Over the last decade, I’ve been looking for ways to create websites on the cheap. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to always purchase a domain name. But first let me answer the main question.
Can I create a website without a domain name?
Technically it’s possible to get a website up and running without a domain name. Creating a live website only requires a web server. Though a website without a domain connected to it, will be much harder to access. As the website will only be accessible through its IP address.
Although technically possible, you should almost always register a domain, when creating a new website. Continue reading if you want to find out when it’s imperative to register a domain name and when it’s not.
Creating a website without a domain name
Yes, it’s possible to create a website without a having domain name. Though the cost for registering a domain name is negligible, compared to benefits you’ll get. For now, let’s assume: “You want create a website without a domain name”.
In order to get a website up and running all you actually need, is a web server. The reason why domain names exist, is to make it easier for us humans to access websites. As we are better at recalling names than number sequences.
You can compare a domain name to your phone’s contact list. Your phone conveniently stores one or more phone numbers for each of your contacts. All you have to do, is find the person you want to talk to and press the call icon.
Contact details for websites are stored on nameservers, also called DNS servers. When typing a domain name into your browser, a sequence of events take place in a split second. As the Domain Name System (DNS) will try to find the IP address associated with that domain name.
Once the web server’s IP address is found, a connection will be established between the server and your browser. The files necessary to display the website will be downloaded. Hence your browser will display the website as it is being loaded.
So the first benefit of having your own domain name is memorability. Have you ever accessed a website by typing in an IP address? Have you ever seen an IP address pop up when you Google something? For less than $10 annually, people will be able to easily find your website.
I think it’s safe to conclude you actually do need a domain name when creating a website. So let’s change the assumption to: “You want to create a website, without purchasing a domain name”
Creating a website without purchasing a domain name
Yes, it’s possible to get your hands on a domain name for free. And no, I’m not talking about the free domain you get when you purchase web hosting. We’ll talk about that persuasion technique later on. There are actually several ways to avoid paying for a domain name:
- Free domain name
- Free subdomain (freedns.afraid.org)
- Website Builder’s subdomain
- Creating your own subdomain (SubDomain.YourDomain.TLD)
There are domain names you can register without having to pay an annual fee. Though your choice will be limited to a short list of TLD’s. Top Level Domains (TLDs) are the letters you find at the end of each domain name. The TLD for learnaboutwebsites.com is “.com”.
You’ll be able to register a free domain using the following TLDs: .TK | .ML | .GA | .CF and .GQ. Free domains are great, though in my opinion they should only be used for testing or training purposes. As you don’t actually own the rights to the domains you’ve registered for free.
In the terms of service, you’ll find statements like: “We reserve the right to change the terms and conditions of this agreement at any time without prior notice” . Or similar statements which will strip you from having any legal right of ownership, see the image below.
[Image Terms of Service Excerpt]
I’m assuming you’re going to invest quite some time into creating your own website. Now ask yourself this question: “Is losing all the work I’ve put into building my website, worth an annual saving of just $10?”.
I’m not saying registrars who offer these free domain names have bad intentions. Though things change over time, they might run out of funding. They might be acquired by a different company who has other plans.
Personally, I’m more than happy to pay this annual premium to mitigate any risks and have piece of mind. But in the end, it’s up to you to make this decision, not me.
Now it’s time to venture into the realm of subdomains. You’ve been using subdomains, without even realizing it. Have you ever typed in www.google.com? The “www.” is actually a subdomain of the Google.com domain.
By registering a free user account on this website, you’ll be able create free subdomains. You’ll get access to the DNS settings, so you can connect it to your web server’s IP Address. For example: I could have created “educationfor.” under the “webmakers.ch” domain.
So I could have saved myself $10, if I had used educationfor.webmakers.ch as my domain name. Though I would be risking all the work I’ve put into building this website. Because if the original owner of webmakers.ch forgets to pay the bills, I’ll lose everything.
So what about using a free website builder like Wix or WordPress.com? These companies have been around for a while, and the chances of them going bankrupt are very slim. These statements are both 100% correct, though there’s another downside to using subdomains.
If you’re planning to create a website with the intent to generate organic traffic, don’t use a subdomain. Yes, it’s possible to rank subdomains in the search rankings. Though if you ever decide you’re website is outgrowing the platform, you’ll lose your traffic overnight.
You need to be in control of the dns records and be able to setup redirects pointing to your new website. Even if you managed to convince your vendor to do all this for you, there’s another issue. As you’ll have to keep both platforms in the air, you’ll be paying twice.
The last and final option is to create a subdomain for a domain name you already own. I know this doesn’t actually fall under the “without Purchasing” category. But if you’ve already got a domain, this could be a good alternative to save some cash.
There you have it, the whole enchilada. You already know my personal view on things. Though if I’ve actually convinced you, be sure to read the following section. There are ways to save a few bucks, when buying a domain.
Persuasion techniques used by registrars and web hosts
I have nothing against doing business and increasing cart value with upsells. I’m probably going to use these sales tactics myself some day. Though what I’m not fond of, is tricking customers into buying something they don’t actually need or hiding certain costs.
With that off of my chest, let’s talk about some of the sales tactics you’re likely going to encounter when purchasing a domain name. Web hosting service providers are notorious for adding a “free” domain name registration, when you by web hosting from them.
You should read some of the fine print, before you hit the “take my money” button. As you’ll discover the “free” domain name registration is limited to a single year. Which is fine, as it has been brought to your attention, you’ll have to pay for the domain next year.
Though in most cases, it’s quite hard to find the price list for domain name renewals. If you can find their renewal fees, be sure to see if WHOIS Privacy Protection is included. Trust me, you want this kind of protection. As you don’t want to get spammed bij sales calls.
I’ve done in depth research on the prices most popular web hosting vendors will charge. On average they charge about $25 per domain name including Privacy Protection. To give you a comparison, a registrar like porkbun charges $8.56 for renewals including Privacy Protection.
In all fairness, there are some advantages to purchasing a hosting package including a domain name. Your DNS records will already be ok and installing a SSL certificate is quick and easy.
Another sales tactic both registrars and web hosts use, is the discount tactic. Web Hosts will lure you in with a whopping 50% discount on the hosting packages. No-brainer deals at first glance. Always remind yourself, you’ll have to pay at least twice that amount next year.
Registrars will give you an even bigger deal. You can get a domain for just $0.99, amazing right? But after reading the fine print you’ll either have to pay $17 a year for the years to come, or you’ll have to buy 2 years upfront.
Upsells you don’t actually need
When buying a domain or web hosting, you’ll eventually get to the upsell page. You’ll need to make up your own mind, if you actually need these services. Though as a good rule of thumb this is what to look out for:
- Hosting, most of the time everything you need is already in the hosting package
- Registrar, only buy the domain including privacy protection
- It’s possible to create website without a domain name, but you shouldn’t
- You can avoid purchasing a domain by
- Getting a free domain
- Getting a free subdomain
- Only get a free (sub)domain for test or training websites
- For less than $10 annually, you’ll get piece of mind
- Beware of Persuasion Techniques, read the fine print