of freely available, professionally designed templates categorized by function. Weebly has been around since 2006, and has over 3 million users according to its website. Like Wix, it also has a drag-and-drop platform, with the additional advantage that you can use your own URL without extra charge.
Set up and configure your site, and be prepared for a learning curve. It might be tempting to get carried away with all the cool features these apps offer, but it's much smarter to only add as much functionality as you need, so read up on the subject of usability before you get started.
John Phillips is full-time editor at a leading English newspaper in Asia and has been writing since 2007. He has contributed to eHow on a variety of topics, mostly related to the Internet and web development. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in politics from Loughborough University and is certified as a subeditor by the UK's National Council for the Training of Journalists.