All technologies and hosting platforms mentioned here have been used personally by either me or my wife. These are not sponsored mentions and are based upon my own experience with the hosting platform.
If you just want a comparison table, click here to skip to the end.
I first started writing when I needed a way to store and publish information for fellow members in my local 4-H club (Aerospace and robotics). At this time, I had a Google account, and was aware that Google had a way to make websites, so that project was posted there.
At this point, I was just beginning to try to host and share data via the web. Google Sites gave me basic templates that made it easy to put my articles and documents on the web and share them.
One important feature was that this was at no cost - I used a sites.google.com/site/… URL for each of these sites, and did not have to pay for hosting or for a domain name.
I’m not going to go into much detail here, as the technology has been officially shut down.
Note: I received notification from Google that they were shutting down this option, but I have noticed that they do still render html files - but since URL is very complicated, I’ve moved on.
Over the spring semester I had been working with the Harding Academy FRC team as a programming mentor. I had realized that we had been building design patterns and architectures that were beneficial in programming the robot, and that the lead programming I was working with would be graduating the next year.
So, during that summer, I set out to write down what we had been learning and building in an easy to share method.
Here is where I purchased my first domain name (frclabviewtutorials.com), and here I wrote my first serious website (more than 3 pages, custom built menu, styling, mobile-responsive, etc.)
I chose Hosting24 when I did this because:
The cost was $24/month - or (and I went this rout) $240/year (slightly cheaper)
Over the next couple of years, when I had a project that was best suited to a website, or when asked to make a website. I started to learn a rule of them.
Do you want to have pictures, text, and/or videos and convey information? Or do you want to have the user be able to enter data and have the page react.
Text, pictures, and videos. - OK, I suggest you checkout Google Sites, or WordPress, or Tumblr - they make creating such sites easy, and you don’t really need me.
On the rare occasion that they actually wanted user accounts, interactive, was probably going to need a database, I would take on the project and develop it in PHP and host it on Hosting24.
In 2016, I got the idea that I could built a website to generate AutoHotkey code for common use cases (string replacement, typing a Unicode symbol, and opening a program/bringing to front).
I built what was the original prototype of what is now ahkgen.com in PHP with an HTML and JS front-end, then decided that I wanted to publish the tool, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to pay for any more hosting for the PHP.
Note: This makes hosting not cost anything on public repositories. I still have to purchase a domain name, and I connect the two up via a CNAME record.
After building ahkgen.com, I realized that the majority of my other sites were only using PHP for a server side include (not the official version of the technology) - and Jekyll (the templating language powering GH-Pages) provided that ability in the static pages I could check into GitHub.
Note: by this point, the projects I had undertaken that needed databases, were dead, so those sites were just archived and shut down.
Throughout most of this, I’ve had a server setup in my living room running Apache2, and IIS on my Windows machine for dev testing. In preparation for our wedding in 2017, I built (using examples and PHP) a site that allowed visitors to upload image files. I setup the server so these were stored on a thumb drive, and during the wedding - told anyone I saw taking pictures on their phone, to just upload them there. (a few used this option).
Since then, I have used the fact that I have this server setup to do testing and throw up quick one-pages (like a web ui for my sunrise alarm clock or a stats sheet for my D&D character).
Mikayla also setup a site for our wedding - it was the go to spot to RSVP and for directions to the venue and similar.
She built it using Wix - and let me play with it a little (add some details, copy the color scheme for the photo up-loader)
(and probably more, this is just what we used)
In the years since I’ve started coding my own websites, Google Sites has undergone a complete rebuild. This became apparent when the First Robotics team (#6321) that I was working with now chose it as their hosting platform for their team site. - While I was not heavily involved in the build of the site, I did wind up interacting with the interface as I helped them get a domain name hooked up and saw that it was the modernized tool I would want for a simple and easy website builder.
Mikayla and I run a D&D group (well, she runs it, I play and help make sure we have food planned), and she chose tumblr.com to host the adventure log with session recaps and the various maps and other illustrations she’s made. She’s had me help her customize the html in the template she’s using a little bit, but if you’re not doing something weird (like - menu cross-linking two sites like we were), their standard templates should have you covered.
(and probably more, but that’s what I can say after messing with it to help with the cross-linking)
This summer, I had an idea for a project that I thought would be widely adopted (this has yet to happen, but the learning experience has been good, and I have a reasonable amount of use out of it).
But to do this, I was going to need:
And most importantly
(I had hacked together testing frameworks for my earlier PHP projects, but I knew a lot more about how good testing is done, and that I needed a language that supported unit testing to do this)
So, I learned Django (at least enough to get this project working).
That took care of the user accounts, database, and building it in Python (yes, I built tests on my model and view-model as I went).
But (at least at that time), Hosting24 did not support Python hosting, so I asked a few colleagues for recommendations, and spent some time Googling. In the end, I went with DigitalOcean for a couple of reasons:
|Google Drive||Tumblr||Google Sites||Wix.Com||WordPress||GH-Pages||Hosting24||Self Hosting||Digital Ocean|
|Easy to use (for non-programmers)||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Hosts Pictures, text, and/or videos||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Templates for lots of different types of sites||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Plug-ins for adding functionality (built into platform)||✓||✓|
|Free custom domain (e.g. yoursite.host.com) (for connecting to site)||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Free full custom domain (e.g. yoursite.com) (for connecting to site)||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Highly customizable (without coding)||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Even more customizable (requires coding)||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Allows for user accounts||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|High up time guarantee||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Customizable back-end (database, logging, doing server side scripts)||✓||✓||✓|
|Cost estimate (based on what I was paying)
* if paying anually