Richard Towers

How this site was built

For a long time it hasn’t been necessary to have your own domain to host content on the internet. Platforms like facebook, twitter, tumblr and others allow you to post your thoughts in a place where others can read them. As these platforms have become ever more popular there has been a shift in power on the internet from independent websites into the hands of these few, huge providers. There’s good news though: the internet has grown up to the point where it’s easy and cheap to host your own content. In this post I’m going to describe how I’ve set up and the trade-offs I’ve made.

What do you need to do to host a site?

The goal of this website is that when someone visits in their browser they will be served the content I have written. To make that happen I needed to do the following things:

  • Register the domain name
  • Set up DNS to to point requests for to a thing which will serve the content
  • Handle HTTPS connections
  • Serve HTML, CSS and JavaScript

Registering a domain name

I registered with Namecheap, which costs me roughly $10/year. There are many other good options for domain registrars, for example There was some good discussion of their relative merits on hacker news back in 2010.

Serving HTML, CSS and JavaScript

Since this website always serves the same content regardless of who is reading there is no need for the server to do anything clever - it can simply serve static pages.

GitHub provide a service called GitHub Pages, where they will host your HTML on their servers for free. This service uses a tool called Jekyll, which is a convenient way of writing blog posts in Markdown and having them built into and delivered as HTML.

You can set up a CNAME record from your own domain ( in this case).

Set up DNS

The GitHub Pages documentation has instructions for setting up a custom domain. Long story short, tell GitHub about the domain and set up DNS records in your DNS provider.

It’s probably simplest to use your domain registrar’s DNS service, but for my own learning and development I’ve used AWS Route53 for my DNS.

Handling HTTPS connections

GitHub Pages supports HTTPS out of the box these days. If you’re using Pages, all you need to do is set a CNAME record pointing at GitHub and they’ll do the rest.


Using free services from GitHub you can host a website over HTTPS for free.

There are lots of other ways to run a website, but this is pretty convenient.

Edit History

  • September 2022 - removed recommendation of Cloudflare for DNS and HTTPS. Their continued provision (as of September 2022) of service to anti-trans hate groups means they’re not an organisation I want my personal website associated with. In any case, their service is no longer required now that GitHub Pages supports HTTPS out of the box.