This is a tough one, folks! Deciding whether or not to register your own domain name is, I think, one of the hardest things for a beginner webmaster to decide.
Registering a domain name is relatively inexpensive ($35 a year). Hosting it can cost a fair amount as you get larger… but it is pretty cheap for the first while (somewhere between $4 and $30 USD a month). These are two separate costs -- you need to pay both.
If you register your own domain name, you end up with something like http://www.dltk-kids.com or http://www.coloring.ws If you get a domain name that describes your website, people can remember the name easily and can return to your site without having to consult their bookmarks.
So… if it’s so inexpensive to register your domain name why doesn’t everyone do it? Well… mainly because it’s a lot more techy and more of a hassle up front than free webspace. You need to find someone to host the domain name you’ve registered, you need a feel for what equipment you’ll be using (NT servers or UNIX servers), and you’ll need to figure out how to build your webpages (what software to use).
I think a lot of beginners attempt to start here and end up so frazzled by the experience that they give up building websites altogether.
Just remember... if you do run into trouble, you only have
to make it through this part of the process once! And on the pro side,
it's kinda neat to have your very own .com *wink*.
If you don't register your own domain name and decide instead to use one of the free hosting services, you end up with a directory of someone else's website -- You’re just a piece of a larger site that someone else controls.
If you go with a free host, they handle the equipment and techy stuff. Many of them even offer simple software to help you build your pages, communities and forums for chatting about problems and internet 101 manuals to help answer some of the basic questions you might have.
Even if you plan on registering a domain name for your
“dream website” it’s not a bad idea to join one of the free hosting
services and practice/play around in there for awhile before you get going.
I know a lot of you will (at least in the back of your
mind) be wondering if/how to make a bit of money from all of your website
efforts. Be forewarned that if you choose to go the free web hosting route, your income potential will be
restricted. Most advertising
programs do not allow the ads to be shown on the free web hosts and most free
web hosts restrict commercial site usage. Read
the rules carefully before making your choice!
If you go the free web host route and you get too big for their services (or they go bankrupt), you’ll have to move. When you do move, you’ll suddenly have a brand new URL. All of the search engine listings, people’s bookmarks, webrings, etc, etc, etc will have to be changed. It’s a big job -- your traffic (and your spirits) may suffer temporarily because of it.
If you pay for a domain name, you get to take it with you wherever you go. If you have to get a bigger hosting package, there’s a bit of technical moving around behind the scenes, but it doesn’t impact your viewers and it's nowhere near as difficult as changing URL's
If you've never done a website, play around with a free webhost at this point. Even if you plan on getting your own domain name, many of the free webhosts offer a lot of support for beginners that you'll likely find useful.
If you're unsure about whether you'll enjoy this or not, go with the free hosting and ignore all of the domain name registration stuff right now. There's a lot to learn and you don't need to worry about all the registration stuff if you aren't even sure you'll like it. It took me a year and a half of working 10 to 20 hours a week on the site before I outgrew my free service providers. Many people stay forever with their free web hosts.
If you decide you're really excited/motivated about building a website, register your own domain name once you're about a month or two into playing around (before you start applying to search engines for listings). It's worth the bit of money it costs to avoid the aggravation of switching later on -- the sooner you register your domain name, the easier you're life will be in the long run.
IF YOU LOVE WEB DESIGN, REGISTER YOUR DOMAIN NAME IN UNDER 6 MONTHS.
Even if you're 99.9% sure you'll register your own domain name, getting a free web host is a great way to practice/play around a bit.
There are 1000's of free web hosts out there to choose from.
For right now, I'm just going to mention a few of the bigger (or unique) ones that are out there. There are many, many more but I've chosen to list the bigger ones that have been around a long time in the hopes that they won't disappear (go bankrupt) on you!
Once you decide to move on to a paid webhost, there are a lot of choices. At the moment, we use ExpertHost (http://www.experthost.com/). ExpertHost costs $15 US (ish) for small sites. There are cheaper hosts out there, but you get what you pay for. So far ExpertHost has had the least downtime and fastest assistance of any that we've used so far.
You'll need to pick either Unix or Microsoft NT server. Unix is typically cheaper, but if you're using FrontPage, you'll likely want Microsoft NT with FrontPage extensions. Also, if you ever plan to use ASP to do nifty things like the custom cards on our site, you'll need a microsoft server. Having said that, UNIX lovers have their own "nifty things" languages available too.
You'll also need a domain name when you have a paid webhost. Most webhosts will handle the domain name registration as well, often for cheaper than you can do it yourself. But then, they're your registry even if you move your hosting. We tend to register our own domains so we can easily switch webhosts if the need arises. We do this through http://www.register.com for the .com sites and http://www.worldsite.ws for the .ws sites. (there's no difference, there just tend to be more open names in .ws) Domains through these folks cost about $70 US for 2 years.