Lately lots of friends have been asking me about starting their own websites. It’s been difficult to assist them since most of them don’t have very focused questions, though I understand it might be because they don’t know where to start.
First, I would like to stress that where and how you build your website largely depends on what kind of website you want to build. If you want a blog, WordPress or Blogger are probably a good place to start. For a portfolio site, Carbonmade and Krop are better platforms (or if you’re willing to shell out a few bucks a month, I bookmarked Squarespace and PopSlice awhile ago). I also know a few people who maintain basic sites using Weebly and Google Sites.
If you are more ambitious, or if you already know some HTML and CSS, you can purchase a web hosting package. This means you are paying a hosting company for space on one of their servers so you can store your website files there. While this option may sound daunting, keep in mind that most hosting companies make it really easy to install a variety of popular content management systems in just a few clicks. So if you like WordPress but find the features on wordpress.com too limiting/not customizable enough, this may be a good option for you.
Choosing a host is entirely up to you. I have used SiteGround since 2006 and am quite happy with their services and support. They usually have a friends and family deal that allows you to purchase a domain name + 1 year of hosting for $10 — you can’t beat that! [Full disclosure: I get a month of free hosting if you sign up using my referral link, but I would recommend SiteGround even if I didn't.]
No matter which option you choose, definitely purchase your own domain name. This is inexpensive and always a good investment. You want a web URL that is easy to give out to people and helps establish your brand. When I start a new project, I like to use Domainr to figure out which domain names are available.
Readers: do you have any suggestions for those looking to build their first website? What do you recommend to your own friends and family? Where did you build YOUR first site? (Embarrassingly, I believe my first site was built on expages, complete with neon scrolling text! I wish I had screenshots!)