Hi there

I've just built my first two websites, and I decided to share my experience with others.

My sites are for the Nepali Village Initiatives Association Inc. and the Rotary Club of Woodend (Australia).  As these are a charity and a service club, I wanted to keep costs to a minimum.  I started by searching for free hosting services that did not impose advertising.

I came across VicNet, a division of the State Library of Victoria.  VicNet hosts more than 5,000 community websites (among them some 30 Rotary clubs).  Each community group is supplied with 10MB of hosting space, FTP access, and support. To find out more and to check if your community based organisation is eligible, visit the web services for the community page.

To launch myself into website design I borrowed various books from the library.  The most useful one I found was "Build a Website for Free" by Mark Bell.  This introduced me to a range of freeware that I could use to build a site including:
a complete web authoring system that combines web file management and easy-to-use WYSIWYG web page editing
FileZilla, the free FTP (File Transfer Protocol) solution
for uploading files to the web host (though Kompozer can do this directly).

In was only after putting up my preliminary site on VicNet that I came across Yola.com.  Yola not only offers free hosting with 1GB storage, but also easy-to-use website building tools with online storage (no need to upload files).  It offers WYSIWYG web page editing with a host of useful widgets that you can drag on drop onto your page (for text, pictures, html, etc.)

At first I was concerned by some of the limitations of Yola, which I describe elsewhere on this site.  However, I went ahead and built two websites.  Having done so, I give it top marks for ease of use:
-  Easy page construction by dragging and dropping "widgets" to get the layout you want
-  No need to learn HTML (though it does allow you to insert and modify HTML if required)
-  No need to upload modified HTML files after revision.  Your draft website is stored by Yola, so you simply update it as and when you please, and click "Save".  Then, when you're ready, click "Publish" to make it available to the world.
-  Accommodation of custom domain names, which you can buy through Yola or otherwise.  Building sites for organisations in Australia I purchased ".org.au" domain names for AU$13.95 each for two years.  This has been my only outlay for the three sites I've now built.

Yola offers a great range of support including a Help Centre and Community Forum.  Through these you can find other sources of free services that you can incorporate into your site.  I describe some of them under "Add-ons".

I have been particularly impressed by the response to technical queries I've submitted to Yola - less than 24hr. turnaround, the technician having looked at my site and responding with suggested code changes.

As website developer you will receive emails from Yola suggesting you purchase upgraded services, but you can choose whether you need them.  The sites you build carry no advertising except the discrete Yola logo that you see at the bottom of this page.  You can have this removed if you upgrade to Yola Silver (previously you just paid $9.95 for its removal).

So I recommend - if you want a quick and easy website, give Yola a try!  If you build a website as a result, please let me know by email - click here.

If you want to look at other options, take a look at http://hubpages.com/hub/Best-Website-Builder

Peter Hall

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