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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

11 Free Tools for Creating Websites and Simple Webpages

Last week I wrote about Codecademy's new programs for teaching basic HTML, CSS, and other fundamentals for building websites. But if you don't have the time or desire to build webpages from scratch  there are plenty of free online tools that will do the heavy lifting for you so that you can concentrate on just adding useful content to your course webpages. Here are eleven free services for creating websites and simple webpages.

Wix is a free service for creating and hosting beautiful websites. Wix recently announced that their templates and the websites you build with them are now available in HTML5. That means that sites created in Wix are visible on all devices including iPads. In the video below you can see some of the neat things you can do with Wix.


Whatfolio is a free service for creating online displays of your digital works.   Whatfolio is essentially a homepage to show off what you have created or what you can do. Whatfolio pages are highly customizable for a variety of purposes. When you create your Whatfolio pages you can choose from thirty templates. You'll find templates for photographers, designers, personal websites, business websites, student work samples, and many other showcase purposes. You can watch an overview of the Whatfolio creation process in the video below.


Weebly was one of the first website building tools that I played around with when I got started on my technology integration journey. It's a very intuitive and feature rich platform for creating a free website. For those reasons, it's always on my list of recommendations to teachers who want to build a classroom website. If you're looking for a tool for students to use to create websites of their own, Weebly for Education is a good resource. Weebly for Education includes all of the intuitive website-building and blogging tools found on Weebly plus features built specifically for education. Weebly for Education offers bulk creation of student accounts which teachers can manage and moderate. Students can create their own websites and blogs using the accounts that you create for them.

Webs is another service that I have first-hand experience with in a school setting because a couple of my colleagues have used it for their classes. Webs has all of the characteristics that you would expect to find in a free website platform. Websites built using Webs can include videos, calendars, polls, and a wide variety of third party widgets. Webs offers a wide variety templates and layouts to select from. For people with a higher level of comfort with technology, Webs might be a little too basic for your needs.

Yola is the tool that I used a few years ago to build websites for my department at school. Yola offers a great selection of templates and customizations. After setting up the basics of the site, my department handed it off to a student assistant who did a great job of updating it throughout the year. Yola provides good tutorials and forums for first time users. I also learned first-hand that their responses to help requests are very quick.

If you already have a Google Account, Google Sites is already available to you. Just select it from the menu of services that you're not using. Google offers a wide variety of templates that you can use and customize on your site. Should you decide at a later date that you want to add other contributors to your site, you can do so with just a couple of clicks in the sharing menu.

School Rack offers a free service for teachers to build and host their own classroom websites. Unlike other free website solutions that are targeted toward a general audience, School Rack has features designed specifically for teachers. For example, on your School Rack website you can post assignments with full descriptions, expectations, and deadlines. This is an integrated feature, not an add-on page that you have to create yourself. School Rack offers students and parents free accounts to communicate with teachers. Once your students and parents have activated their accounts, you can directly message individuals or send messages to groups that you have created.

Web Node is a simple way to build a website. The easy to use, drag and drop, interface makes it easy to change the look and feel of your website. For two reasons Web Node is a good tool for students to use to present and share their work with a wider audience. First, Web Node does not put any advertising on your website. And second, the user interface is intuitive enough for first-time users to navigate on their own. 

Smore is a service for quickly creating great-looking webpages. Smore markets itself as a service for creating online flyers, but it's a little bit more than that. To me "flyer" implies that you're creating a single-use PDF and posting it online. Smore's flyers are dynamic and changeable, they're not single-use PDFs. Your Smore flyers can include many types of media including videos. Deleting or adding elements to your Smore flyer is as simple as dragging and dropping them on or off your page. Watch the one minute video below for an overview of Smore in action.

A Cupcake Story from Smore on Vimeo.

Check This is a service for quickly building and publishing webpages. Check This falls somewhere between having nothing on the web and a blog. Check This isn't designed to replace your favorite blog or website creation platform, rather it is designed to fill the niche for people who desire to publish a simple announcement page. Without registering you can add text, images, and videos to your Check This page in a matter of seconds. And after you have published your page you can go back and edit it by using the unique edit link sent to the email address you provide in the step between creation and publishing.

In the video below I provide a short walk-through on creating a webpage with Check This.


Page O Rama is a free service for quickly creating stand alone webpages. Creating a webpage with Page O Rama is very simple. Just visit the Page O Rama homepage, select a web address, title your page, and start typing. Page O Rama offers a good selection of text editing tools including page breaks. If you want to, you can add images to your Page O Rama pages too. If you think your page is something that you're going to want to edit and update occasionally, you can enter your email address to create an administrative log-in.

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