How To Set Up a Website
Brian Gongol

The options for setting up a website are as varied as the options for choosing a car. Choose what you think your needs are from the left-hand column and follow the instructions in that row.

Who You Are What You'll Need to Invest Do This Don't Do This
I'm a student and need to be able to put my class projects on a website.

I just want to set up a personal site with a few photos and some generic information.

I'm campaigning for public office and don't want to spend any money on the Internet, but someone told me I need a website.

There's no way I'm going to spend anything on building a website, but I'm sure I need one.
Free websites are available everywhere. You'll need to spend at least half an hour to set up what you want, but you don't need any special skills. Your only investment is time. Go to Geocities or Angelfire and follow their very simple step-by-step instructions for setting up a website. If you can follow directions, you can put up a website with one of these services. There are plenty of others available, but these two are the best-known.

When you're done, be sure to add the address of your website to the signature line on your e-mail. If you have business stationery or other printed literature, put it there as well. It's just about the only way anyone will find your site.

If you know anyone with a website, ask them nicely if they would mind giving you a link. Unless some other site links to yours, the search engines will never find it.

Expect to grow annoyed with the ads on your site. Free web hosts use pop-up ads, pop-under ads, and banners built-in to your pages in order to pay for their services. If you're not bothered, don't worry about them. Most users eventually grow tired of them.
Don't expect a lot of visitors. Your address will be long and hard to remember, so unless someone is really intent on finding your site, not many folks will visit.

Don't expect to be taken very seriously. If you aren't willing to put any money into your site, don't expect visitors to think you're an authority.

Don't get caught up in design. There's not much you can do to make your free site look great. Just put the basic information up and see whether it does the trick for you. Crazy backgrounds, wild color schemes, lots of pictures, and sounds that play whenever people visit your site will only serve to irritate. Keep it simple.

Don't forget to add content. Since your page probably doesn't look very special, be sure to add things to it often enough that it serves a real purpose.

Don't put your e-mail address on the page. Anywhere. If you do, you'll get so much spam you'll never forgive yourself.
Who You Are What You'll Need to Invest Do This Don't Do This
I have a lot to say, and I want to blog. As little as nothing. Some fees may apply, especially as you become more sophisticated. Expect it to become a regular consumer of your time. Go to Blogger or TypePad or LiveJournal and follow their instructions.

Have something interesting to say, and often. Keep your site fresh. Political campaigns and businesses are starting to realize the power of fresh information posted to people who actively want to follow what's happening directly from the source.

You may eventually decide to go solo and run your personal site without someone else's software or hosting. When that time comes, use PairNIC to register your domain and Pair Networks to host your site. Their prices are excellent and so is their service.
Don't expect it to be easy. Well-done blogs often absorb lots of their authors' time.

Don't post so often that you create unreasonable expectations. Sandbag a little until you're comfortable with the amount of time you dedicate to your blog.

Don't divulge personal secrets, proprietary information, or national secrets. Seriously.
Who You Are What You'll Need to Invest Do This Don't Do This
I'm running a small or medium-sized business or campaigning for office or managing a government agency or non-profit. I want to own my own domain name and I don't want anyone else's ads appearing on my site. At least $300. That's a conservative estimate for a basic site with a domain name like "", one year of hosting, and professional setup services.

Consider additional marketing. Once you've invested in a website, you'll want to include it whenever you advertise.
Hire a professional to set up your site for you. Unless you're technically savvy and willing to spend a lot of time learning the ropes, it's best to find a competent professional to do the work for you. Use Velocity, Inc.

If you provide the right information, a professional should be able to set up a clean, functional site in less than two weeks. Professionals can either manage site updates for you or show you how.

Insist that your designers follow W3 Consortium standards. If they don't know what you're talking about, find someone else.
Don't hire a firm that promises lots of flashy graphics and multimedia files. Remember: 60% of people still use dial-up. The more files and graphics your page requires, the longer it takes to load. Speed trumps pizazz.

Don't cut short on content. Your website should be more informative than a Yellow Pages ad. A visit to your site should deliver relevant, updated information about what you offer.

Don't expect miracles. In 1998, owning a "dot com" meant you could sell stock at hyper-inflated prices. Today, it's a basic cost of doing business. Without a website, you certainly won't be taken seriously. With a website, you still might not. A website is a necessary-but-not-sufficient condition for successful marketing.
Who You Are What You'll Need to Invest Do This Don't Do This
I'm running a large business, organization, or government agency. Thousands of dollars a year. Either find competent professionals and keep them on staff or contract your work out. In-house folks will generally be more responsive to the company's message, but will usually have less skill because they're not exposed to new challenges and methods very often. Contract firms will usually bring better skills to the table, but can't be counted on to respond at your command. (What are you going to do, fire them?)

Put every piece of marketing you have on your site. If it's out in public, people should see it. Put everything from print ads to commercials online.

Insist that your designers follow W3 Consortium standards. If they follow some simple rules, they can keep your site accessible for users everywhere. If they don't, you could be embarrassed when someone using a different browser than the one your designers use visits your site and finds everything mis-matched and laid out wrong.
Don't over-do your site. See comments above.