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Creating a Low Cost Web Site

Are you responsible for creating a web site, and you're looking for free or low cost solutions. If you don't want to become an expert at managing web hosting or building a website (which requires knowledge of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc.) then Google Sites might be a good solution for you.  Google Sites makes it easy to build simple web sites that host static pages (e.g. web pages that are not dynamically built).

Note: I will forewarn you the Google Site option has several limitations, if you need to do more then host static HTML pages that don't require a great deal of customization then you will have to find another solution.

To get started, there a few things that you need:
  • Create a Google account specifically for the web site.
    • It should be different from your personal account just in case you need to share it with other (such as a developer).
  • Go to Google Sites to create a web site (free).
  • Go to Go Daddy and find and buy a domain name.
  • Apply the domain name to your website on Google Sites (more information).
If you need host a more sophisticated site (e.g. highly customized or requires the ability to support dynamic content), then you will need to find an web host provider that can support the features that you require. 

For example, below are some basic considerations for selecting an web host provider:
  • OS Platform: Windows or Linux
    • Some features (such as: IIS or Apache) may only be available on a specific platform.  For example, if you need IIS this applications are only available on the Microsoft platform, while Apache are available on both platforms (e.g. Windows or Linux).
  • Database Application: SQL Server, MySQL, etc.
    • Like the OS, the database application (such as: SQL Server vs. MySQL) has its own unique dependencies.  For example, SQL Server is only available on Windows, while MySQL is available on both platforms (e.g. Windows or Linux).
  • Programming Language: ASP.NET, PHP, etc.
    • Also like the OS and database, programming languages have their own unique dependencies.   For example, ASP.NET is only available on Windows, but PHP  is available on both platforms (e.g. Windows or Linux).
  • Storage and Bandwidth
    • Depending on what type of web site you're designing, you need to take in to consideration the amount of storage and bandwidth that can potentially be used by your site.  For example, if you're going to dealing with a lot of data that needs to be stored or you believe that you will have a lot of traffic, make sure that you understand the limitations of your web hosting plan to make sure offers you the options that you need.  Otherwise you might get a usage bill that you might not be expecting if all of sudden you get a lot of traffic.
  • Other considerations
    • Hosting costs: The cost of your web hosting plan for the features that your website needs.
    • Web Analytics: Shows how much traffic your web site is getting from site visitors.
    • Backups: Don't assume that your web host provider is backing up your data, make sure its stated in your hosting plan.
    • Email Accounts: Sometimes you may need specialized email accounts for sending and receiving email.
    • Customer Support: When you need help, is there going to be someone available to assist you with your problem?
    • Blog/Content Management: There are several content management solutions available to help manage the content on your site.
    • FTP/Shell Access: FTP is the most common method of uploading files to web hosting provider
    • Geo-redundancy: The website data is stored simultaneously in two or more data centers in separate physical locations.
    • DNS/Domains Management: Allows you to self manage your domain names (e.g. example.com), and create sub-domain names (e.g. ftp.example.com).
  • Free Web Development Software (note: I am not endorsing the software below, just making suggestions on what is available)
    • WYSIWYG HTML Editor: BlueGriffon (PC Magazine: The Best Free Software of 2012)
      • A WYSIWYG HTML editor allows you to create and manage web pages without having to write HTML or CSS code.
    • FTP File Manager: Filezilla
      • An FTP file manager is used for moving files to and from your web hosting provider servers.
    • IDE Editor: Komodo Edit
      • An IDE editor is used for creating/managing web pages created in a programming language (such as: PHP, JavaScript, etc.)

Hiring a Web Site Designer

If you need to hire a web site design company or designer, I would highly recommend that you check their references. I have heard several horror stories over the years about these companies and individuals. From bad service, products, expense, and trying to upsell their customers useless stuff that they don’t need.

Note: there are several professional templates and services that can make setting up your web site pretty quick and easy. The biggest problem you may run into with a company that offers a DIY website builder is that you’re locked into the features that hosting provider has to offer.


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