Project websites for all!

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 Until recently, project websites were typically set up only for large construction projects. Unless you were working on a major project that was going to last for at least a year, it was just too costly and time-consuming of a task to create a dedicated site. And forget doing it yourself just registering the domain name (the URL address) and learning the software to create the site was enough to scare away anyone but the professionals. But today's technology has changed to the point that anyone can set up a website and obtain a domain name in minutes.

Free or browser-based website hosting options

If you're thinking about setting up a website for your project, first you need to decide where your site will be stored or "hosted." Few people keep their site on their own servers  instead they rent space on a server or computer dedicated to hosting websites. There's a large number of hosting companies to choose from, with varying costs. Most offer common, easy-to-learn software packages for creating websites, and provide an easy domain registration process. You then work within that software to create your site. 

But several other hosting companies offer an even easier option with a much lower learning curve. And Example Websiteif this is your first time setting up a project site, it would be helpful for you to try creating some sites with a free or low-cost option offering the lower learning curve. That way, you can easily determine if the option will work for you without spending a lot of money or time researching. Below are a few companies to try out:

Weebly  After registering on this site, you are free to create up to two project websites at no cost. This company features a drag-and-drop method and allows for the use of multimedia such as photos and videos. There are several tutorial videos and step-by-step instructions if you get stuck. Site statistics are also available  these are helpful in determining how much your site is used. As for the domain name, you can use one of theirs, which would look something like this: You can also register any available name through their site or ask them to point the website to a domain name you might already have registered, like If you like Weebly and want more sites, you can create more for a fee.

SnapPages This company also offers an option to create a free website with up to five pages at no cost. There are also low-cost options with expanded features: $8/month for one business website and $30/month for unlimited websites. Like Weebly, SnapPages uses a drag-and-drop interface to create websites. This option does not allow for a custom domain name in the free option.

Google Sites  Google also offers a free and easy option for creating project websites. If you already have a Google account, you can get started right away. Otherwise, first go to, and set up a free account. Once you have your account and are at the Google Sites page, just hit the "Create" button to begin your site. Google will walk you through the steps to get you up and running. And if you need help, you can access Google Sites help here: Like other free options, Google will give your site a domain name that looks like this: But Google does offer the option to point your website to your own domain name if you already have one registered. The image in this post is a website that has been built using Google Sites.

Those are just a few examples of how to easily set up a free or low-cost site. You can find a listing of many more at this link:

Standard website hosting options

While the sites above might meet the needs for most small projects of short duration, a much more involved project might need a larger website. Fortunately, most standard website hosting packages today offer a quick and affordable method of setting up a site and registering your own domain name. Most also offer a choice of common website-building software to use to create the site. I am going to use my current host provider in this example only because it's the one with which I am most familiar  keep in mind there are many more out there that offer similar features and costs.

Dreamhost - most of my websites have been set up through Dreamhost. This company, like most, offers at least one free domain registration with a hosting package. So for approximately $9/month, you can register any available domain name and set up unlimited websites using that name. For example, I might set up a domain name of for the general public. Then I can set up another at to hold all the plans and other project details that only the contractor, engineer, and owner might be interested in. There is no extra charge for this domain name because it is viewed as a "sub-domain" of my original name. If I want to establish other websites through my hosting package using a different URL or domain name, I can do so by registering another domain name for approximately an additional $9/year. As for the software used to create the site, here are just a few of the software packages offered: Wordpress, MediaWiki, and Joomla.

Low-cost vs. standard hosting

As you can see, setting up a project site through a standard hosting package is a little more complicated than with the free or browser-based options, because the creator needs to be familiar with specific software packages. While they are easy to learn, there is a higher learning curve than using a drag-and-drop method. Editing the site is also more complicated and may involve logging into the actual computer and file structure of the website server. But with this option, the creator has more control over the site and its features. And this option allows for backup and archiving of the site or redeployment on another server. The standard hosting package also includes unlimited file size and storage.

For most small projects that only last a few months, the low-cost or browser-based option is most-likely the best choice as long as backups are not required. They're so easy to use that anyone can set up a site in minutes. However, if you have a large-scale project that's scheduled to last a year or more, you might want to go with the standard hosting package because it will offer you more storage, pages, features, and the ability to archive and backup the site.

Check back for my next post, which will look at what information and features should be included on a project website.


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March 30, 2012

Pam Nicely done! Clark Wantoch City of Milwaukee

Posted By: Clark Wantoch | Time: 10:32:41.263 PM




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About the Blogger

Pam Broviak

thumbnail image A former senior editor of PUBLIC WORKS, Pam Broviak publishes the Public Works Group Blog at (All views expressed in this blog are her own and not those of PUBLIC WORKS.)