Now that you have an idea and a place to host your idea the next step in getting yourself some web real estate is deciding what to put there.
You could break out a text editor and start writing some basic HTML pages or even use some sort of WYSIWYG HTML editor but those things require a lot of work and today there are easier ways to do these things.
HTML is for ...
Back in the day everyone built their site using HTML. The only variance was when a site decided to end their file names with .html instead of .htm. In the modern web world no one creates basic HTML pages anymore, most people use PHP or another scripting language to have their server generate the HTML pages sent to the reader's browser. Writing your own web site using PHP can be a very rewarding experience but odds are you can find an Open Source solution that will meet your needs and save you a lot of time coding.
What is Open Source?
Open Source is something new that is also quite old. In the early days of computing people eagerly shared their source code among their peers. Granted most of those peers wore pocket protectors and would laugh at the old "pie are squared" joke but the point is that they would share code because they wanted to show off their coding skills and they hoped that others would improve upon what they wrote. The idea of proprietary code did not come until later when people began to figure out that they could sell software to non-business customers.
Today Open Source is alive and well with the most popular Open Source package Linux. Many web servers run on Linux. I know you don't care much about that at this point so I will instead take this time to point out three Open Source solutions that you can use to help you get your website up and running fast.
Blogging is the hottest thing these days. Everyone has a blog. This site is a blog! Now, i could sit down for a few months and write my own blogging software but why would I? it would be a waste of my time when the very useful (and free) WordPress software already exists.
Yes, there are other blogging software platforms but WordPress is the best. It is also very widely used and has a ton of plugins that are easy to use.
When I first began my blogging career I used something other than WordPress and I paid the price. Every other blogger I knew and spoke with was using WordPress. when I had a problem I had no one to turn to as all they would say is, "I can't help you, I use WordPress."
WordPress is very easy to install (some hosting companies have a script that will install it for you), very customizable and best of all, 100% free. Yes, you need not spend a single red cent to use the software. Getting a custom skin designed and some plugins do cost money but those are optional things you can worry about later.
Once you upload the software to your server it is a simple matter of following the very simple install instructions and you will be blogging in minutes.
For those who want to use their web space for something that is more than a blog I recommend looking into the multitude of content management solutions out there, one of the most popular is PHP-Nuke. Like WordPress it is free and customizable.
PHP-Nuke may be a little Web 1999 for some people but I have found it still holds up well over time. For those who want something a little more current you can feel free to look into drupal or mambo. These two software packages are also free but are of a level where you need a dedicated and knowledgeable person on staff to help you out.
A lot of people also like to run forums for discussion. There are a few free ones out there, the best of which is PHPBB. This Open Source forum software is very easy to setup and easy to skin. I have used it in the past but I have taken the next step and licensed some higher end forum software.
One Size Does Not Fit All
As good as Open Source software is it is not always a solution for everything. Sometimes you have to write the code for your own site because it does something special or unique. Some Open Source software is easy to modify to make it fit while others are written in such a way that only the truly tech savy can manipulate them.
If you would like to try out some pieces of Open Source software to see if something may be a good fit for you I highly suggest you take a look at OpenSourceCMS. They have a ton of software on there and they all have live demos that you can use to see if they are be right for you.
Stay tuned for the next article in the series, Get on the Web Part 3: FTP