This is the first of two essays on the subject of website publishing. The second is What you Need to Know.
You may not need to publish a website to accomplish what you want. If what you really want is a blog, for example, you can set one up for free at WordPress.com. Google offers lots of free on-line collaboration tools. At some point, you may feel limited by these free tools. If you don’t have the money to hire a professional to create a website, you may want to take the plunge and run your own website. Think of it as an adventure!
Here are some things I wish I knew when I first started.
And lots of it. Don’t plan on launching a fully polished web empire next week, or even next month. As described in the second essay, there is a lot to learn. The good news: you don’t need to know everything at once. Indeed, to publish a simple page, you need to know surprisingly little. And when you see your first paragraph of plain text published where millions of people can see it, the adrenaline will course through your veins. To that text, you will add a graphic and then a hyperlink. If you are content to learn a little at a time, you’ll have a great site in no time.
Bottom line: You can teach yourself everything you need to know to get exactly the result you want. But it won’t happen overnight.
A domain name and a website host
Since moving my site from the free web space provided by RoadRunner in 1992, I have used Powweb to host my site. There are many hosting companies to choose from, and I have never used any others, so I cannot make comparisons. But, Powweb offers unlimited storage space, unlimited bandwidth, and the tools to do just about anything. How much does it cost to have access to millions of potential web users? $7.77 per month. Amazing.
You won’t get a lot of personal attention at Powweb. Don’t expect hand holding over the phone. You’re on your own for the most part. But, e-mail support has been adequate in the rare instances when I have asked for it. And there is a “Community Forum” where you can ask questions of other Powweb web authors, many of whom are quite talented.
Powweb will also take care of reserving your domain name, e.g. www.glenpritchard.com. That’s a separate charge of about $15 per year.
Many sites will host your web site for free. Some will even do it without forced banner ads. I can’t vouch for any of these, but you can’t beat free to learn about website publishing. I found this page reviewing free web hosting services.
How can this all be so cheap? Amazingly, the software used to host a website is almost all free (open source)! Most web hosts run their computers on an operating system call Linix. Linix is free. Most webhosts use web server software called Apache. Apache is free. If you want to run a blog, WordPress is by far the most popular software for blogging. WordPress is free. If you want to display photographs, there are many photo gallery software packages for websites. I use Gallery2. Gallery2 is free. Elaborate content management packages, such as Joomla and Mambo, create collaborative work spaces where documents and ideas can be shared. Joomla and Mambo are free. This list goes on and on.
When it comes to web hosting, the best things in life are free.
What makes the Web universal is that pages are created in plain text. You could use Wordpad or other text editor to create a website if you wanted. But who has time to memorize all those HTML tags? Some sort of HTML editing software is a must.
I have used Coffee Cup HTML editor for many years. It’s not a powerful as some other site management tools and it’s not without bugs, but at under $50, it does the job. And Coffee Cup promises that, once you purchase their software, all the upgrades are free for life. I have upgraded many times over the past ten years or so.
Other than a computer and an internet connection, that’s about all you need to get started with website publishing. Considering that the internet is the most powerful communication tool ever developed, the cost of publishing is amazingly low. Frankly, what you need to publish a website is not nearly as important as what you need to know, which is the subject of the second essay.