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Depending up your needs and requirements, there are many options to develop your own website.
The simplest is to use the Graduate Center’s Website Services portal at http://ws.gc.cuny.edu/. This is a great option for simple sites or blogs that do not need much customization or functionality. The portal allows you to create one or many WordPress sites. GC Website Services has a small set of carefully curated plugins and themes from the WordPress Plugin Repository &WordPress Theme Repository.
Similar to the Graduate Center’s Website Services portal, the CUNY Academic Commons at https://commons.gc.cuny.edu/ is another mult-Wordpress install that allows users (CUNY faculty, staff, graduate students, graduate alumni and postdocs) one or many WordPress sites. The Academic Commons is a bit more robust, because it has many more themes and plugins than GC’s Website Services. Additionally, you can request a theme and or plugin to be evaluated and possibly installed from the WordPress repositories or a customized child theme to be uploaded to the Academic Commons. Click here to access and use the Academic Commons. Note: A valid CUNY email address is required to register and use the site.
Please read the 'Hosting Partner Handbook' on how to further customize Wordpress' hyper-flexible platform.
You might need more flexibility with WordPress (the ability to install or develop any theme or plugin) or something beyond a WordPress site. If so, then the next option is for you. Note: We will be referring to XAMPP (Apache, MYSQL and PHP), which is for Windows, but analogs exists for Macintosh (MAMP) and Linux LAMP. Other distributions are available here with applications.
Let’s discuss the why, before downloading and installing (X)AMPP.
Wordpress or Omeka (the two most popular Content Management Systems (CMS) are database driven based solutions that means that the content is stored in a database. Content being stored in a database makes it easier to edit; no expertise is necessary. Furthermore, your site is easily customized. Because the design and feel is typically independednt of content, so super simpel to change the look and feel accross the entire site.
How does this work? The short answer is using PHP, the CMS makes calls to the database (MYSQL) and then the Apache Web Server software delivers the processed content to web browsers. With a traditional html page, the client (web browser) interprets, parses and renders all the code, but because contemporary CMS typically use PHP, the code needs to be processed by the server and the browser downloads the output. In the case of CMS, the PHP makes a database query which writes & extracts information from the database, processes and renders the specific content.
The advantage of (X)AMPP is it allows for the flexibility (the universe of themes and plugins are available to you as well as the ability to hack the the core) of your own development environmet without the cost of a server or webhost, such as Bluehost. It is also a sage place to learn, develop and test before committing to a server. The only difference to a local (X)AMPP install is that you do not need to pay for webhost and FTP.