No-cost Websites and Blogs

There is an awful lot of free web development software and even complete website services Google’s Sites and Weebly are just two examples of essentially free blog and website creation+operation services that are available today. How do these free services make money? Well in the case of Google and Microsoft it is online ads and downstream services. Others like Weebly and WordPress make money on the upgrades to premium Website services. But whatever the motive, developers and end users have substantial blog and Website services available for free.

This means end-users and developers themselves are able  to pitch their services on the Web with their own personal blog or website  for minimal out of pocket costs. Of course these out of pocket costs are such things as the domain name[ like JavaScriptures.wordpress.com – try it as an example of a nearly free website which uses a free Web Blog] and online storage and broadband  hosting services which deliver your website pages to users – all of this is to be had for a grand total cost of  $0.0. Yes, that is zero dollars and zero cents.

But as always, nothing is absolutely free.
First, there is the website design and development time. Either you  or a third party have to  design the website. Then either you or a Web Developer implements the systems. But as you see in the screenshot above,  most of the top website creation systems have great tools  both design templates  plus fast and powerful designers so it is possible for the absolutely new beginner to develop a  website that not only looks good but also performs well for most of the tasks intended for normal website usage.

Even better, many of these tools are easy to remember how to operate – one can do it yourself editing content and  adding new pages, galleries plus stories/posts. So again, “nearly free” website developers can lower their costs by doing their own operations including updates and new material. However, there are some costs associated with operating a “nearly free” website. Some services insert ads into your website[usually on the footer]. Others charge for additional storage space beyond a set limit so if the total  disk space required for  your pages, images, and video go over a limit – sometimes as low as 100Mb you get charged for the extra space. Likewise if your site becomes so popular that that downloads go over another limit, the amount of downloading your site is allowed for free,  you also can get charged.

Nearly Free Website Services

After consulting with some web colleagues plus a careful Google tour has uncovered some of the more promising Nearly Free Website services. Now all of the Free Website Service provide free Design and Development Services. On the operations side, the free quickly changes to to nearly or not so free. Doteasy is an example – 100MB of diskspace, 1GB of  free data transfers per month, but  web  host or domain name costs $7.

So there are dozens of free services, but look for 300MB of free space or more, no banner ads, 2GB or more of free data transfers per month  and very good web site  creation, design, and building tools. There are also a number of very good  free blogging services. They are of particular interest because  Blogs provide good design  templates plus the ability to create  individual webpages linked by sophisticated pulldown menus. In sum, free blogs can also easily create integrated, professional looking websites as well. Thus the table below lists in alphabetical order some of the better “Nearly Free” Web and Blog  Services with their strengths and weaknesses. Here is what is common to all of these top-notch Blog and/or Website creation services:
1)The website domain name and bandwidth for the site is free;
2)The storage space to 2GB [and often more] is free;
3)The website creation software and templates are free and are uniformly good if not first rate;
4)The page and/or post editing software is also top-notch; most offer either visual or HTML edit [and some both];
5)Users can add and edit the images and style of the websites to their hearts content;
6)There are widgets and menus to give the site a pro-look and feel;
7)There a slew of unique extra features that we try to highlight in the table below:

Vendor Strengths Weaknesses
Google Blogger
Example Site
100s of designs or import blog
HTML and Visual editors
Multi-users, multi-sites
Unlimited storage and
awkward editing and widget susage
simple tracking services
blogger  ads in footer
Google Sites
Example Site
groups – multi-user, multi-sites
link to Google Apps and Docs
3 dozen complete design templates
10GB storage, unlimited bandwidth
crude design and edit tools
footer ads for Google Sites
variable response time
hard to get pro styling
Microsoft Web Matrix
Example Site
Large set of design creation options
Sophisticated Visual Studio editor
Database and media tools
Big learning curve
Lots of bugs on load
Hosting services costs
Proprietary tools, services
SquareSpace
Example Site
Powerful Design/Layout editor
Very good page/post editor
Blog stats and blog import tools
Hosting services costs
Small set of plugins, templates
Typepad
Example Site
dozens of widgets and good stats
Visual+HTML edits
Strong set of smartphone features
Some confusing edits
Free Micro Blogs are very limited
Few design themes before upgrade
Weebly
Example site
Good site designer
Very easy + powerful editor
unlimited pages and blogs allowed
unlimited storage and data transfers
Small set of design themes
Mixed editor response time
Small set of blog features
Wix
Example Site
Flash based
Very strong Designer
Very strong editor
Multiple sites easily created
Mixed response time
Flash still NA on iPad, etc
Ads embedded on free
WordPress
Example Site
Good set of Design options
Great editor for pages & posts
Multi-sites, multi-users
Lots of unique extras
Designs easily exported to full WP
Missing plugins, CSS,  JavaScript support
Expensive premium features
Ads for WordPress on footer

As you can see the blog services are quite robust and have the fewest costs associated with them. All of the blog services are able to create either blog posts or Web pages linked to pulldown menus. So it is easy to create professionally styled websites which have a blog forum as a bonus. All of the tools provide robust and easy to use page/posting editors often with HTML edit  capabilities. But the real change is that several of the services have made their free hosting option quite limited. SquareSpace and Microsoft Web Matrix openly charge for their web hosting – at fairly dear rates. Likewise Typad’s free hosting services  are limited and WordPress is starting to move in the Typepad direction – with fairly expensive monthly charges for domain name $12-17/yr, CSS – $15/yr, ad free site at $30/yr or more storage space beyond the default 3GB is $20/year for 5GB of additional storage

After trying all 8 of these website  services three stand out. From the Blog side WordPress and Google Blogger offer good design choices, solid editors, and a raft of “extra ” services that all the other blogs and website services come up short in 2 or 3 cases. From the Website services side Weebly has the best combination of  design creation capabilities with some wonderful blog post and page design+editing capabilities. Beginning  users will find Weebly very approachable while at the same time capable of delivering very well styled blogs and websites. The  screenshot at the top of the page is an example of Weebly in action. So follow our individual reviews of the top 3 Nearly Free Website  and Blogs available on the Web:
Google Blogger –   for the unlimited   storage and great set of services;
Weebly -for the many design and editing options
WordPress- for a top set of features including imports or exports to so many other blogs

Read these reviews, view the powerpoint above and decide for yourself which Blog or Web site service meets your needs most closely.