How to Build a Fast and Easy Hobby Site

Do you want a fast and easy little Web site to showcase your hobby or your family vacation? You can build such a site for little or no money, and without learning coding or scripting. Essentially, you need two things: A Web host to store your Web site, and Web pages to publish.

Finding a Web Host

A Web host is a service that stores Web sites on special computers called servers. The servers have an Internet connection that allows the surfing public to view the Web pages online. Your home computer can also store your Web pages, but those pages are not accessible to Web surfers.

So, your first step is to locate a Web host. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) might offer Web hosting as part of the package. (Your ISP is the company that connects your computers to the Internet, in exchange for a monthly fee.) If you don’t know if Web hosting is part of the package, contact the company’s tech-support people and ask. If the answer is yes, ask how you go about uploading your files to the server, and find out the password and user name that you will need. You will also want to ask for your site’s Web address.

The Web address refers to the digits that people type into their browser’s address bar when they want to visit your site. For example, if your ISP is EarthLink, your Web site’s address could be something like “http://www.earthlink.com/~smithfamily.”

If your ISP doesn’t provide free Web hosting, your next step is to locate a service elsewhere. Run a Google search for “free Web hosting,” and you will get plenty of choices.

Most free Web sites are “ad sponsored.” This means the company runs advertisements on your site. I have never heard of a free hosting service running ads with adult content, so that is not a big concern. You would want to check with the company to be on the safe side, however. You might also want to find out how many ads the company serves at any one time, and avoid free hosts that bombard your visitors with banner ads, sidebar ads and pop-ups.

Absolutely Free Hosting (http://www.absolutely-free-hosting.com/) is an excellent resource to check out. It lists a considerable number of free hosting services, compares features, and provides reviews.

When you peruse this list, take note of the special features that each free host provides.

Web space: This refers to the amount of storage space (measured in megabytes) that you get with your free package. Web pages with text and a few small pictures do not require a great deal of space. However, if you plan to upload videos, PowerPoint presentations or audio files, you will need a lot of storage space, because these files are large. If this is your plan, you might have to consider paid hosting.

Adverts: This tells you the type of advertisements that the host serves on your site, if any.

Your ads: This lets you know whether you are permitted to run your own advertisements. Consider whether you might want to have an affiliate link at some point. Perhaps, for example, you might want to recommend a book sold at Amazon. If you have an affiliate link, you will make a small commission each time someone clicks through and buys something (anything) at Amazon. You can run this affiliate link only if the Web host permits you to publish your own ads.

Available scripts: This feature tells you whether the Web host supplies scripts that let you do certain things on your Web site. These scripts could include a counter that records the number of hits, a forum, guest book, or others.

E-mail: Occasionally, a free Web host might offer Web-based e-mail or regular e-mail that you access through Microsoft Outlook or whatever e-mail application you use (this is called POP3). You would have a special e-mail address in addition to the e-mail address you have with your ISP. However, e-mail is not a typical feature with a free hosting package.

Upload methods: This refers to how you will transfer your Web pages to the company’s server. The two methods are FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and Web uploading. If the host offers Web uploading, you upload the files via Internet Explorer or whatever browser you are using. This is the simplest method because you don’t need any additional software. If the host offers FTP uploading, you will require special FTP software. Simple FTP software is available as freeware, or you can pay for more sophisticated versions. Run a Google search for “free FTP software.” You will need to download it and then install it on your computer.

Online editor: This feature allows you to create your Web pages online using the host’s technology. It is the simplest way to create a Web page, and does not require that you have any additional software on your computer. However, the online editors could limit the look and style of your Web pages. I suggest you try the online editors first and see what you think. If they don’t meet your needs, then locate a software application (called an HTML editor) that creates Web pages.

HTML editors range in price from free to very expensive. Essentially, there are two varieties: text-based and WYSIWYG. A text-based editor requires you to know HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) coding. I’m a strong believer in learning HTML coding if you’re planning to build Web sites. That skill comes in handy over and over again. The Web offers plenty of free tutorials teaching HTML coding, and many books are available on the subject.

WYSIWYG editors (What You See Is What You Get; pronounced “wussywig”) are similar to working with word processors, such as MS Word. When you work in a WYSIWYG editor, you see the actual Web page as it will appear on the Web site. When you work with a text-based editor, you see a page of text and HTML tags. The WYSIWYG is definitely the fastest and easiest way to get started

Run a Google search for “free HTML editors.”

Depending on the features that your Web host offers, you could find everything you need in one package. If not, you will need the additional software mentioned above.

Clip Art for Your Web Site

Clip art livens up an otherwise drab Web site. You can get free clip art, or you can pay for it.

If you are a registered Microsoft Office user, you can access its gigantic online database of clip art . The site also contains photographs, animations and sounds that you can use for non-commercial purposes.

Otherwise, Google “free clip art,” and you’ll get multiple hits. One of the higher-ranking sites is Free Clip Art .

Maybe You Want a Blog Instead

Nowadays, blogs are replacing Web sites for many of us. Free services such as Blogger provide everything you need to get a blog up and running. Blogger is but one example. Search for “free blog” and you will find many suitable platforms.

Enjoy!