Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Free Website Hosting :: Github.io

Building on recent posts, today's post will show you step-by-step how to get and build your own website, for free, with no ads.

Although writing is the fun part, I need to start thinking about marketing. Forget the publishers on this one, I'm going to be marketing directly to the Lego Robotic / Maker Fair kids, and as such I need a website. It needs to be simple so I can promote my book during its pre-release stage and after it is in print.  I don't need anything complicated, at least not yet. Just a simple page to let readers know about my book. Github to the rescue!

To start you have to create a free account at Github.

For those of you that think you can just design an HTML page and FTP it up to the site, you can't. FTP is so 2004. We do things with Git now, which means a whole new methodology to learn. What does this mean for you? Either learn Git or find someone else to do the heavy lifting.

Not scared yet? Let's roll.

The first place you will need to visit is the Pages section
There is also a great interactive walkthrough at http://www.thinkful.com/learn/a-guide-to-using-github-pages/ to help you better undertand how to build your website.

These are the steps I followed to create my page:
  • I created a repository with my account michalsen.github.io.
  • I cloned down the repository to my local machine.
  • Using HTML, CSS and javascript I built a single page.
  • For the javascript I just went to unheap.com and found a layout I liked and used that.
  • Made text changes in the sample index.html file, a couple small tweaks in the CSS and added a couple images.
  • Added those files to the local repository
  • Committed those files
  • Then pushed those files to the master repository at michalsen.github.io

What is the end product?

I have been working a short novel about a 14 year old boy who builds a monster using discarded parts scavenged from a throw-away society. He names it Wonkzilla, and you can find the beginning of the website at: http://wonkzilla.com

This site is currently a work in progress, but the basics are there, including a very cool robot designed by a Chicago artist, Jason Hawk

You are probably wondering now how I got the domain name pointing to the site.  Here is a useful how-to on getting the domain name to point to your site:

If you are interested in trying this out for your site, please let me know. We can go over the steps together in the comments below and we can perhaps setup a "best practices" for those new to this technology.

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