How shared hosting works
In shared web hosting plans, your web page is hosted on a server that is shared with other users. So, as an example, there may be as few as a dozen to as many as hundreds of websites all running on one server.
The resources and computing power of the server is generally fixed, though it can be expanded or upgraded by the host (not at zero cost, though), so there are limits to what your website can do in such a setup.
The benefits of this type of hosting plan are that they are pretty cheap, and you can find plenty of plans to fit your budget. However, because computing resources are shared, you are essentially competing with other websites hosted on the same server as you are for bandwidth, RAM, and storage space.
Although limits are set on what resources your individual website can consume out of the entire pool of processing power and storage space that the server has (and these limits differ from plan to plan, even amongst the best shared hosting plans), you don't get more resources as you grow and require them. You'd have to upgrade to another type of plan if your website grows or if you want more power at your fingertips.
Who should use shared hosting?
If you are unsure how well your website will do, or if you are just trying things out and getting your feet wet with your own web page, try starting small with a shared hosting plan. You can always upgrade if things work out, and if they don't, you'll have spent less on trying things out, thereby saving enough to restart things again whenever you are ready.
Small-time writers or bloggers, people running community or interest pages, and small-scale business owners would all find that the best shared web hosts recommended above are perfect for them. Further, anyone who knows what their web traffic will look like, and those who are pretty confident that they don't need a high level of customization, bandwidth, or resources in general, are all encouraged to start things on a top shared hosting plan.
Our all-inclusive ranking and review system
There is no fixed set of rules on the best way to rank website hosts, whether for shared plans or otherwise. What most review and ranking websites do is take a few important metrics and give a top-down list of where the best shared hosting providers stand.
However, different users have different needs, and what is especially true for web novices who may be launching their very first website is the fact that they probably don't have a very good idea of what is needed and what isn't in a web host, and whether or not a top shared plan is even right for them.
With this in mind, our ranking uses real-life reviews of different shared hosting plans from actual customers, as well as key performance metrics such as minimum bandwidth allowances and storage limits, customer support options, user-friendly interfaces, and the availability of additional security, customization, and plugin options.