[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?
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 184.108.40.206, 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never have a problem with this, but if your web site is offering raunchy videos of Paris Hilton, you might exceed this (unpublished) limit.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 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.
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.
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.