Getting your own website used to require a lot of tech wizardry, including knowledge of servers, HTML, FTP, site registrars, and web hosting services. Thankfully, we now live in the age of easy online site builders. The services included here let you make a well-designed, mobile-friendly site with minimal technical knowledge. They can even take a small or sole-proprietor business to profitability with buy links, online stores, and other money-making options.
These services can host your content on their servers free of charge, but in exchange for that zero cost, your online destination will have a less-than-elegant domain, such as jeffreylwilson.tumblr.com. That might be fine for a personal blog, but it will look too low-rent for a business that wants people to trust it enough to pay for whatever it's selling.
When building your site, you’ll want to organize your files into folders according to the structure you want your site to appear in. For example, you might create a folder for your About page that has your main about.html file as well as any related CSS that adds style to your site and other HTML files that support that content. When adding links throughout your site to your site’s pages, you will reference their folder location in the directory where you store your files.
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For more than a decade, Jeffrey L. Wilson has penned gadget- and video game-related nerd-copy for a variety of publications, including 1UP, 2D-X, The Cask, Laptop, LifeStyler, Parenting, Sync, Wise Bread, and WWE. He now brings his knowledge and skillset to PCMag as a Lead Analyst. When he isn't staring at a monitor (or two) and churning out web hosting, music, utilities, and video game copy, Jeffrey makes comic books, mentors, practices bass and Jeet Kune Do, and appears on the odd podcasts or convention panel. He also collects vinyl and greatly enjoys a craft brew.
One downside of most of these services is that, should you someday want to move to another web host, you'll likely be out of luck because of the custom code they use to display your site. Only a few of the services here let you take your site to another web hosting service: The most complete example of this is Weebly, which lets you download the standard site server folders. Squarespace offers some transferability by letting you output your site in standard WordPress format. As you might expect, the same transferability holds for WordPress.com.
All of the site builders included here let you put Facebook Like and Twitter Follow buttons on your pages, and some even let you display feeds from the social networks. Some give you help building a Facebook Page and tying it into your site design and updates. Many products offer some sort of SEO tool, but too often this is just a form on which you can enter meta tags. You're mostly left to wrestle with that black magic known as SEO for yourself. It's very important to submit and verify your site to the search engines, unless you don't want anyone to find it!
WordPress started off as a blogging platform but has evolved to be a great platform for business websites too. As such, you have a way to specify what shows up as the home page for your WordPress site. If you have a blog, you’d want your visitors to see a list of your blog posts. If you have a business website, you’d want your visitors to see a home page (static page).
WordPress.org is the CMS version we’ve referred to throughout this article, and WordPress.com is the WordPress version of a website builder. WordPress.org is more complex to set up, but offers greater scope for customization. WordPress.com is simple to set up, but limited – we’d recommend it for blogs, but not much beyond that. We’ve written a whole article on the difference between the two, so definitely go check that out.
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