Free Website Design: How to Add Widgets to a Weebly Sidebar

A reader of my Blog of Writing: Weebly Tips asked, “…how to add a blogroll or links tab to the Weebly sidebar”?

I deal with that specific question in that blog, but here I want to address some broader questions about web hosting options.

By the way, I use the word “premium” as “must be paid for” and “opposite of free“, but not necessarily as “expensive”. Some “premium” options are quite inexpensive; they are just not free.

Using Weebly’s Free Website Design Software

"Open the Sidebar Menu" image by Mike DeHaan
“Open the Sidebar Menu” image by Mike DeHaan

My full answer will take two or three entries in my Blog of Writing, but “Weebly Tip #3: How to Add Elements to the Weebly Sidebar” explains the first steps.

I expect to answer the rest of this question over the next week or two in that section of my Blog of Writing.

That blog is hosted by Weebly, where anyone can create a free website for blogging. It uses Weebly’s proprietary free website design software. Each free blog is included inside the Weebly domain.

I started writing “tips” as well as “discoveries” and “mysteries” about Weebly because, to me, that platform led to a lengthy process of discovery. However, I was able to use Weebly for free and eventually became accustomed to what I could do with it.

The phrase “cheap and cheerful” comes to mind. Are there other options to build a website free? Why do I also use others? Should you pay for your own Internet domain, or pay website builders for web design?

Two Other Free Blogging Sites

Do I use free blogging sites? “Tootin’ right, I do”! So do uncounted hordes of fellow bloggers and web authors. Here are two of my free blogs.

My DeHaan Directory is a free blog hosted by WordPress, which uses their web design software. There is a thriving market for premium WordPress themes, as well as many free themes and plug-in components.

My DeHaan Fitness and Weight Control is another free blog, hosted by Blogger which may now be a subsidiary of Google.

Each free web hosting site has the following features:

  • The site charges nothing for the service: good!
  • Anyone can start a blog from any country: good!
  • Each blog and article, post or Lens is inside the main site’s web domain, making it less attractive to search engines: poor!
  • Each site has its proprietary software tools and methods. Some are easier to use than others. This depends on what you already know; how you think; how well they document their own methods; and what you want to accomplish. “It depends”!
  • Most sites offer premium upgrades at some cost. If you need it, that’s a good option!
  • If you decide to migrate from one site to another, you may have to rewrite all your content: bad if you need to do it.

One of the big differences among sites is whether you can “monetize” your blog. The free WordPress hosting system forbids monetization, with a possible exception if you are incredibly popular.

Programs such as Google AdSense might not affiliate with a blogger who only uses free websites. In my case, I started with DeHaan Services, and could add DeHaan Fitness afterwards.

It’s quite unlikely that you could create an e-commerce website, or an “online retail store”, in a free blogging site.

Why Pay for a Premium Website?

This site, DeHaan Services, uses WordPress templates and software but pays for the domain name and hosting. Why do I pay for hosting this blog?

Search engines may give a paid-for domain name higher credibility compared to free-hosting blog sites. Visitors may also find it more “professional” to see the owner’s domain name, rather than “owner.freehostingservice.com”.

This for-pay web site affords me much more control. For example, I can choose whether or not to permit advertising and through which organizations. I chose to add sidebar buttons for Google+ and ZoomIt, for example.

I had used Kontera but now use SkimLinks to monetize DeHaan Services using the following:

Premium Hosts and the Choice of a CMS

Usually when you pay for a premium hosting service, you can select from several CMS (Content Management System) options. WordPress and Joomla are two of the most popular. In truth, Blogger, Weebly, and others might each have a proprietary CMS or might have adapted a standard one. The CMS handles data:

  • Add a new blog page (like “About Me”) or article.
  • Track categories and tags, building links for to the articles based on those tags and categories.
  • Permit comments and attach them to articles.
  • Lock private pages behind passwords.
  • Control editing and logins.

The CMS also handles themes, which include the number of columns, whether there are pictures, background colours, fonts, and what goes into the sidebar(s) on every page.

The free website hosts may allow a range of themes but not a choice of CMS.

If you have a WordPress site, for example, you should be able to copy the data from one host and migrate it to another’s WordPress installation with relatively few problems.

Options for Website Hosting

You can certainly use any of the free hosting services I’ve mentioned. As far as I know, anyone anywhere could use any of the free sites.

If you want to pay for premium hosting, or if you need a domain name for your business or for personal use, you probably want to start checking web hosting companies in your own country.

Although I don’t use any of these myself, you could start your research by checking one of the following companies based on your country. I believe each provides domain name registration as well as site hosting and either free website design software or premium CMS paackges.

  • One Canadian web hosting service is “My Hosting“.
  • In the United Kingdom, “Base Kit” offers a free trial option as well as a full range of low-cost premium services.
  • Americans could consider “1&1” for web domains and hosting.

Professional Writing by DeHaan Services

DeHaan Services writes web site or advertising copy for clients. Our skills are demonstrated in online articles in Decoded Science and other online sites. That’s why we highlight these online articles on this blog page.

To only see our Toronto events or fitness articles, please click on the appropriate category in the “Categories” section at the bottom of the right-hand margin.

Thank you for reading about free versus premium web hosting options, all begun by a question about the Weebly sidebar.

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