For those looking to hack together a personal site for branding and marketing themselves, there are a few ways to go about it. Let’s go from least time consuming and less creative control to more time consuming and more creative control:
For the ultra lazy or busy you can go overboard filling out and polishing up a profile on a popular social media channel (e.g. https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulprae). If you want to keep it really simple, choose something lean like Twitter (e.g. https://twitter.com/praeducer). The more specialized of a channel you choose the better. Find a community that has the same set of passions as you if you can (e.g I used https://github.com/praeducer/ since I am a developer). An important part of this approach is setting up pretty URLs. Another important part is exploiting every feature of the social media tool that involves presenting yourself (e.g. bio, profile pic, job history etc). I like this approach because it is easy to maintain and you probably already have a head start. Plus, the social media sites will do all kinds of SEO and online networking for you.
For those that want a little more creative control but still do not want to put in much time, there are some platforms meant for simply presenting yourself or your material. One social media site that is a great digital business card and personal splash page is http://about.me/ (e.g. http://about.me/paulprae). This is what I went with for paulprae.com for awhile. It's great because you can setup an alias to a custom domain. I have built many personal sites in the past but this was the biggest win for time spent ever. You can also use some of the more simple blogging platforms for this kind of approach. I like https://medium.com/, https://ghost.org/ (e.g. GHOST_URL/ and the current http://www.paulprae.com/), and https://www.tumblr.com/ (e.g. http://www.unkemptsilence.com/). If done right, these tools can really feel like a personal website (unlike the Tier 4 options). Using custom URLs and linking out to your social media platforms will be good to keep in mind with this technique.
For the more adventurous hackers you can use a web site builder or hosted content management system to build a custom site. This will allow for much more creative control over your site than the previous options. Some of the best options out there for getting something beautiful up quick are http://wordpress.com/, https://prosite.com/, and http://squarespace.com. These tools can seem like a lot at first but once you learn their basic functionality you can make something respectable with ease. Plus, people will respect you for really building something. You can even put these tools on your resume!
For those that love torturing themselves, you can build something more or less from scratch. Beware that building a web site in a self-hosted or cloud-hosted environment can get complicated quickly. You can make things easier by spinning up popular and well supported content management systems like WordPress or Drupal (https://www.drupal.org/) on a cloud server (e.g. https://bitnami.com/stack/wordpress, http://www.rackspace.com/cloud/sites/web-hosting/drupal/, https://developer.rackspace.com/blog/launch-ghost-with-rackspace-deployments/). Then, after the install, this option is not much more complicated than the Tier 2 option. If you want to use more barebone web development frameworks, cloud computing and server images come together to make this not completely crazy to do either (for Windows Azure see: http://vmdepot.msopentech.com/List/Index). Many cloud services have one-click install packages that can spin up servers with everything you need to build your site (the main advantage of https://bitnami.com/stacks). If you dig around enough, you may even be able to get a free cloud server for awhile. Rackspace has done this in the past and Amazon and Microsoft are doing it right now: http://aws.amazon.com/free/ and http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/develop/net/aspnet/. If you want to build a feature rich web site, better get studying on modern web application architecture. For something quick consider https://www.meteor.com/ and for something unnecesarily complicated and robust for a personal site consider Angular, Express, and Node (http://briantford.com/blog/angular-express).
It is important to have a personal site to support your professional networking, especially if you are out in the job market. Choose a Tier above that meets your time and skill level, then get it going! Focus on quality (proofread everything!) and simplicity. An important part about having a web presence is uploading quality content regularly. Make sure whatever route you choose is easy for you to update and maintain. Have some fun with it and make it your own!