Best way for newbies to build a website
I'm often asked "How do you build a simple website?" Mountain View's Google is one of many free site providers. If you have a Google account, go to sites.google.com where you can find designs for sports clubs, contractors, teachers, churches, non-profits, restaurants, family, business collaboration and more. Select a design, then edit each page to change the text and pictures.
The simple editor shows the page almost as it appears on the web, unlike some other sites that require a different administrator's view for adding pages. Google Sites makes it easy to set permissions, so you can keep the site private, share it with friends, choose who can change pages or make it public. Even though Google Sites has some limitations, like not being able to remove "Powered by Google Sites" from the footer, it is a really fast way for the beginning website developer to make a site and see some of the underlying programming language, HTML.
Google Sites is free for up to 100 megabytes of storage, an unlimited number of pages with a 20 MB limit on the size of uploaded files. This compares favorably with some paid hosting sites that limit uploads to files smaller than 2, 4 or 8 MB. To show a large video file, upload it to another site like YouTube or Vimeo, and display it on your Google Site with a Google Gadget. Gadgets are boxes containing special information, like a map, news items, a photo album or a game. A website for a wedding might display Gadgets showing the weather, a map, a photo gallery and some fashion news, so guests know what to wear. You can also have gadgets that enable readers to pay for items or donate money to a cause, using a service like Google Checkout or PayPal.
An annoying feature is that Google may change the HTML language to something it likes better than your code. Another annoying feature is that you can't see the HTML for the entire page — the head section is hidden. You can add some head section information, such as a website description. More annoyances for geeks is no FTP and a clunky way to attach files like PDFs to a page.
Most of the theme colors on Google are muted and rather dull, so you may want to customize them. Adobe's site, kuler.adobe.com, helps you choose colors for your site from a picture. You can also get a color-picking tool for your browser, such as jPicker, obtainable from digitalmagicpro.com. Just point the color picker to a color you like in your browser and you can find out the exact amount of red, green and blue color in it, represented as a hex code. For example, the hex code for red is FF0000. Enter the hex code into Google Sites to extend your choice beyond the 64 colors offered by Google for your design.
If you don't like using Google for your website, check out Weebly, a free site which lets you remove the footer if you pay $3.99 a month. It features an easy-to-use editor, with many themes. I use the free version for angelahey.com, where I have a list of my Voice articles. If what you really want is a blog site, where you are publishing information chronologically, then Google's Blogger.com site is also easy to use. Another free alternative is Wordpress.com, where you can have 3 GB of file storage, equivalent to 2,500 pictures.
Have fun making your site.