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Suggestions for Setting Up a Free Website

by Marshall Burns, March 2007, updated June 2009

     Most of the companies that provide free Web hosting give you simple, easy to follow instructions on how to set up a site with them. This page is intended to offer helpful suggestions that you can use whichever Web host you decide to use.

     1. Check them out. Since the services are free, it doesn't cost anything to try them out. Make a small site first just to test the system and make sure that you understand how it works, that you like using it, and that the site you get with it looks good to you. You can make a trial site like this on several systems before you decide which one to continue using. After these trial runs, remove your test sites from the systems you decide not to use.

     See Where Can You Get a Free Site? for a list of free Web hosts you can check out.

     2. Choose your user name carefully. The user name you select for your account will become part of the Web address of your site, so make it something short and meaningful. For example, the user name I used to create my sites on Tripod is “FreeAfrica”. It is best to keep the name short so that it is easy for people to type in without making errors.

     Your user name will have to be different from any other user names already in use on the same system, so you might have to try a few alternatives before you get one. For example, when I was creating the site for MYTO on GeoCities, the ID “MYTO” was not available, so I modified it to “KenyaMYTO”.

     In most systems, you will not be able to change your user name after you create your account. But since the service is free, if you decide you don’t like the user name you set up, you can simply create another account with a better name and close the first one. But do this before you start giving the Web address for your site to people. Once you start giving out that address, you won’t want to close that account because then people would not be able to get to your site.

     3. Guard your private information. You will create a password for your account and you may also need to provide other private information when setting up your account. Be careful when you type this information into the computer and when it shows up on the computer screen. If somebody near you can see what you type or sees private information on your screen, they may be able to gain access to your account and take over control of your website!

     If you are using a public computer, such as in a cyber cafe, there is something very important to remember to protect your account. When you finish using the computer, or even when you just get up to take a break for a while, sign out (or “log off”) of your account, close all your windows, and sign off of the computer before you get up to leave. If you don’t do that, someone else there may be able to get into your account, make changes without your permission, and possibly change your password so you won’t be able to get back in to fix things!

     4. Turn off spam. When you set up your account and create your website, there will be an option to give them permision to send you advertising e-mails offering to sell you everything from music to new cars. Usually, this will be done by having one or more “check boxes” that are already checked to indicate giving them permission. If you want to get those e-mails, you don’t need to do anything, but if you don’t want to get them, be sure to “uncheck” the box or boxes.

     This choice may be hidden away on a separate page, such as one called Edit Marketing Preferences. If you see a link to a page with a name like that, go there and “uncheck” all the boxes for advertising you don’t want to get.

     5. Take your time! If you are not experienced at using computers and making websites, then following the detailed instructions, even though they are simple, may feel overwhelming and frustrating. You are learning a new skill and it will take time to get comfortable with it. Go easy on yourself and don’t expect to get everything done all at once.

     6. Update your site. A website is a living thing, whose life comes from you! You can add new material to your site any time you have new information to share. And you can make changes to your site any time you need to update old information or if you just want to change the design of the pages to give the site a fresh look.

     Your website is powerful tool of communication. Best of success with your project or organization!

Copyright © 2007—2009, Marshall Burns. All rights reserved.
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