Have you recently considered launching your own website? Perhaps you have a small business idea, or you are looking to connect with other like minded people across the globe. So, you type into Google search “How to create a website”, and it comes back with 1,130,000,000 search results. Well, it is no wonder so many people hire someone to build their website for them! You need to build your own website the right way!
Relax. This is not as difficult as you might think. While there are countless options available, in the spirit of “keeping it simple” and focusing our energy on the basics you will soon discover that it does not require a degree in computer technology.
Where Do I Begin?
One of the common observations of people looking to create a website is that they do not have any coding experience, so how can they possibly do this? If we were still in 2005, this would be a logical concern. Thankfully, as time has moved on, so has software design and engineers have “dumb-ed it down” for those of us not well versed in computer coding.
Once the decision has been made to create and launch a website, the first step is deciding on a platform.
What Is A Platform? Is It Similar To A Content Management System?
When I reference platform, it is the same as content management system (CMS), which is the “platform” that users can build and maintain their website. Up until recently, most websites were built using HTML (a coding), CSS (a type of language for computers, different than HTML), or Flash (our friends at Adobe).
For our purposes we can give thanks to all those who have simplified this process. The level of experience necessary to build a website using HTML, CSS, and Flash is high and beyond our scope of attempting to explain in any detail. Content Management Systems have simplified the website building process enabling users worldwide the opportunity to build and maintain their own site without spending thousands on professional services.
Say hello to your new best friend, WordPress. This is the highest used CMS online, and WordPress continues to grow in popularity. Can you get around Microsoft Word? If so, then you will have little to no difficulty navigating WordPress. Oh, did you know it is free?
Questioning whether it is up to the challenge of your own site? If it is good enough for Forbes, The New York Times, and People Magazine, then it should be good enough for our own online adventures! Currently over half of the websites online are utilizing WordPress.
WordPress is not the only available platform. There are many other viable options, yet based on the experience of thousands that have come before us and the professional reviews of those who earn their living in this industry, WordPress is a no-brainer for the novice website builder. And it is free!
Is WordPress Responsive To Mobile Devices?
This is a common concern with people planning to build a website, for after all mobile technology will soon have our desktop’s extinct. The great news for all of us who use WordPress is that it is responsive to the device used to access the site. So, if a woman accesses your site on her mobile phone, WordPress responds to the device and the site is mobile friendly. If a man is sipping a coffee at Starbucks, browsing the web on his tablet, and comes across your site, WordPress responds to the tablet and your site comes across his device!
Ok, I Have Decided On A Platform, What Is Next?
The next two steps will get you online! Of course this is not all that is required, yet the excitement of having your own site will certainly carry you through the work that remains! Relax, it’s not that difficult!
Everything has been free up to this point, so it was only a matter of time before we had to shell out some money. Will you have to spend thousands? Of course not. Hundreds? Not necessary. The equivalent of a couple cups of coffee a month? Yup!
The next two steps required are establishing a domain name and finding a host. Let’s define, in general terms, what each of these mean.
Domain Name And Hosting
A domain name is your web address, for example www.espn.com. Hosting is a service that gets your website on the internet. Its that simple! The good news is that most hosting companies offer package deals that include a domain name service, personalized email (catered to your website domain name), and of course the hosting service to connect your site to the internet.
Some companies charge a small monthly fee for both the hosting and domain name service (for the cost of a cup of coffee at Starbucks), while others of course charge more. This is where you have a bevy of options at your disposal. The key, and this can not be emphasized enough, is a predetermination of what your needs will be. Let’s look at some questions to ask before you decide on a host and domain name provider:
*These questions are particularly important if you plan on doing business online, as downtime means lost revenue
Going with the assumption that you have decided to go with this highly popular, easy to use CMS platform, this should be the first question you ask of a potential host. With this simple installation tool, you can save yourself untold stress and time. It is literally as easy as going to a particular control panel and one click to get started!
How long have you been in business?
This will give you an idea of their reputation, as web hosting service companies crop up frequently. Look for an established web host that has experience over time.
Since you have only been operational for (*under the assumption it is a short time period), please tell me a little about your founding members and tech support.
The reasoning for this follow up question is simple. If a particular web host has not been in business all that long, this does not mean you have to disregard them. If they have well experienced management and tech support, it bears you well to at least consider them. Again, we are looking for experience.
What, if any, fees can I expect upon setup outside of the monthly charges?
Some hosts charge a setup fee. Inquire at the beginning before you are hit with the unexpected. Most of the time, these setup charges fall in the range of $20-50, yet bear in mind that this is not an across the board industry standard. Some hosts do not have these charges.
If traffic to my site increases, is there an additional bandwidth charge?
This is an often overlooked question. In the early stages of your website, bandwidth should not be an issue (this is based upon how many people visit and view your site). As traffic increases, as we all hope it does, it may reach the point where your allotted bandwidth (provided by the host dependent upon the terms) may exceed the limit. Ask upfront if you have a way to track this activity, and how much you can expect to be charged if this happens. This is the perfect time to inquire about potential upgrades, their cost, etc..
Do you offer 24/7 tech support?
So, your site is up and running, and you see revenue increasing. Suddenly it goes down on Saturday morning, so you call the 800# provided only to discover that your host only offers tech support Monday-Friday. If you plan on using your site for business purposes, this is a critical question to ask. If it is for mainly personal use, this may not be an area of concern.
Additionally, inquire as to what methods are available for tech support outside of a phone number. Is live chat an option? Email? Video conferencing?
What is your average monthly uptime?
This is the amount of time your site is live on the internet. Downtime happens, even to the biggest companies in the world on dedicated servers (a dedicated server hosts one website, while a shared server hosts numerous sites). Look for an average monthly uptime of at least 99.8% whenever possible.
This is a perfect segway into a followup question concerning downtime. If this occurs, do you offer any credits to my account for the downtime?
Is there a limit to email addresses that can be added?
Just in case. It may be that your site, your business takes off. Or perhaps you may want to include other family members/friends to your domain specific email. Inquire as to how many email addresses can be added, if any. This is a great time to ensure that your web host does provide email hosting. Rarely do web hosting companies not provide email hosting services.
While there is a multitude of other questions that could be asked, these should lay a firm groundwork in your web hosting search.
A shared server is plenty capable of handling a small or medium sized business in most circumstances. So, if you are thinking about making the investment in a dedicated server, reconsider. That is, unless you plan on taking on Amazon!
Recap Of Domain Name And Hosting
This is where many people struggle, and it is not that difficult! As you ponder your domain name, if it is going to be a business it always fares best to include the business name somehow. There are currently over 150 million domain names in existence, so try not to be discouraged if your first choice is taken. The rule of thumb in domain name registration is be creative and patient! Create your own personal brand, throw in some flair, and try to make it easy to remember.
With hosting, again there are a multitude of options available. Start with a Google search of “Web Hosting Companies”. You will find numerous reviews online. Create a list of 5-10 potential hosts and then interview them! Ask questions, document their answers, and sleep on it. Don’t rush into a contract.
Oh Boy, I’m Nervous! How Do I Build It?
Wait! We need to ensure that two actions have been taken first before we proceed. 1- Do you have a unique domain name established? 2- Finalize your web host and domain name, and secure this with them with payment and appropriate information submitted. You will notice that I did not suggest any web hosts. I have spent hours upon hours reading through numerous web host reviews online, and what I have discovered is that many of them (the reviewers) are paid to promote a particular host. I do not want to give any indication of a bias or motive.
Ok, I’m Ready!
If your web host offers 1-click-installation for WordPress, your life just got easier! All this entails is a few short keystrokes and a couple clicks! Your host will provide you with where to find the 1-click-installation. Next up is deciding on a theme.
Once you have WordPress installed in your domain, you can go to the dashboard to choose from one of the over 1,500 themes that are available. What is a theme? The “flavor” or appearance of your site. When choosing between themes, look for ones that are responsive, these will cooperate with mobile devices.
Some people become puzzled when it comes to deciding on color schemes. The colors that you use should complement the brand of your business, or personal brand. The psychology of colors is well documented and studied. Investigate what colors complement your brand.
Entering content is a breeze, as is adding pages. There are so many features to WordPress that make website design easy and fun!
What is all this fuss about whitespace that I have read about? Effective sites need whitespace, as it is breathing room for the viewers eyes and mind. In essence it is simply a break in material, unmarked distance between two items on a web page.
Lastly, it would be a disservice to not mention WordPress plugins. These are vital functions that can be added to your site. Plugins can be added to improve the function of your site as well as add features. These are important to your website’s health and maintenence, and there is a wide range of helpful tutorials available online to assist you.
See, that was not so bad! The hardest part for most people is the initial work that leads to your sites launch. Once up and operational, you can experiment with all the different color schemes, layouts, and plugins. Use the internet as your friend for helpful guidance as you enjoy your very own website! The best part is you did not have to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars to have a presence online! Now go on, build your own website the right way.
- Where Do I Begin?
- What Is A Platform? Is It Similar To A Content Management System?
- Is WordPress Responsive To Mobile Devices?
- Ok, I Have Decided On A Platform, What Is Next?
- Domain Name And Hosting
- Do you offer 1-click-installation for WordPress?
- How long have you been in business?
- Since you have only been operational for (*under the assumption it is a short time period), please tell me a little about your founding members and tech support.
- What, if any, fees can I expect upon setup outside of the monthly charges?
- If traffic to my site increases, is there an additional bandwidth charge?
- Do you offer 24/7 tech support?
- What is your average monthly uptime?
- Is there a limit to email addresses that can be added?
- Recap Of Domain Name And Hosting
- Oh Boy, I’m Nervous! How Do I Build It?
- Ok, I’m Ready!