It was entertaining to create basic sites using plain HTML back in the day (~2001) with free web building tools (http://www.angelfire.com/sk3/sanjeewa/). This site reminds me how far web development had progressed. When UConn IT rolled out Dreamweaver, it was an instant hit. Although hardcore programming in HTML and XHTML was needed and, at times, time consuming to format text, tables and align things, Dreamweaver was a fantastic, robust software. Things got easier with the introduction of Content Management Systems (CMS). And at Univ. of New Haven we used Entrada (I cannot locate the company anymore!). Then, at Fordham I used Jadu which is pretty good as well as expensive. The entire Fordham sites switched to Jadu. I had issues with Jadu's search capabilities and Fordham was thinking of moving to a different platform. The commercial CMS such as Jadu are too expensive for personal use. The open source CMS such as WordPress and Joomla are as good as the commercial ones, if you are willing to kill some time doing PhP, HTML coding whenever required, and it is fun! It takes a little bit of trial and error to get accustomed to Joomla (https://www.joomla.org/) and how it is organized as any other software product (the learning curve). There is a fantastic support group and community They hardly miss any issue. They had answers to all my questions so far.
In developing a site you need to find a reliable hosting company. Unfortunately the fine print on their agreements sometimes change (in the electronic world, policies can change subtly without us noticing it). Let me explain one of my bitter experiences. I designed and/or manged up-to 10 websites using GoDaddy. I still have one site on its hosting servers. Though I had difficulty working with their customer support (I was a very loyal customer for longer that I had expected). At one time, a call from GoDaddy made me upgrade databases and losing most of my content. The person, may be from marketing, assured me nothing would happen (I should have known that upgrading servers and databases screw up content). I had to rebuild and pay for backup files. The last straw of the relationship was when the non-profit "srilankans4peace" website which was developed using an outside vendor was hacked. And I remembered with my previous experience, GoDaddy kept back up files for one year. Three months later I tried to retrieve the backup for fee to reload the site. And all the backups had been erased. The policy had changed. We lost the entire content of the site. And ultimately the non-profit which used the site as its base.
Then I chose to use SiteGround for hosting and DNS service. I still manage one website that is hosted on Godaddy. SiteGround used to be very economical, but the prices have gone up in the recent years. Both Godaddy and SiteGround use C-Panel which makes it super easy to navigate. The fun stuff happens with Joomla and, sometimes, HTML, XHTML or PhP programming.
So, be very careful selecting a hosting company with very good and open security protocols. Even so, take backups of the site. If the site runs on Apache Linux servers, they are better performing than Microsoft Windows servers. It matters if you have a ton of videos, graphics and bells and whistles on the site -- the users may want it to load up quickly. Before you know it, your site is populated with so much content that it is impossible to rebuilt from scratch or from an old copy if there isn't a recent backup. On the front end, good security protocol ensures your site doesn't get hacked easily, it gives a peace of mind, that your precious site is in good hands. These two items are critically important if you are building a serious site: (a) security policy on hosting servers (b) files and database back up policy. It is always a good practice of downloading a back up of your site periodically. I was lazy, and I paid a huge price. This time I'm not taking any chances, and downloading a home directory backup frequently. If your site is hacked, you can quickly restore the site using the latest backup rather than trying to find the malicious code.
You usually pay 2 types of fees for your website 1. Hosting fee (usually monthly ) 2. Domain Name Service (DNS) fee. For a personal website, a monthly hosting fee of $6-10 is reasonable in 2012 dollars (inflate it to current year). You can pay the DNS fee in case your personal site becomes insanely popular and, you came to know the name is owned by someone else! The hosting company would register your site. You do not need DNS for search engines such as Google or Yahoo to pick your site. The SiteGround (https://ua.siteground.com/) that hosted this site cost me only $92 for two years in 2012. May be, they were trying to pick up GoDaddy business. In 2020, I paid $155 for SiteGround for one year. SiteGround is not as economical as it used to be, unfortunately.
The rest is up to you. Once you install Joomla CMS in the C-Panel, then, it uploads a default site that is customizable. It is a boring template, you can also download fancy templates (most of them charge a fee) and start customizing them. Joomla has a very broad and extensive support group and a responsive community in case you get into trouble. The CMS is arranged with 7 menus, however, what I used most were menus, content, components, modules and extensions. The system (admin panel) has all the controls of your site. Should not get confused with this admin panel and C-Panel. The C-Panel is in the hosting site. If you want to upgrade the site, databases, add features, update PhP etc, you need to use the C-Panel. You could access the PhP of the index file and sub-menus if you want to play with them. And its result is pretty quick. Always, save a copy of the original PhP in case you screw up and want to get back. If you screw up your index file, and don't know how to restore it, you are in trouble, and you need to bring the back-up copy. The index file in a site is like the foundation of a house.
The number of free templates available online is declining in a rapid speed. Almost all templates say "free," but it is after a paid subscription. Try using a different search engine like Bing or Yahoo than Google to locate a free template. They are still available. I found mine at Joomla Spirit which is pretty good. Then, it is a matter of editing the template based on your needs and wants.