(A better title for this article might be: 'How To Get Hosted Webspace For A Website'. Future articles will deal with website basics, including webpage design. See 'How To Set Up A Wiki' and 'Content Management Systems for Web Design' for other modern options that you can install and host using your webspace)
Choosing A Web HostThere are dozens of such web hosting companies around. I will use WebHostingPad as an example, because they offer a low-cost, full-feature web hosting plan that offers all of the features that MOST people are looking for in a hosting service, and I have had a good experience hosting my own stuff with them. If you are a little more experienced or you know that you need SPECIFIC functionality to do the things you want to do, make sure to check out the feature list and to read some web hosting reviews before choosing a website host.
First, set up an account with your web host of choice. This is often VERY inexpensive; WebHostingPad, at the time of this posting, is offering three years of hosting for only $2/month (less than 7 cents a day). A quick search might net you a web hosting coupon; in my experience most coupon codes posted on the web do not work, but I was able to get 25% off of my hosting purchase with one of these.
Registering A Domain NameMany hosts will provide you with a free domain name when you sign up. You usually have the choice of '.com', '.net', '.org', and a few others; which one you choose will not change ANYTHING about your site, but you can read more about the generic top-level domains here. If you are not offered a domain name, you must get one from a Domain Name Registrar. You'll need to interact with this company to enter some configuration information (or at the very least to transfer management of your domain name to your chosen hosting company), so it's worthwhile to read up on them. Fortunately, almost all modern hosting companies offer you a domain name when you sign up for hosting, so you don't have to worry about this.
If you have a website and you want to SWITCH hosts, you will need to transfer your domain name. How this is done varies widely from company to company, but hosts have a vested interest in keeping this process simple and they usually document it well on their websites.
Choosing A Web Host
Now, you have a domain name that will refer visitors to the files on your personal server space! If you point your browser to your new URL right away, you will get whatever default 'HTTP 404' error that your hosting company uses; it make take a few hours for your host to get everything set up, and you need to move your site's files to your server space before you can access them.
Many hosts, including WebHostingPad, enable simple access to your website's management and configuration tools through an online utility such as CPanel. Simply point your browser to the CPanel login address specified by your host, and you can log in and access simple and advanced tools for uploading files, password-protecting directories, building databases, implementing subdomains, &etc. If you're new to web design and you don't have any idea what half of these tools do, don't worry about it; you generally just learn them as you need them.
While web hosting control panels are great for many aspects of web administration, they are usually horrible for uploading and moving files around in your server space. For this task, you will want a utility such as the free, open-source FileZilla, which makes use of FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to directly link up to and interact with your server. File transfer and reorganization is as easy as drag-and-drop in modern FTP clients! Use the FTP login information provided by your web host to access your server space; once you have everything set up, logging in is as easy as selecting your site from the 'Site Manager' button's dropdown menu on the upper-left corner of FileZilla.
Good modern web hosts will provide you with a directory labeled something like 'www'; only files in this folder are accessible from the internet. Configuration information and other stuff is stored in the other directories, and you should feel free to make your own directories to store things that you don't want to be publicly-accessible.
There are a million different directions you can take to build a functional site in your new space. Some are simple: tools like Dreamweaver provide a simple interface for piecing together a website, and don't require any knowledge of the web languages (xhtml, css, php, etc) to use.
Some are even simpler: Drupal, Google Apps, Wikimedia, WordPress and many others can be installed in your serverspace to provide you with 'out-of-the-box' website functionality, with no page-by-page construction necessary. See 'How To Set Up A Wiki' and 'Content Management Systems for Web Design' for more information.
Many blogging sites and other online content creation services give you the ability to 'reroute' your blog through your webspace. You can have your Blogger site accessible, for instance, at www.MySite.com/blog. Your blogging site's webpage will have more information if this is available.
Future articles: web design with WordPress and other platforms; web design with KompoZer and Dreamweaver; domain design and administration with Google Apps