There are thee major components to creating your own website: content,
hosting, and naming. You will have several options in each of these
areas, and your choice will affect the appearance and cost of your
site. If you want your own domain name (e.g. something like
sitename.com, or familyname.us) and your site will not get major
traffic (most personal sites will not unless you post big files), then
the two best and inexpensive services to consider are 1 and 1 Internet or Directnic (I will discuss
the tradoff's between the two later - see hosting). If you don't need
your own name and can tolerate long URL's like:
If you want to avoid paying for hosting, you should check to see if a a hosting service may already be provided by your internet service provider (e.g. America Online, Earthlink, MSN, Comcast, Road Runner, etc) as part of your service. If you prefer not to use your ISP for hosting, you can also use one of many free or low cost hosting services like Geocities (part of Yahoo!). There are a lot of other companies providing this kind of service. Such web hosting providers will allow you to host your site, but they may add advertising content, so that whenver someone visits a page on your web site, they see advertising added to you pages by the web hosting provider. These services will also allow you to host your site without advertising, but they charge you for this option, often more than directnic or 1and1 options which I described later.
If you are just starting out, read the documentation provided by your ISP to see if they offer space to host your web site, and if so, start out there. If your site is small and only has a small number of users, this option may allow you to host your site without added advertising, and without paying anything more than you already pay to connect to the Internet. The downside is that if you later decide to move your site, either because it has grown larger, or because you move or otherwise change your ISP, then the address of the site will change and you will have to tell everyone that uses it about the new web address.
If the offering form your ISP does not fit your needs, then choosing the right web hosting provider is very important. Your host must be able to handle all needs and all traffic to your site all the time. That is why it is important to check for good reviews of a possible web host before you set up your site.
By getting your own domain name you not only protect yourself from such future changes, but you can have an e-mail address that is more meaningful after the @-sign. Unfortunately, a domain name is not free, but it is inexpensive and support for e-mail is usually included either with the cost of name registration, or with your hosting package.
When deciding where to register, you need to consider the total cost, both for name registration, and hosting. Many registrars provide limited hosting for free, including forwarding of email from the domain, and in some cases a free web page (to which they add advertising). You probably don't require the more advanced hosting options, although many of the registrars or hosting providers will try to upsell. If all that you want is the domain name for forwarding of email to another account (like gmail, or you home ISP), you shouldn't pay more than about $30 per year. If you want a low traffic web site without any added advertising, you can probably get that for an additional $20 year. The registrar that I use is 1 and 1 Internet.
Technically, there is a difference between the registrar and the hosting provider, but hosting providers usually have a close relationship with a particular registrar, and you will often register your domain name through a page provided by the hosting provider.
If your needs are real simple, you can create the site yourself using HTML, HyperText Markup Language, the language for describing web pages. You can also use a web page editor like Microsoft FrontPage. (part of some versions of Microsoft office). If you don't have FrontPage or another HTML editor, or for some other reason choose to write the HTML code for your site by hand, you can find many guides on the web to learn how to write HTML. If you can tolerate lots of pop up ads and distracting banners, one such guide can be found here.
If creating the site yourself you will create the pages on your own machine and upload them to the server following instructions provided by the hosting service, or you might write the pages through a web interface provided by the service. Almost all hosting service provide guides to help you create and upload content to your site.