Getting a website up and running has never been less expensive. You can use KompoZer or Notepad++ to create your website, FileZilla to connect to your webhost via FTP, GIMP to create high quality logos and graphics for your site, and Google Apps and Google Analytics to help you manage your site behind the scenes. One of the few things remaining you’ll have to pay for is website hosting... except that there are companies that will even provide you with free webhosting.
In general there are two basic types of free webhosting. Some free webhosts provide powerful site building tools which allow a user to create a fully functioning website by selecting a site template then customizing some of the visual elements of the template and adding the site content.
One of the popular free webhosts of this type is Webs.com (formerly known as freewebs.com). Webs.com has recently upgraded their site creation tool, which lets a user use a “drag and drop” interface to create the exact page structure they want. You can also find similar free hosting accounts with Wix.com (which also allows users to build mobile websites and Facebook fan pages), Weebly.com (which has over 100 different themes to choose from), and Doodlekit.com
All of these easy-to-use free web hosts will include usage limits (generally including the number pages you can have within your site, as well as bandwidth and/or number of visitors), and may including an advertising banner at the top or bottom of your website. Users who don’t want to deal with these things can upgrade to a paid level of service with these hosts.
The second type of free web host account is one that gives you a much more traditional hosting environment; with FTP access, cPanel or similar account management interface, and a MySQL database for your site to use. The free accounts have limitations, of course: generally between 40MB to 1GB storage space, 500 MB to 20GB monthly bandwidth, and limits on the size of files that can be uploaded to the account. Furthermore, the free accounts also often have an advertising banner at the top or bottom of each page. As with the offerings above, there’s always the option to get more account functionality and get rid of the ads by becoming a paying customer.
Free website hosts can be a great way to host a low traffic website, or simply to set up your own “sandbox” so that you can test various web designs and technologies. Just keep in mind that it’s easy to outgrow the limitations of the free hosts, and that at some point you may want to switch to a paid account.
I'm Burty, a geologist and freelance web designer based in Vancouver, Canada. I like music, gadget and love to sit in front of my computer.