While most services will want to charge you a few bucks a month to run a server hosting your website, there are plenty of places online today to host your content completely free. With a little web development skill, you can have a site up and running in no time.
Free domains and HTTPS
Every website needs a domain. Some services will allow you to host on subdomains, for example
yoursitename.googlepages.combut if you want a professional looking address, you probably want to get a domain name.
Fortunately, domain names are pretty cheap. Services like Namecheap and Google Domains offer domains for less than $8 for a full year and for nice extensions like
If you don’t want to pay that and are okay with a weird looking extension, you can use Freenom, which provides 100% free domain names with extensions like
If you need an SSL certificate to secure your site with HTTPS, don’t be fooled by companies that want to charge you for it: SSL certificates can be obtained for free with Let’s Encrypt, and most good hosting platforms will include this as a free certificate. service.
Free Website Templates
Making the website itself can be challenging. HTML and CSS can be confusing for new students, although there are many great resources available to learn it. Still, many people will gladly pay the $15/month for a website builder like SquareSpace.
However, you can save all this money by doing it yourself, and if you already know HTML and CSS, there are some great templates to get you started.
You’ll probably want to focus on sites built with a web-style toolset like Bootstrap, since it’s easier for beginners and has plenty of examples and documentation. You can also get full templates for free at sites like StartBootstrap.
If you need to do something custom, even if you don’t know much HTML, it’s relatively easy to open these templates and change the words, change the style of something, or add and remove sections. You’ll want to use a code-centric text editor like Visual Studio Code.
Free Static Hosting
The main thing you pay for when you host a website is the cost of the server. Somewhere in the world, a computer must be running and configured to listen to any web requests made by its users.
This process costs money, but for most people, their website doesn’t get millions of hits every day. That server can be down for minutes before another user moves on. In that case, paying even $10 a month to host a small website can be a waste of money.
There are services available to make accommodation cheaper. If you’re just serving HTML, not running WordPress or anything else that needs to do server-side processing for each user, your website may just be “static content”. Most web pages are static, and if you offer static content, all your server needs to do is allow people to download your website files.
There are a number of companies that provide this as a service, including Google and Amazon, because it’s cheaper and easier to run hundreds of similar websites from one large, cost-effective server. If you are not in the free tier, you can pay a small amount for the data used.
Github Pages is first on the list because it’s completely free, often overlooked, and perfect for this use case. The only stipulation is that the Github Pages terms of service only allow no comercial use, so you can’t use it to set up an eCommerce website, online business, or sell anything.
It’s fantastic for hobby projects though, as it’s meant to be used by programmers looking to set up project or portfolio pages. It provides a bunch of nice templates, though you can upload any HTML you want, including client-side web apps built with services like React.
It’s pretty easy to use: you’ll need to create an account, create the site’s repository, and upload your content via Git, which you can do from the Github Desktop app. You can even set up a custom domain to point to it.
RELATED: How to set up a simple and free website with Github Pages
Google: Firebase and Google Sites
Being such a large company, Google actually has two services that cater to this niche, but target different audiences. The first is Google Sites, a free website builder intended for people new to website hosting.
It is completely free but limited by being extremely basic; you can’t even use custom HTML, and you’re locked into its editor. It works well for things like hobby projects, online portfolios or resumes, or internal company sites. If you’re using it for the latter, you can lock it down so it’s only visible to other users on your GSuite plan. If it isn’t, you can publish it to the Internet, even under a custom domain.
RELATED: What is Google Sites and when should I use it?
Firebase is another Google service that is aimed at developers but is quite easy to use. You’ll need to use your command line to install the Firebase Command Line Tool, but once it’s set up and linked to your account, all you need to do is run “
firebase deploy” in the console, and it will sync all your local files to the cloud and update your website.
Firebase isn’t completely free, but you do get 10 GB per month of bandwidth in the free tier, which is more than enough for simple sites. If you pass, you can upgrade to a paid account and pay Google Cloud’s standard rate for data.
RELATED: How to Host a Static Website for Free on Google’s Firebase Hosting Platform
AWS S3 Buckets
Amazon Web Services, or AWS, is a service primarily intended for system administrators and software developers looking to run their applications on top-tier cloud hardware.
While it’s the most complicated option on this list for new website owners and isn’t meant for beginners, it’s technically the best option as it comes with a very generous free tier. One of their philosophies is pricing based only on what you used, and in this situation, you can host a website from your hosting service and only pay for the bandwidth used to download your site.
How it works is quite simple. AWS has a cloud storage service called Simple Storage Service (S3) that can be configured to host websites. Upload your HTML and other assets to the “repository” you created and configure the settings to activate web hosting. You can even connect a custom domain.
Optionally, you can connect a “Content Delivery Network” or CDN. This will speed up your website a lot by caching requests, but it also has the benefit of giving you a full terabyte of free bandwidth. Without the CDN, you’ll only get the standard 100 GB for all of AWS, although that’s already more than most people will need.
RELATED: How to Host a Static Website on Amazon S3
Is the “free hosting” of paid services a scam?
There are some paid services that will offer a completely free tier instead of a limited time free trial. In general, you’ll want to be careful and read the fine print in these cases, since most of the time they are specifically designed to get you to spend money in the future. But, if you’re not hitting the limits for using the free tier, you might be fine using one.
000webhost has a “cheap web hosting” option which is completely free, but obviously quite limited. You get a site, a bit of bandwidth (a third of the amount of Google Firebase’s free tier), and basically nothing else. No email, custom domain, or even SSL certificates, which are literally free from LetsEncrypt.
So it’s clear what the point of this is: to annoy you enough to spend $2 a month for a better experience. Still, if you want to run something like a simple blog, having “100% free” WordPress hosting is pretty nice, even if it ends up costing you $2 down the line.
Another service similar to this is Wix, which offers a free tier with the main drawback that you won’t be able to use a custom domain. Like 000webhost, it is also quite limited, but it comes with good templates and a user-friendly UI to create your page.