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by Jim Doty, Jr.

This article has grown from what was originally a simple e-mail.

I periodically receive requests on how beginners can build a simple web site. The information that follows is for beginners or near beginners. I will cover some simple to intermediate options.

I am not an expert on either computers or web sites, but I have put together several simple web sites for a variety of organizations, plus some personal sites for myself. If I can figure out how to do this, you can too.



There are a number of free site hosts where you can put up a web site. The problem with free sites is that they put banner ads on your web pages. You can get an ad free site beginning at $5 to $10 per month. So your first decision is to choose between a free site with ads, or an ad free site for a monthly fee.

For a list of free and cheap sites, go here:

If you decide to choose a site that is ad-free for a monthly fee, ask me about Dreamhost. You can click on the Dreamhost icon below. If you choose Dreamhost as the location for your site, please let me know and tell them "photofan" sent you. If you let them know photofan referred you, they will give me a small credit towards the cost of maintaining this site.

(One exception to the free sites with banner ads is but this site is limited to churches. For more information see the section on ForMinistry at the end of this page.)

Most paid sites will allow you to use ftp software to upload to your web site. This makes things simpler. Some free sites do not allow you to use ftp software. If you want to use ftp software, be sure your site host allows you to do this. There is more on software below.



If you want your own domain name, like: or you will need to register your own domain name somewhere. It will cost you about $25-30 per year to have your own domain name. At some paid site hosts, they will pay for your domain name registration for the first year as an incentive to choose them as a host.  That is currently true at Dreamhost (more information in Dreamhost is below).

Where you register the domain name may depend on where you want your site hosted. If you pick a paid site with no ads, then your site host may also be able to register your domain name for you. This may save a little money and be less complicated in the long run.

Some web sites hosts can not register domain names. In that case, you can register your domain name with places like Name Secure or Verisign (who purchased Network Solutions, I have used both of these  companies to register domain names.

For a list of other domain name registrars, go here:

You can choose to have you site at a free site host (with banner ads) but still purchase your own domain name. In this case, when someone types in your domain name, they are forwarded to wherever your web site is located. If you don't want to register (and pay for) your own domain name, your site name will be an extension of someone else's domain name like:



Some sites hosts have their own site templates. You log on to your site, plug in photos and text in blocks, and they do the rest. My photo site at Angelfire ( is like that. Geocities and Tripod also provide templates. So does ForMinistry (see below). It is simple to do as long as all you want is text and photos and basic effects and don't have too many pages on your site to keep track of lots of links.

Some site hosts give you a choice of either using their templates, or using your own web publishing software.

The template route is fine for small sites, but it can can get pretty time consuming if you have a really large site (dozens of pages). If you want to step up a notch in quality and time savings, then you want some web publishing software so you can design the site yourself, then log on and the software uploads your web site to your site host.

Microsoft FrontPage is probably the best known software in the $100 price range. There is a free "lite" version.

If you go the software route, I highly recommend that you look into NetObjects Fusion software (NOF). It works very well and is simple to use. The latest version (NOF 7.0) is about $150.   I still maintain this site with NOF version 4.0. I have also used NOF 5.0.  All of these versions have been rated as simpler and better to use than Microsoft FrontPage.  You might be able to find one of the older versions (4.0, 5.0) on the internet for $40 to $90 and any of these versions would be more than adequate for a medium sized site (up to a few hundred pages) with text, graphics, sound, and a number of effects. The site you are now at has over 250 pages and version 4.0 handles the site just fine.

For more information on NOF, click on the NetObjects icon at the bottom of this page which will take you to Tell them I sent you. You can also find information at



If you build a site with software, rather than using a site host with built in templates, you will need to upload your site files to your site host with "ftp" software.  BE SURE AND CHOOSE A SITE HOST THAT ALLOWS FTP FILE TRANSFERS if you want to go this route. Geocities used to allow ftp file transfers at their free sites, but no longer. They now charge $5 per month for that privilege (and they also take the ads off of your site). Angelfire gives you the option of either using their templates, or using ftp file transfers.

One good ftp program that you can download for free is WS_FTP LE (for Windows), which you can download from at:

For Mac computers, you should get Fetch.

One really nice thing about NetObjects Fusion is that it takes care of the file uploading for you with its own built in ftp program.

There are other excellent software packages like Dreamweaver and Adobe GoLive, but these will cost several hundred dollars. If you need this level of software, you don't need my help, I need yours!



You can do your own site for no cost whatsoever.

A basic site at an ad-free host will cost about $5 - $10 per month.

If you want your own domain name, that is usually $25-30 per year.

You can pay for your own domain name, and still use a free site host (with ads).

You can also pay for an ad-free site, but not purchase a domain name. Your site name would be part of your host's domain name.

You can purchase a domain name and pay for an ad-free site.

You have lots of options.

If you choose to use your own software, that will be $50 - $150 for a good basic package. Fancy packages will cost $300 or more.



You are now at my personal photography site, This is at a paid site host (Dreamhost) with no ads and I own the domain name. I maintain this site with NOF 4.0.

My very first site is at:

This photo site is totally free. It is on Angelfire and it has banner ads.  No software was used. I simply used the built in templates that Angelfire provides. At Angelfire you use their templates to type in text and upload photos. They also allow ftp software.


Go to Angelfire, Tripod, Geocities, or one of the other sites recommended at:

Register a throwaway name (not the REAL name you want to use later on), and build a practice site. Type in some text, upload a photo and see what you think in terms of using a totally free site with their own built in page helps.

Make sure your photos aren't too big. 200x300 pixels and a file size at 40k or less is fine.

If you are building a church site, go to (see my ADDENDUM below).

It won't cost you anything but some time to get started.

If you want to move up to a paid site, or get a domain name, or try your hand at some software later on - feel free.




One exception to the free sites with banner ads is but this is limited to churches.

They will allow churches to put up web sites that are absolutely free and have no commercial ads. They do put a small "ForMinistry" link at the bottom of the page. ForMinistry is a ministry of the American Bible Society.

The most obvious disadvantage to having a site at is the long site name, which you don't get to pick yourself. They determine the name for you. The Basic Site they start you with is four pages, but you can add or subtract as many pages as you choose.

More information on ForMinistry is here.

November 24, 2002

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