If you'd love to start your own hobby website, here's a quick guide to getting started, with lots of resources to learn more. Come join us on the Old Web!
The most important part is to find a community of people to inspire you, show you tricks and tips, and help you get unstuck. This is one reason I have so many sites listed on my friends page
--these are all people who have helped me so much as a hobby webdesigner. I'm part of a sitemaking community called Amassment
, which is mostly active on Discord these days, but there are many other places to find community, such as webrings, forums, listings, and social media groups.
Whatever group you join, you'll learn much faster from other designers, because you can get help in real time with code issues, get visual design feedback, and get inspiration and encouragement. Finding the community I did back in 2003 helped me SO MUCH with confidence and creativity, and having community has kept me going since!
These links are a good start to finding like-minded folks--give them a browse and see what new friends you can make!
If you want to make a site from the ground up, you'll need to learn HTML and CSS. HTML is basically the framework a site is built with, and CSS is what makes that framework easy to read and pleasant to look at. But coding is not the only way to start. I personally have had a lot of success with using wordpress.com
to make some sites I didn't have the brain space to design. Using free sites like WordPress or the newly developed Neocities
are a great way to dip your toe into creating your own content for the Web.
As for homebrewing your very own layouts, I recommend visiting websites with inspiring layouts and using View Page Source and/or Inspect to look at their code. (On PCs, this is accessed using the right-click button somewhere on the webpage; for Mac computers, this is accessed using the Develop menu in Safari
.) This is one of the ways I learned HTML and CSS myself--by studying the beautiful sites I visited often.
I also recommend using some helpful sites and videos to help you understand the code you'll see when you view sources. The links below are helpful and approachable:
(And if you're not into the idea of coding or doing any kind of visual content/layouts, but you still have content you want to publish, podcasts and microcasts
are a thing--check them out!)
Apps for Writing Code
You'll also need a good app (or as us old folks say, "program") to write your code in. I personally like Notepad++
, but I know many sitemakers also like SublimeText
as well. All of these are free and fairly easy to use, with color coding that shows you what kind of code you're writing and where mistakes are. (Also check out MakeUseOf's list of 9 best free code editors
for other options that have support for other kinds of code as well!)
Start with a Host
Once you've learned some HTML and CSS and built a few files, you'll need a place to upload all those files so that the rest of the world can enjoy them! That's where webhosts come in. For a fee each month (or each year), they'll host your files on their server, which means anyone who knows how to access that server will also be able to see your designs and view your content, just as you intended.
BUT WAIT! Not all webhosts are created equal. In fact, there is a pretty bad group of them, all owned by one company, that are important to avoid--check ReviewHell's excellent article on this group
to learn more. It's also worth checking out ReviewHell for their common-sense guide to webhosting
and webhost ranking system
as well, because they explain it all far better than I can.
From my little community of sitemakers, here are our recommendations for webhosts:
How to Upload Files to Your Host
Some hosts will make it fairly easy to upload from within your browser, but if you don't want to fool with opening a browser and logging in every time, I recommend an FTP program
--an app that will securely sign you in and upload files much more quickly. I personally use FileZilla
, but there are many other options out there--check WebFX.com's breakdown of 12 other FTP programs
Last but Not Least: A Domain Name
To find your awesome site, people could technically type in a series of numbers for your server's IP address, but who wants to bother with all that? A domain name is a lot easier to remember, like a street address for your site instead of latitude and longitude.
Finding a cool domain name that ISN'T taken in this age of Internet is a tough one. One way to find a fitting domain name is to think of the qualities you want your website to have, then look up synonyms on Thesaurus.com
to find more poetic or unusual ways to say it. (Also check The Phrontistery
for even more obscure words!) If you're really stuck, try a generator, like BusinessNameGenerator
, to jumpstart your thinking. Lastly, you can ask your fellow sitemakers for help brainstorming!
Once you have a few domain names in mind, it's time to go to a domain registrar
, a place that will let you rent your domain name (usually for a yearly fee). (I find that it's better not to have your website hosted and registered with the same company, even if it's more convenient, because if your hosting company folds, you'll also have to re-register your domain name somewhere else.) I've personally had good dealings with both GoDaddy
And You're Done!
With all these steps in place, you will be able to launch your first site. I hope you'll give this a shot--all of us hobby webdesigners can't wait to see what you'll share with the world!
make your own?