I frequently receive emails from people who don’t know what to do to get their website off the planning stage. So often I hear, “I want a web presence, but where do I start?” All too often, I can see the “doe-in-the-headlights” stare.
I hope that in this article, I can show you the steps to getting your website live and help you move forward in the right direction.
What’s a Domain Name & How do I get one?
A domain name is your website name. It is an address (URL) where Internet users can access your website. You’ll need a Domain Registrar to get your domain name.
A Domain Registrar like GoDaddy, for instance, sells and registers your domain name.
Deciding on a domain name can take some time. You want to pick one (or more) with a User Interface (UI) that you don’t hate and has a trustable vibe. For example, if you’re an author, you can try your name (i.e., heidihafner.com), or use your business name (i.e., hafnerdesigns.com). There will be times when your domain name choice has already been claimed. For this reason, it is essential to come up with several different ideas. (i.e., authorheidihafner.com, heidi-hafner.com, heidihafnerauthor.com, or any of these names with hyphens between the words). I might suggest that you purchase both the .com and .net domain names, too. Purchasing both helps you to own your brand.
Your Domain Registrar or Web Designer can help you set the nameservers so that your shiny new domain name points to the web host where your website will be.
What is a web host, & why do I need one?
A web host is where you build your property, your website. I always explain that the host is the land you construct your house. Its address is an IP address (Internet Protocol address). An IP address is a numerical label assigned to each device connected to a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication. An IP address serves two functions: host or network interface identification and location addressing. Depending on the host you choose, your IP address could change periodically. So, remembering numbers is tough. We don’t use IP addresses to locate websites. So, you’ll need to configure the DNS (Domain Name Service) of your new domain, to point at the server where your website will be. Your Domain Registrar, Web Host, or Web Designer can help you set the DNS or nameservers.
Buying web hosting is a little trickier than purchasing a domain, though. You’ll need to know a bit about the website you intend to host when making that choice. Will it be a WordPress site? Or another PHP/MySQL-based CMS site? That means your host will need to support those technologies. Most do, some don’t. You might want to look in their documentation or ask them before investing your money if you are unsure. There are lots of technologies for running websites. Make sure the web host of your choice can support you.
Just a word of encouragement here, not everything is locked in stone for the first 2-weeks to 30-days. So, if you make a mistake and find that you typo’d your domain name, changed your mind on the domain name, bought web space from a host you don’t like, or whatever, you can, in most cases, get a refund or change. But it is better to make sure you have most of these decisions made, and ready to go. You can also move your website if you’ve already begun working on it. However, moving isn’t always super fun, but everybody ends up doing it, and you’ll learn as you go.
Should you bundle your domain registrar and web host into one if a company offers both?
You can if you would like, but I find it is sometimes more expensive that way. For instance, as a web designer, I sell hosting to my clients. My hosting is a bit more costly because I maintain my sites regularly, and I have security on each site. I have the option to buy domain names through my host as well, but I choose GoDaddy to handle that. GoDaddy is good with domain names, and they’re prices are reasonable. By having the Registrar separate, if you need to change your host, you can do it easily with your Registrar. You have control of your domain name.
Ok, you have your domain name, your host, what else do you need?
At this point, you need to decide whether your website will be static (doesn’t change much and has no database), or dynamically generated like with a Content Management System (CMS). How often will you be working on your website? Will you have a blog where you publish posts or articles? Will you have a store to sell products?
What is a “CMS”? What’s its purpose?
CMS is a generic term for Content Management System. Generally, it manages all your assets for your website, like images, PDFs, audio, and video files. It can also manage products, memberships, and much more. If you’ve been doing some research, you’ve seen some big players like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal.
I’ve reviewed all the significant CMS contenders. I have found WordPress the easiest to install and manage. The other day, I read an article that gave statistics on the better known CMS systems and which are the more popular. In this article, they show how WordPress dominates the CMS market, holding 61% of the market. Whereas in this same report, Drupal holds 5.1%, and Joomla holds 3.3%. Websites like Shopify, Squarespace, Wix, etc., all 2.8% or less.
I love how easy it is to set up SEO within WordPress. There are tricks you can do inside each page and post that are complete “White Hat” and safe to use without getting removed from search engine results pages (SERPs). Write clear, understandable content, and strive to strike a balance between technical writing and readability, ensuring that the average person can understand it.
There are a couple of different ways to deploy your website. If you choose a product like WordPress, you can install it using the cPanel, which comes with your hosting service. Sometimes you may not have cPanel, and in that case, you can upload it to your server via FTP and then deploy it from there. Here is a step-by-step article published by WordPress. For me, this was a bit tech-jargon heavy. But it has a lot of useful information.
How do I make it all pretty?
Once you have installed WordPress, it comes with a couple of default, free themes that you can use. However, you’re not limited to those themes. There is a WordPress repository for themes and plugins. I’ve found two very impressive Themes I use that do cost a little bit. One is Thesis offered by DIYThemes, and the other is Avada by Themeforest. I love these two Themes because the possibilities are endless.
Whatever theme you choose will have its share of support to help you through the tough times. Ideally, if you don’t know how to code HTML or CSS, you want to pick a Theme that doesn’t need coding.
Some Pointers about Assets
Assets are files that you add into your posts and pages, primarily images. The tendency is to post large photos so people can get a good glimpse of what you have to show. However, that is not what you do on a website. The idea is to make your website load fast and cleanly. Therefore, you need to make sure your images are small, not in width and height but the overall size. I always suggest that the width and height be no bigger than 1200px on the longest side. PNGs & JPG/JPEG are the best file extensions for images. These extensions compress and maintain clarity well.
Using large images should only be used if you’re selling the photo or for setting up an Electronic Press Kit (EPK). For audio and video files, if you own the data and don’t want to put them on YouTube or Vimeo, you can open an account on Amazon AWS and put your files on their S3 servers. Amazon offers storage for a very low fee. In the first year, you get their storage, up to 5gb, for free.
Your best bet!
If this all seems overwhelming to you, no worries, you’re not alone. Many people would instead hire a web designer to do all this technical stuff. And why not? Your business needs your undivided attention on what you do best. Let a professional, like me, build your website for you. Of course, to be completely transparent, there are other web designers out there who can help as well. You might be able to get a cheaper rate, or perhaps more, but I love to work with you, my client, one on one! We’ll build your site together! I want to talk to you and see where your dream takes you. Contact me and tell me about your dream website.
Please comment below with your experiences setting up your website. Share this article with someone that you know who needs a website.