How do I make a web site ?

I would like to make a website for an organization that I’m part of. We have very little money to spend and I’m the most computer friendly of the bunch, that’s not saying much. We’ve got one on MSN groups, but it’s a bigger pain then it’s worth there and some of our members can’t even log on.

So, how do I do it ? I would like to put pictures on it and message boards and I would like to get it set up so you can just find it on Google or Yahoo.

Can it be done free ?


Free? Yes, with reservations. For one thing, the site name might be or something. If you want your own domain (, you’ll have to pay for it. Fortunately, it’s cheap to register a domain name. I use Budget Hosting Web for one of my pages. You get 10 meg of space for under $20/year. I don’t remember how much domain registration is, but it’s probably about $15 or $20 per year.

My page on Budget Hosting Web has a message board, but it’s not like this one. It’s a bit slow. I might be able to put a better board up (I don’t know – some hosts will let you and others won’t), but I haven’t had time to look at it. The site itself comes up very quickly except for some of the more image-intensive pages; it’s just the message board that takes about 20 seconds since I haven’t had the time to clean out the old messages.

Of course, other Dopers know more than I do about webhosting, and they’ll be along shortly…

Christ on a cracker! Those first two “links” are supposed to be dummies. I didn’t know that they would “link” if I didn’t put the “html” in front of them. :smack:

It can be done for free, but you’ll still have to deal with the “bigger pain than it’s worth” factor.

The answers to your questions depend on how much time and effort you’re willing to spend either learning about the technologies that make a website run or paying a small premium to have somebody do the heavy lifting for you.

Yahoo has a domain hosting for dummies type deal, but you’ll pay $20+ a month for it. You can get quite a bit of space, bandwidth, and customizability from a non-name brand Linux host like [plug], but you’ll need to know what you’re doing.

My suggestion: start off with a big, free host like geocities. Use Mozilla composer to design your pages, and read the source code of everything you put up so that you’ll gradually begin to get a grasp of HTML. Once you get an idea of what you’re doing, you can think about moving up to domain hosting.

Caveat emptors:
-MS Frontpage: it blows. It really, really, blows. Just don’t.
-Stay away from anybody that offers you anything for free that you’d normall pay a premium for. This applies to “unlimited” bandwidth and space, and especially domain name registration.

Other than that, hit a couple of the web authoring sites like and pick up a few books from the library. I started doing it in Netscape Composer (back when Communicator 4 was in beta) and now I’m writing custom PHP scripts on my local Linux box.

Actually, if you wanna pay a starving amateur web designer to do the work for you [cough], I’m sure I could somebody willing to work cheap.

I learned all my html knowledge from and now run a very big site which is very active. I suggest you start there and that will teach you the basics.

Let me suggest buying your domain name yourself from instead of letting whatever host you go through buy it. It will be cheaper through GoDaddy and when your site becomes bigger and you want to move to a new host or edit ANYTHING about the record, you will actually be able to do it instead of having to try to wrench it from Yahoo/Geocities’ hands.

Making a simple but good website is really easy. But when you first start, everything’s new so it seems like brain surgery.

Go to the library or bookstore, and get one of those introductory web building books to study.

There are millions of folks who have websites so you probably know a couple of people who have a site who can show you things. In the beginning I think it easier to learn by seeing, doing and asking questions, than trying to figure things out solely by reading.

If you’re interested in a good, full-feature message board, I’d highly recommend tForum. It’s PHP open-source, completely free and has the best support site ever. I’ve done plenty of work with it, and some of my mods are even featured on the hacks site.

Personally, I’m not big on reading books to learn this stuff, so let me second the suggestion to spend some time at http:///, which is an excellent site to learn the basics and even some advanced scripting.

The problem with the free hosting is that they will inevitably put banner advertisements on your site. If this isn’t a big deal, then you can go the free route.

If your organization is a non-profit, and unlikely to generate lots of traffic, you may be able to find a commercial enterprise that will host you for free. I’ve worked for a couple of Internet network providers, and they each hosted some non-profit sites for free.

I would also recommend that you avoid the “fancy” (and expensive) web development tools, at least until you have learned the basics of raw HTML. After you have some HTML basics, one of the easiest ways to build your organization’s homepage is to find another page that has a similar format and function. Then “steal” their source code, modifying it to fit your site. While this might sound like plagarism, it is a very common practice, and you shouldn’t feel any guilt.

With regards to message boards, you might consider checking out, which will host your message board for free (and yes, with a banner ad at the top).

Good luck.

The above information is all helpful in building a web site.

However, I suggest you take a step back and think about why you want a web site. Content is king and unless you can establish the purpose of a web site, it may end up like millions of other sites out there - and that’s not saying much. :slight_smile:

Try this. Answer these questions about the purpose of your site:


Create your content first. Then think about how to best offer that content on a web site.

Can you expand on this? Do others agree, or is this just a generic anti MS comment.

I am looking into setting up a website myself and I ordered the free 30 day trail of FrontPage yesterday. I have a pretty good basic understanding of HTML.

If FrontPage “blows”, what are other recommendations? I’m not familiar with Mozilla composer. Is that the way to go?

Sorry for the semi-hijack, but I hope any answers may help the OP as well.


It’s one notch on the suck meter better than using Word or Works to export your html documents, but it’s still pretty bad. The guy above tells a pretty typical story. Essentially, FP spits out bunches of proprietary, bloated code that gives browsers other than MSIE a hard time, and it’s a pain to administer for non-FP users.

I occasionally lend a hand to newb friends of mine, but I refuse to help anybody with Frontpage stuff, because the code’s such a mess.

Here’s More.

The time spent learning the Frontpage GUI would be better spent learning basic HTML.

As for WYSIWYG editors, Mozilla Composer is good for basic, no frills text-n-pics. If you want to start getting fancy, something like Macromedia Dreamweaver or Adobe Golive are pretty close to acceptable.

Thanks for the reply black455. If the code is that messy, I’ll definitely look elsewhere or just do the coding myself.

I’ll back up black455 on this. It is not just anti-MS sentiment. My company develops Win32 software and uses predominantly Win OS on the desktop, and we have banned Frontpage from even being installed. In a few cases, we’ve ended up doing maintenance or fixes on sites created in Frontpage, and the time it takes to clean up the markup and get to valid HTML is more than the time it would take to write from scratch. In many cases, clients bring us layouts they’ve done in Frontpage to show us their ideas. We’re happy to look at the end result in terms of design, but make it clear that using their code will cost more.

<rant> I was at a release seminar for one of the early FrontPage versions. This was back when IDE HTML tools were rare and WSIWYG was even rarer, and we were all pretty excited about the product. When I had an opportunity to ask a question, I asked “does Frontpage produce valid HTML and, if so, will it allow you to choose the DTD you want to validate against”. The presenter gave me a half-second blank stare and said “Yes… next question.” This was a blatant lie, made even worse because this was a technical presentation, not just marketing fluff. Any anti-MS sentiment I have comes from this kind of thing - lies and intentional misrepresentation of functionality that lead us down the garden path. Tell us the truth and let us do our jobs. </rant>

To answer the OP, you buy a book called ‘HTML for the World Wide Web’ by Liz Castro. Part of the Visual Quickstart series. Best book ever written on the subject. That, plus the HTML Goodies site linked to above, will tell you everything you need to know.

The ‘Frontpage’ bashing amuses me. I worked in the IT industry for about 15 years, both as a full-time employee and as a self-employed contractor. Plus I run a commercial website from which I’ve actually made profits and earned a living for over two years. Those are my credentials. Guess what? I created my site entirely in Frontpage. No problems, no glitches, ever.

Don’t pay too much attention to hot-headed ‘professionals’ who like to feel smug by disparaging the code that Frontpage generates. Sometimes, the good folk who like to whinge about software and chuck some abuse around are revealing their own inadequacies rather than those of the software. They are welcome to their academic slanging matches about how ‘clean’ the code is. Meanwhile, out here in the real world, I’ll carry on making money running my entirely trouble-free and Frontpage-created website.

There’s not much point in arguing this since I doubt any of my ‘academic slanging’ would matter, but I assure you that I’m out in the real world making money on sites too. Frontpage is fine for layout if that’s all you ever use. However, if you need to do things more complicated than what Frontpage allows, if you need to integrate other content or systems, if you ever need to edit the HTML outside of Frontpage, then you begin to see the problems. Frontpage produces very sloppy code which is not valid for all browsers (if you care about accessibility for anyone not using the latest and greatest, such as screenreaders for the blind) and it is a pain to edit in other tools because it is careless in its composition. I’m not saying it doesn’t produce HTML that makes a nice looking site in IE. If that’s all you need, it’s a great tool.

Cool. I think we can agree that different people have different needs. Not everyone wants to be a web guru, so perhaps FP has its place. I’ll try the free trial and decide if it meets my needs.

If I may just continue my semi hijack instead of starting a new thread, I have a question about obtaining domain names.

First, I notice that you check for domain availability by entering and not Are both domain names included in one registration?

Second, if a domain name is owned by someone else but is not being used, what are the chances of purchasing it at a reasonable price (say a few hundred dollars)? Is there any difference between buying from a domain speculator versus some company that does not appear to be primarily in the domain speculation game?

Finally, is an “info” domain worth pursuing?

TIA for any replies.

Another newbie question, if I may:

What if i want to host a site myself? I assume I’d need:

  1. a computer configured as a web server
  2. a fixed IP address (instead of the typical dynamically assigned addresses)
  3. pay a fee to or some other to register my domain name

Is that correct? Am I missing anything?

(Specifically, I’m thinking of running Apache on a Linux box, and my ISP is Comcast.)


straightdope is just one domain name. Whether you can reach a site without the “www” part depends on how the files are setup on the server that shores the files. At some places that check for domain availability, you may have to type the www.

Your last questions really can’t be answered – it all depends.

You register a second-level domain name, like “straightdope” in within a first-level domains like com, org, edu, etc. You are then free to set up the routing for your domain as you see fit. Most people choose to set up a webserver using the third-level name “www” and they typically point it to to the same IP that they use for the second-level name, so points to the same thing as However, that’s convention and you can choose to route those names to different servers.

It depends. First, many domains that don’t have a webserver running may be in use for something else. The web is only part of the Internet. Second, how much it costs to buy one depends on how much the owner thinks it’s worth. We’ve had domains we registered for projects that never came to fruition that weren’t in use. Some we just let lapse. Some we held onto but then sold cheap to someone who wanted them. Others he refuse to sell or sold very high because they were for projects still on the boards, were in use as a mailserver even though there was no web presence, etc.