Building a Web Site - New Technology is Changing The Game

pc fix[Aurthor's Note: I wrote this article several years ago for another website.  The information is still accurate.  "Doug In The Woods" wrote to my Clever4Hire email address asking for some guidance, so this seemed like a useful reference to republish.]

Having your own web site used to be a daunting task, beyond the reach of casual users. Expensive hardware and software or costly hosting services were required to get a web site on line. Design of a web page required complicated software and an extensive knowledge of HTML to design nice looking pages.

I'm happy to report that recent technology has changed this situation so that nearly anyone can afford to have a nice looking web site! You might be surprised to learn that the total cost to have your own web page is only about $10/year! And no costly software is required to create the pages for the site.

Domain registration, hosting, page creation software? How can the web site cost only $10/year?

Web Hosting

The $10/year expense is for Domain Name Registration. This is the feature that lets you type digital-diy.com rather than typing something like 72.14.207.121, which is kind of difficult to remember.  Google uses Go Daddy for domain registration.  Other registrars can be used, but it's more complicated to link the website to the address.

Google recently began offering hosting services, hosting services, for free. That's right, at no charge. Maybe they decided that since they're going to keep a copy of every web page anyway, providing hosting would make it easier for them. This eliminates one of the big expenses incurred in having a web site. There are some limitations to this service, such as limited bandwidth. Most web site will never have a problem with this, but if your web site is offering raunchy videos of Paris Hilton, you might exceed this (unpublished) limit.

Creating Pages

Creating your web pages is the next difficulty to overcome. You can use a program like Microsoft's Front Page or Adobe's Page Mill with a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interface, or for the hardcore, hand-code HTML using a text editor to create your pages, then up-load the page to your site using FTP (file transfer protocol), check to see what the page actually looks like, and repeat the process to get pages on your site. In addition to mastering several software packages and file transfer protocols, you also have to test your completed pages in different browsers as they all have a unique way of dealing with some bits of HTML code.

The alternative with Google's hosted page is to use Google's on-line Page Creator. You're limited to about 40 themes in 3 different arrangements, but the result is clean, sharp web pages. It is possible to override the standard pages if you simply must have something else, but the standard templates will serve most applications nicely. You can quickly add your text and upload the graphics you like and simply click VIEW to see how the page will look on-line and click PUBLISH to make it available on the web. Later, you can edit the page from any computer with no need to download and upload files or to have any special software. The Google software even makes low-resolution thumbnails of your graphics so you don't need to worry about upload graphics in several sizes. By the way, Google has taken care of those differences in how browsers display some HTML code. They optimize your page on the fly for whatever browser is being used.

Other Software

Photos often require some manipulation before being put on the web. Photos may need cropping to eliminate extraneous information and to focus on the desired elements. Adobe Photoshop is the premier application for manipulating photos, but it's quite costly and is overkill for routine photo editing tasks. I use a program called InfranView, which lets me crop pictures, change resolution and adjust brightness and color parameters. The cost? Free.

Web pages often include information to be published. The de facto standard for information to be published is Adobe Acrobat, which makes "pdf" files. Adobe Acrobat reader is free program that nearly every computer has installed, but the full version of Adobe Acrobat is required to create Acrobat files, a program costing several hundred dollars.

Fortunately, some excellent alternatives are available at the right price. All pdf writer programs are not created equal and some produce huge files that don't properly show the original file. For creating pdf files, I use a program called PrimoPDF. It installs as a printer. When I want to create a pdf file, say from a Word document, I just click print, select Primp as the printer and hit the print button. Couldn't be much easier.

You may want to extract a page from a large pdf file, change the order of pages or even combine pages from several pdf files into a single file. The full version of Adobe Acrobat is required to do this type of manipulation, but again, there is a free version that works well. PDFill PDF Tools to the rescue. It lacks a fancy graphical interface but it does the job.

Summary

Creating your own web page is an easy and cheap process.  Google —imposes some limitations on their free sites but for many applications, the limitations will have minimum impact.


Posted: 5 years 5 months ago by Jon Chandler #10409
Jon Chandler's Avatar
I received this email at my Clever4Hire address.
Doug in the woods wrote]

I'm not sure if MrDEB was trying to hide out but at any rate it made a good reason to republish this article which some people may find useful.
Posted: 5 years 5 months ago by Graham Mitchell #10408
Graham Mitchell's Avatar
Ohh how I miss the days of $10/mth on the shared server; the monthly cost of DD is now over US$100/mth for a private server (we stepped out of the budget shared servers last year). Sure it's not the fastest private server, but considering the site is revenue free..!

All that said, it's a great hobby, I honestly enjoy the challenges the site (and you guys) throw at me!

Here's an example of a new website that has been added to the pool of billions:

I recently setup a site for a friend who has shown great initiative for fund-raising. In short, his vision is called "ROPE" Running On PurposE. Each event he selects a marathon to complete and an organisation to fund-raise for. From there he gathers donations and runners to complete the marathon. Of course each runner that takes part has their own group of supporters (which contribute to the 'ROPE' cause). A trusted "in-between" such as EveryDayHero is used to handle the money (so everyone knows that nothing dodgy going on!)

It has been done before, I know. The fact is he has been actively doing this for a few years. I tip my hat to him.

It is the early days for the web-presence venture, and already social media has helped him increase ROPE's exposure. Epilepsy Australia (the selected organisation for the next ROPE month) stumbled onto the site and want to help him anyway they can - media exposure, clothing etc.

The site set him back $30 (domain registration for a few years) and I host the site on this server at no cost. His driving goal is to exceed the previous events' fund-raising efforts. Already ROPE has gone from three or four additional runners to 8 and counting - I've no doubt that when the fund-raising campaign begins that this will be a new record that ROPE can only move forward from!
Posted: 5 years 5 months ago by MrDEB #10412
MrDEB's Avatar
Just looking for advice on server options.
Right now looking at NETFIRMS. I had a site hosted by them 8 years ago and was fairly happy.
Other option is GO DADDY.com but have read opinions about billing issues etc.
Open to any suggestions.
Need to have PAYPAL included so a commerce site?
MrDEB hiding out in the woods of Salmon, Idaho
Posted: 5 years 5 months ago by Jon Chandler #10414
Jon Chandler's Avatar
I realized last night that I should have emphasized that a free site hosted by Google does have many limitations. Among them:

1. You can't run server-side applications that provide many of the awesome features of Digital-DIY.

2. You can't use Java script functions.

3. You're limited pretty much to the layouts offered by Google. There are a lot of options, but you have to stick to their basic schemes.

4. Bandwidth and number of users are limited.

This being said, you can still accomplish a lot. The ThrowAwapPIC pages and the Clever4Hire site are hosted by Google for free and the domain registry is about $10/year.

The online store on the ThowAwayPIC page is done using Google Checkout. No problems at all except that it cant handle international shipping.
Posted: 5 years 5 months ago by Jon Chandler #10415
Jon Chandler's Avatar
Just looking for advice on server options.
Right now looking at NETFIRMS. I had a site hosted by them 8 years ago and was fairly happy.
Other option is GO DADDY.com but have read opinions about billing issues etc.
Open to any suggestions.
Need to have PAYPAL included so a commerce site?
MrDEB hiding out in the woods of Salmon, Idaho

MrDEB, I really get the feeling that you didn't read this article at all. There's not a thing in this post that leads me to believe you did.

I don't know why I continue to waste my time but I hope that others will find the information I presented useful.
Posted: 5 years 5 months ago by MrDEB #10417
MrDEB's Avatar
I read the fine article but this threw me a curve
[Aurthor's Note]
I realize the set up is easier than it was say 10 years ago.
Looking into GOOGLE but keep thinking " you get what you pay for"
Your site appears to be pretty good but any issues that you have incurred?
Got to be a reason WHY some charge $10-$40 per month while your site is FREE except for domain name?
Posted: 5 years 5 months ago by Jon Chandler #10420
Jon Chandler's Avatar
I think I've outlined the limitations pretty clearly.

If you need the features Google Site don't provide, then you have to pay somebody to host it or provide your own servers and etc.

You asked. I answered on how I do it. You want to know something else, ask somebody who knows and cares.
Posted: 5 years 5 months ago by funlw65 #10614
funlw65's Avatar
You changed the theme of the site... I liked much the previous one - can we have it?

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