1) web-site idea, 2) ??? 3) The Awesome
September 24, 2008 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Can the hive help me get a web site started? I have very specific ideas, but I'm a dinosaur when it comes to everything about the insides of websites.

Back in the day when I set up a website, it was the late 90's and everything had to be coded by hand and ftp'ed to someplace. I realise we are in the 21st century and there are much easier ways to go about things.

I already have a domain purchased. What I want to make is a site that is very similar to the old Pajiba setup: graphic banner across the top, assorted goodies in one or two side columns (probably just links in one, at this point) and a main area in between. The idea behind the site is that I'll be reviewing things, but they won't necessarily be new things. That is, whatever my netflix might be, an album I listened to... things like that. So in the middle I'd like to have a photo, a title and one sentence, where you can click on the title and it takes you to a separate page that is cataloged as http:www.mydomain.com/review_title.html (or whatever) and looks like the front page, except the middle bit is just the extended article.

Further complicating things, is that I wanted to set up the website with free hosting, if possible, and if I actually start generating traffic outside my immediate circle of friends then I'd think about buying some space/bandwidth.

So how do I even start? I know you can use a unique domain name with, like, blogger - which is free - but do they let you structure the workings of it like I want to? (the title-link deal to pages behind the page) I feel confident that I would be able to make the page look like I want it to, it's more the workings and the hostings that I am unsure about.

I've put off asking this question out of embarrassment for a couple weeks, because of the n00b-ishness, and I've really tried to navigate it on my own, but put in "free web hosting" into the google and it's like the internet punches you in the face. Thanks in advance to anyone who can help!
posted by indiebass to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This is exactly what blogs were made for. Blogger or Wordpress should do and I guarantee there will be a theme that fits your requirements. If you're testing the waters I agree it's best to hold off on hosting, the sacrifice being the inability to load custom themes/plugins you might find useful. I'm unsure about the ability to use a specific permalink structure in the hosted solution as well. Sign up for an account and look in the settings for any "Permalink" options that might allow you to customize what the link for each review would look like. By default it's usually www.domainname.com/8/29/2008/review.html or something along those lines (which if that's cool then you're fine). The linking should be pretty much automatic when you create a new review on each post. Mefi-mail me if you've got any specific questions I can help with.
posted by genial at 11:25 AM on September 24, 2008

Yeah, Wordpress.com or Blogger would be the way to go. Wordpress is inherently better software, but if you know XHTML/HTML and CSS you can do a lot more customization with Blogger. If I were you I'd sign up for an account with both and play around to see which one you like. One advantage with Wordpress.com is if you use it and decide you really like it you can buy a few add-ons that give you extra customization options.
posted by Autarky at 11:47 AM on September 24, 2008

Another vote for setting up WordPress. It's intuitive and it will (in combination with a variety of plugins) accomplish everything you need. Depending on how you use it, it also handles the duties of a small CMS, which it kinda is.

I would not seek free hosting, though. It just isn't worth the: crummy support, crummy downtime and crummy/out-of-date server modules. Some things are worth paying for and decent hosting is one of them, IMO.

I also think buying a proper domain (as opposed to a whatever.wordpress.com) is worth the money.
posted by deern the headlice at 11:51 AM on September 24, 2008

Response by poster: deern... I do already own a domain... but will wordpress let me use it? I think they might make me pay to use a domain I already own?
posted by indiebass at 11:53 AM on September 24, 2008

I prefer Wordpress over Blogger. Wordpress is a program that can be installed on a lot of different web servers (as long as the have PHP and mysql). There are services that exist that allow you to setup a Wordpress web site. You can also simply buy web space on a web server that has the technologies Wordpress requires and install it yourself (my personal preference).

Blogger, on the other hand, is a service owned by Google.
posted by nickerbocker at 11:55 AM on September 24, 2008

One option would be to forward your domain to wordpress.com, so if your domain is blahblah.com, you could set that up to forward to your wordpress blog at blahblah.wordpress.com. Not ideal, but free.
posted by Autarky at 11:55 AM on September 24, 2008

If you already own the domain, is it parked or hosted? If hosted, check with your hosting company to see if they offer wordpress setup -- lots of hosting sites do. If it's parked, try a company like myhosting.com and get their blogger's plan -- they have great support and you can set up wordpress easily from the control panel. The advantage of using a hosted site is that the costs are minimal (<10/month) and if you do reach an audience that you can monetize, you can add google ads - wordpress.com (AFIK) won't let you do that.
posted by katyjack at 12:59 PM on September 24, 2008

Oh - and I have no relationship with myhosting.com -- just a long-time client.
posted by katyjack at 1:00 PM on September 24, 2008

Response by poster: Katy: I purchased the domain through Namesecure.com How would I tell if it's "parked" or "hosted"?
posted by indiebass at 1:31 PM on September 24, 2008

How would I tell if it's "parked" or "hosted"?

It's almost certainly parked -- you would have had to sign up for a hosting account (which would mean you've got web server space available to you) for it to be hosted.

If you paid ~$8/year then it's parked (i.e., it's not actually pointing to a web server yet, except probably a generic Namesecure page). If you're paying ~$8/month (or more), then it's hosted.
posted by camcgee at 1:48 PM on September 24, 2008

Response by poster: I am indeed paying something like $35 for 5 years. So I will assume I'm 'parked'. And I've looked all over the FAQ part of the site, but I don't think they have a service for wordpress setup. The main goal, I think, is that i'm trying not to put any additional $$$ into the project now, until it looks like there's a viability. The answer might be that it's impossible to make the website like I'd like to, and still have it be free.
posted by indiebass at 2:05 PM on September 24, 2008

Free is a tall order if you're looking for a lot of customization; my recommendation would be to get a hosting account with Nearly Free Speech -- they charge only for the bandwidth and storage that you use. For the level of usage that a brand-new blog is going to get, it's "nearly free" as their name would imply. I have several sites hosted there, including my own blog (running Wordpress). Hosting and file storage for the blog costs me less than a dollar a month (which includes the $0.01/day NFS charges for MySQL processes).

The only caveat is that I don't consider Nearly Free Speech optimal for folks who are new to hosting. It doesn't have the CPanel interface that so many web hosts do, which allow for things like "one-click" install of Wordpress and other software. However, membership is free with NFS (you only have to deposit money once you're ready to set up a site), so you can sign up and poke around without spending any money if you want to just check it out the admin side of it.

I'd also recommend Wordpress for the software, since there is such a large community around it of themers, plugin developers, etc. Installing Wordpress on a web server is simple and relatively straightforward but it requires learning if you've never, for example, created a MySQL database before.

NFS + Wordpress is what I'd recommend if you're at all technically oriented and I think you'll find that there are plenty of online resources if you get stuck -- you're following a well-trod path.
posted by camcgee at 2:36 PM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wordpress doesn't make you pay to install the software on your personal site. Re: hosting, you should absolutely look into NearlyFreeSpeech.net - there you only pay for the bandwidth you use, rather than paying a set fee per month. It really is almost free - pennies per month - if no one but you visits. They don't, however, have automatic installs of Wordpress - you'd have to install it yourself. The install's not really that difficult, though, if you're familiar with FTP from the old days. If not, there's a site out there with guys (I think they might work for Wordpress itself, actually) who'll do the install for you. Can't find it right now, but maybe someone else can help...
posted by limeonaire at 2:54 PM on September 24, 2008

there's a site out there with guys ... who'll do the install for you

Unfortunately, the Install4Free project is not currently operating, according to their web site.
posted by camcgee at 3:03 PM on September 24, 2008

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