The driving principle of the modern Web is interactivity. Social media and user-generated content have become the law of the virtual jungle and anyone trying to build their own website today has to keep that in mind. Thankfully, the top Web-hosting services of today are aware of this. Many site builders offer far more robust tools than in the past, making it easier than ever to build your own site and develop a Web presence. Even so, if you’re just starting out, it is probably better to take things slow and not overcommit yourself. Fortunately, many Web hosts offer free services — generally with limited features — allowing anyone to jump into website design without the risk. Below are a few of our favorites, from WordPress to Weebly.
As one of the most popular platforms around — and the most popular for blogging — WordPress offers a robust selection of features, particularly in regards to social media and search engine optimization (aka SEO). The system is fairly easy to use, too, outfitted with a diverse range of writing and blogging tools designed to help users quickly modify their content and create a cleaner, more professional site.
Furthermore, the platform provides a slew of analytics tools to evaluate site performance and social media integration to help connect the site with audiences worldwide. The service also embraces convenience, additionally providing a mobile app that allows users to add posts and manage content anywhere, and even offers unlimited bandwidth so there’s no need to worry about performance issues. WordPress claims to power 24.3 percent of all websites, and given its extensive service, it’s not hard to understand why.
Bandwidth: 50GB a month
The name “GeoCities” might ring a few bells for those who were browsing the Web in the ’90s. In the early days of Web 2.0, when the idea of ordinary people putting up their own website for whatever purpose was novel, GeoCities was omnipresent. Today, GeoCities no longer exists outside of archived pages and apparently Japan, but the core idea of creative personal websites lives on through NeoCities. Of course, the creators of NeoCities have ensured that sites on their domain have access to modern design tools, so your site won’t look like vaporwave unless you absolutely want it to.
Moreover, NeoCities pushes the idea of community, encouraging comments and site sharing between users. They provide every user with a free NeoCities subdomain, and make it easy to connect with other users. Plus, an HTML editor and drag-and-drop file uploader means quick and easy modifications.
Bandwidth: 1GB a month
One of the old-school Web hosting services, Angelfire still survives to this day having recently redesigned its service for HTML5. The company’s free hosting service is fairly barebones — it offers only basic statistics and doesn’t provide a domain name — but the website builder does let you use HTML and CSS to tailor your site according to your personal desires. Users can also work on their sites offline and upload the files later, while numerous add-on modules allow you to modify your site in various ways.
Angelfire also offers paid upgrades for those who want beefier options, but even free users can tap the friendly support staff if need be. However, the free service is really only essential if you dislike the coding-free design that’s a hallmark of most other services on our roundup.
Moonfruit aims to help users build a good-looking site quickly, and more importantly, does so with a suite of user-friendly tools and contemporary designs. Like Weebly, it uses drag-and-drop software to make editing quick and painless, while automatically optimizing your site for mobile and SEO purposes.
Furthermore, Moonfruit provides a free subdomain with its service and users who already posses a domain name can choose to integrate their own instead. It also provides social media integration and the latest Google Analytics tools, rendering it a well-tailored service for the needs of Web 2.0 users with the ability to evaluate site performance whenever you see fit.
In the crowded field of Web-hosting services, Weebly stands out by making everything easy. Its Web builder uses drag-and-drop extensively, allowing users to make changes without any prior knowledge of coding. The service also provides eCommerce tools for users wanting to add an online store to their site, along with a comprehensive mobile app that grants users the tools to properly manage their site on the go (much akin to the aforementioned WordPress). Weebly’s site builder even lets you build a dedicated mobile site, instead of simply optimizing your desktop site for mobile users.
Of course, unlimited storage space and bandwidth is also a boon, one that makes the service better suited for anyone attempting to keep up with the times in regards to modern Web design.
Bandwidth: 1GB a day
Google’s Web hosting service is one that emphasizes both simplicity and collaboration. Users can simply work in a Google Doc to design their site, which also conveniently allows other users to view and edit the work. That said, anyone who is familiar with other Web components will find Google Sites straightforward. The service has limited functions, however, especially in regards to HTML.
Limited storage space and bandwidth are also a noteworthy drawback to Google Sites. The service is perhaps best suited to those well aquainted with Google’s services, as well as those who don’t need the robust design features that are characteristic of other Web hosts. Still, it might be the most intuitive option for beginners given its no-frills design and emphasis on teamwork.
Updated on 8-25-15 by Will Nicol: Added WordPress, NeoCities, Google Sites, Weebly, and two other free, Web-hosting services previously not available.