Free website hosting is a mixed bag; it usually insinuates poor load times, uptime and feature set. Therefore, one way to decide if a free website hosting package is a realistic option is to look at their load times, uptime and how useful the features included actually are. You can also gauge how good these aspects of each company are by reading reviews, customer comments and simply seeing for yourself.
In terms of features, an option to consider is using hosting via a free website building service. These tend to offer more of a complete website managing service and means you can practice more aspects of website management from one system, such as tracking the site’s traffic, flow and adding ecommerce stores. Uptime and site speed are usually stronger with free hosting packages from hosting companies as it’s what they specialize in, so the quality is likely to be higher.
A common set up with a free web host to be aware of, is that your website will likely have adverts on it. It’s important to check the amount of adverts that could show and their size. If you are going to be sharing or promoting your finished product, adverts can massively hinder the appearance and integrity of the site, which isn’t great if you’ve spent days if not weeks building and perfecting it!
Another feature to be aware of is that you will likely only be able to use a subdomain for your website, not your own custom domain. You should consider how professional the subdomain will look. If you are building a brand or business you want your domain to promote that business and a lengthy and messy subdomain won’t do this. A custom domain is also important if you want to gain visitors to your website. A more simple and clean domain is very important in terms of Google search position and memorability. Visitors are much less likely to (sometimes simply can’t) revisit a website if they can’t remember the domain name!
Overall, we’d recommend evaluating your purpose for hosting a website. If you are trying to build up a new business or promoting a new brand, you will be looking for different attributes to someone just looking to familiarize themselves with how websites and the internet work. Priorities in terms of features will be different, so it is a great time saving activity to take a moment and think about what you want from the experience and pick an option accordingly.
A free web hosting package is never going to be exactly what you want it to be; after all, it is free! You can’t expect everything for nothing, but as always, you can maximize what you get by comparing the options available. Some companies have strong features, solid uptime stats, less intrusive ads, snappier subdomains… and some have the opposite! Consider your priorities, read some reviews, test them yourselves, then make a decision and get stuck in!