First, PLEASE don’t use “free accounts” from companies offering you a “free Website.”
Sites offered free have to cover costs somehow, which may mean they drop ads on your site and those ads could be competitive, which I ‘ve seen often in the real estate industry.
“Free” comes with a high price if your goal is to draw clients for your company; the host site gets the traffic, not your site. If it’s an all-Flash site such as Wix.com offers, search engines have trouble reading Flash, meaning you build the site and no one knows where you are. I’ve just rebuilt a client’s site that had been on Wix for one year getting nowhere. It was rebuilt/switched a few weeks ago and it is already climbing the Google and Alexa.com charts!
Sites built correctly with your own solid content may get you into Google’s top ten. 90% of the sites I build show up in Google’s page ranking system. One of my sites is ABOVE the Marin Independent Journal’s online publication; the newspaper has a team of people working on that site. I’m a one-person operation and I’m right there with them, so it can be done!
In case you’re curious about my stats: Content IS King
That said, if you’ve decided to “do it yourself,” then do yourself a favor and pick up any of the following Peachpit Press books by Elizabeth Castro. I learned just about everything I know about Web design, Illustrator, PhotoShop, etc. from Peachpit Press’ books, especially from Castro’s books.
An earlier version of this particular book is LITERALLY how I learned to build Web sites. HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is the lingua franca of the Web, and like any language, it’s constantly evolving. So Elizabeth Castro has written HTML 4 for the World Wide Web, Fourth Edition: Visual QuickStart Guide, an update to her blockbuster guide to HTML 4. She also includes links to her site so you can check updates to the book as you go/grow.
Many of us at the outset are tempted to sign up for a low-cost or free Web package that proposes to have an “easy point-and-click” setup. Unless you are simply setting up a family album, “point-and-clicks” just don’t work that well, you give up lots of control, you may give up value such as Web site positioning and, again, competitors ads may be dropped on your site. Also, it isn’t only or necessarily the Web site that draws your clients; it is the content, which has nothing to do with point-and-click site building.
If you decide to go point-and-click anyway, at least pick up one book that will help you Create a Web Page with HTML: Visual QuickProject Guide so that you have a sense of what it’s all about.
These books help you create beautifully coded HTML Web pages that perform predictably and consistently across all browsers and platforms. If you decide you want to change a font color or size, you just go to that page. It can be, and probably will be daunting initially, but Elizabeth Castro, who is a best-selling author in this realm, knows that most readers don’t need an encyclopedic reference, just simple instructions for creating their first Web page. This compact guide gives just that: Rather than explaining every tag and option, she demonstrates the quickest, easiest, smartest route to creating that first Web page.
IF you are just starting out, consider a blog. They are much much easier to set up and manage, in part because of all of the exceptional templates offered through WordPress and other blogging sites. Castro has written Publishing a Blog with Blogger: Visual QuickProject Guide for this. Because I learned so much about HTML, CSS, etc. from her earlier works, when I got around to blogs it was easy . . . and, again, blogs are easier in general.
Lastly, and this is SO important: Select your Web/Blog hosting company carefully. Your friendly neighborhood host company may not have the services necessary to your success as you grow. You NEED a company that has a solid track record, is available 24/7, charges reasonable fees, has a friendly/knowledgable staff, can fix things within minutes NOT days and has all the latest widgets should you need more widgets! I know all this first-hand ’cause that is the type of service I have gotten from GoDaddy.com for many years.