There are a couple of free options when you are just getting into learning about websites.
I would recommend WORDPRESS as a way to start as its setting up process is pretty simple and it can be added to with FREE plugins to add features to your site.
There are two routes to go down:
- WordPress .com
- Self Hosted WordPress
The first process is simple, but limited.
There are articles on the comparison of the two styles, HERE is one.
I started my first delve into websites using the WordPress.com path but found quite quickly it was too limited, I wanted to do more. I then went to a paid web hosting company to move onto the WordPress.org self hosting method and the Web Hosting company could not transfer my WordPress.com site across. I had also to go through with purchasing a Web Domain. That was confusing too.
My personal learning style is to try something out and see how far I can get and then start asking questions like:
What do I want the website to do?
Why cant I do what website ABCD.org does?
What to I need to learn to make it do that?
etc , etc.
Dive in, try first and then get a feel for the tool I am using. If it doesn’t work, start again after a bit more research.
After a lot of testing I have found some methods of learnig and testing that are free. This gives you the freedom to learn without paying for:
- Web Hosting
- Web CMS (Content Management System (Web programme))
- Domain Names (Usually 10- 15$/yr for general names). An issue with this is that if you have set up a domain that you like the name of you have to pay each year for domain renewal.
The free Web Hosting Service I have come across is AWARDSPACE.COM.
It is FREE. That said, I would use it for a learning site. Set up your content, test it out. Break it, test plugins, then when you start getting more confident you may want to pay for some of their other plans which can be very cheap.
I am not getting anything from them for talking about this site. It is just the journey I took to learning how to build and use websites.
I started with the Free Site, then i went to a 5 Database site that I could run a few web sites from (for $1.99/Yr (only for 1st year, then they up the price)), then I went to a more extensive setup (about 5.99/yr (only for 1st year, then they up the price)). By then my learning was pretty good. It was a very good and inexpensive method to learn how to confidently play with websites.
Web CMS (Content Management System (Web programme))
I am using WordPress as its VERY COMMON. There are free CMS systems such as Joomla & Drupal but they are tough to learn. Start simple and build is my advice.
Get your content up on a web page, then start worrying about style.
The nice thing with WordPress is it has lots of free themes, lots of free plugins and you have the freedom to experiment.
Your site may not be lightning fast, but you will get your content out there and you will be able to display it in the way you want.
The other great thing about WordPress is that there are lots of articles/videos out there on the subject and they will speed you along on your journey. You will end up using a bit of coding to tweek things as there are some very helpful blogs that take you step by step through the process.
Another thing, as you get to learn more about wordpress and plugins you will find easy methods to transfer your site and contents to a different domain.
This was a bit of a bugbear with me. I did not want to choose a domain name and then have someone buy it, or perpetually pay for the name until I was happy with it. I ended up buying some, and with AwardSpace , one of their offers was free perpetual domain names (the catch being that you have to pay for the web Hosting Service (the expensive one, not the initial price) in perpetuity).
AwardSpace have weird free ones with a double dot ending that you can have:
pir2.dx.am so your website will be http://pir2.dx.am
Not that sexy, but usable. In the setup I do in the blog, I use this example, it is activated straight away and works.
An Alternative is to use FREENOM.COM
These are free for a year and can be updated annually (I have not got the full year in on any site yet, so cannot confirm free update, I think you have to update very close to when it expires) and it has a .tk , or .cf, or .ml, or .ga or .gq
Not the most amazing endings, but they are free. If you want a .com or .org go ahead and purchase the domain name. Later, if you setup an E-Commerse Site you may need a more elegant ending, but for learning test out the free ones to practice.
Right, lets get into it
The only thing you need is an email account that they can send information to (and name/address/phone).
Go to awardspace.com
Put in name, email and password and hit the join button
Go to Dashboard Tab & then go to Domain Manager.
Go to Domain Names Tab and then go to Register a Free Domain and put in a name that you like and hit Register button
If the name is not already taken it will go green and you need to click on the continue button.
Choose option 1 – Register Free Domain & press continue button
There are a whole load of tick boxes for adding services on, ignore them and tick continue button.
Check at top to see that the shopping cart has $0.00 charge.
Then fill out all the details with the red asterisk signs next to them. Check the Im not a Robot box and after you get the green tick click continue button.
You now have a web domain that can be seen from the internet.
Now go back to the dashboard & click on email accounts.
Under this service you have one free email account. Try it out.
Fill out the info for an email name with password & confirm password.
It will create the email account.
If you click on the tool symbol to the right of the created email account it will take you to some more tabs
If you click on the information tab it will show you the email settings that you can put into your OUTLOOK or THUNDERBIRD or other Email management software. This will then forward your emails to those programmes.
Note also on the Lefty Side of Screen A dashboard showing the account services. This can always be checked in the Dashboard tab.
We head back to the dashboard.
Next we will go and look at the file manager
The file manager shows that a directory has been created. It has the same name as the domain name that we created. This is where wordpress will be installed , within this directory.
The file manager operates like FILE EXPLORER in windows. It is used to move around, copy and move files. You can also upload files from your PC to the Web Host Server, so if you wanted to upload some images or excel sheets or word documents you could use this process(although for images wordpress has a specific upload process).
You can also view and edit some file types here as well.
Note, you can use FileZilla to upload lots of files (or Download lots of files) from your PC to the Web Host Server (bear in mind for the free account you only have 1Gb of storage).
I will point out here AwardSpace have a nifty little tool that writes out a file for FileZilla with all of the connection details that makes setting up & using FileZilla a breeze (unlike if you try and set up the configuration file yourself at the beginning (been there & got frustrated by that!)).
We will now go back to the Dashboard and go into ZACKY INSTALLER. This will download free programmes onto your site. For the free account you only have 2 choices, WordPress and Joomla, but for thee paid accounts you have a lot more programmes to choose from. The nice thing about Zacky is it does it all for you so a very good starter process.
The Zacky installer offers you the 2 choices, click on the wordpress icon.
Just hit the next arrow on the page below, you do not want these themes, they will just fill up your storage. There are far better themes out there.
Leave whatever is ticked, ticked and ignore the rest.Click on NEXT arrow.
WordPress is enhanced using plugins. There is a process within your wordpress site to load plugins a number of ways, so ignore these and carry on.
Note. For themes and plugins in wordpress they put them into specific directories that bear the name of the theme of plugin, as long as they are not active you can just go and delete that directory thereby clearing out some of your storage.
At the top, use an existing domain, use the gray arrow at the right side and you will find your domain name, select it.
don’t put a site path, its already there ( your domain directory that we looked at with the file manager)
Give you web site a name , anything you like, you can easily alter this in wordpress. Its just part of setup process. Put in Hello if you can’t think of what you want to call your site. ( it is in the Customise button under Site Identity)
You need an Admin Email . Give the one that you set up the Awardspace account with (or the new one you just created). This is where it sends emails to about the WORDPRESS WEBSITE setup (which is different from your Awardspace account (This is the provider of Server Space that HOLDS the WordPress site – this could easily be used just as a storage area for files and not a website, so different functions)
One gives you free server space. The other is tool for building a free website, that exists in the free server space.
Admin Username and Admin Password.
These are login requirements for going around the back of the website and setting it up. A bit like a Play. Front of house (audience) see your play/website in all its glory, and Back of house sets up scenes etc/Web pages/blogs etc.
So have something easy as you’ll be logging in frequently, even when you have it up and running, to do tweeks, so for username use “admin” or “ADMIN” or “ME” or something and a robust password.
Then Click NEXT arrow
Check the details are as you expect. Actually just take a screenshot.
If it isn’t what you want, you can blow it away later and start again. Keep the top directory name and delete anything inside it and re-install wordpress using the Zacky installer. (Good practice). [Also have to blow away the database too!]
Another thing you can do is re-name the top directory to something else, create a new directory with the domain name again and re-install wordpress using Zacky. That way you have both websites.Only one operational though. [ACTUALLY I DO NOT THINK THIS WILL WORK AS YOU ONLY HAVE ONE DATABASE WITH THIS ACCOUNT, SO IGNORE THIS PARAGRAPH]
There are also plugins that will backup and re-install your content into different domains, so maybe best to learn how to backup sites.
The idea is that this is a learning website that is costing you nothing apart from your own time, so maybe create a few sites (you will need to go to Gmail or Hotmail and get a few new email accounts as the site will only let you have 1 free site with a specific email.
Hit the install button and Zacky will install the latest version of WordPress on your site (4.9.2 at this point in time)
Once its installed it will send you an email with links to your site, both the web site and the website login page.
Basically the logging in page is your website http://WEBSITE.dx.am
with a /wp-admin at the end
like this http://WEBSITE.dx.am/wp-admin
That flumoxed me a few times at the beginning, I created the site, went and admired the site and forgot about the keys to get into the house (site). And then did mad web searching on how to get in.
I now bookmark all my website pages and also the login pages too just to reduce stress.
Now if you go to a new browser tab, type in the site login page and go to it
You have a Login screen that you need to put in your username and password into and press login button
This will take you to the Dashboard (back of house of your website, where you set it all up).
If you go to another browser tab and just type in your web site http://WEBSITE.dx.am
It will take you to the Default Theme front/home page. It still shows login details and your web page details as your login from your dashboard page is valid in the browser setup. If you closed both tabs down and opened up your web site http://WEBSITE.dx.am on its own you would not see the logged in black bar at the top.
You now have a functioning WordPress website up and running for free.
Go to this post How to WordPress Fundamentals for website for a quick whistle stop tour of WordPress.
I suggest you look at a few YouTube videos on using WordPress and how to set it up.
Some leads are:
WordPress themes- how to change
WordPress Basic Setup
WordPress pages (for static pages of information. Linked/accessed through menus)
WordPress posts ( for blogs)
Enjoy. Go and create something wonderful.