Step 1: What You Need to Get Started
1) A solid idea of what you want to do with your website
This is, of course, easier said than done. It could probably be its own instructable. I don't want to go too deep into it, but here's a couple of points you might want to consider:
1) Do you want dynamically generated content? Or do you just want to create a static site, perhaps an "about you" site or a portfolio site?
2) Do you want user submitted content and/or voting? Or do you want to be in control of every last detail of the content?
3) Do you want a bunch of modern features such as suggestions in the search box or a shopping cart?
4) Do you want to be an online store?
Those questions should help get you started. Once you really know what you want in a website, you can move on to the next step.
Step 2: Determining What You Need
1) Do you need dynamically generated content?
2) Do you want to run a blog using easy-to-use backend software like WordPress?
- If yes: you need PHP support
3) Do you want to make an online store?
- If yes: consider using a host with a built in shopping cart
4) Do you want a static site, such as a portfolio site or a basic "about me" site?
- If yes: you won't need much more than basic HTML support, which every host has.
5) Are you new at web development?
- If yes: then you want good customer support. Some hosts will even help you with coding problems, though most won't. The more experience you have, the less support you need, but everybody will need some level of basic customer support since no user has full access to the servers themselves, which despite many hosts claims, do occasionally have problems.
6) Are you an experienced programmer looking to create a bunch of custom functions?
Step 3: Determine Which Hosts Meet Your Needs
The easiest place to find a list of hosts, complete with a general guideline of their features and an opinion of how good the customer support, is a web host review site. ClickFire.com is one such web site, but there are plenty of others. It's a good idea anyway to get several opinions about the same host before deciding if they are a good web hosting company or not.
Don't worry about the prices just yet. You'll weed out the ones that are too expensive in the next step.
Write down the hosts you liked, what you liked about them, and their prices. You will need to reference this information later.
Step 4: Calculate the Truly Cheapest Web Host That Meets Your Needs
The first is that most well-priced hosting plans require that you pay for some amount of time up-front, usually 6 months or a year. You have to determine which is more important to you: low long term costs or low short term costs. If it's low short term costs, you'll need to focus on web hosts that have smaller minimum commitments. If low long term costs is your goal, the lowest average cost per month should be your goal.
Don't be afraid of a longer commitment, though. Most hosts have a money back satisfaction guarantee for the first 30 or 60 days.
The second thing you'll need to factor in is coupons. Look around the internet and try to find some web hosting coupons. Check multiple places because different places might have different coupons.
Reduce the prices you have written down based on the coupons you found, THEN pick the cheapest one that fits your needs.