How to Buy Domains, Build Websites, Create Custom Email Addresses, and Setup Servers
I often get asked how to build websites and I finally got a chance to sit down and write about it. Anyone interested in building their own website should be able to follow along with this guide.
Buying a Domain:
Visit GoDaddy.com and search for a desired domain name. If it is available, then go ahead and purchase it. Before checking out make sure to Google “GoDaddy domain coupon,” and use any that are available. For your first domain you will likely be able to purchase a year’s worth of domain registration for $1–2.
What is a domain you might ask? It is essentially a human name for a server. Instead of typing 220.127.116.11 into our browsers every time we want to visit Facebook for example, we type facebook.com.
Typing Facebook.com into a browser and hitting enter sends out a request through your internet service provider, to the closest domain name server, asking what IP address facebook.com is correlated with. Then in the background, your browser communicates with that IP address while displaying facebook.com throughout all of your interactions.
With that in mind, your domain name will point to your server.
What is a Server?
If you have a network in your home in which you can access photos and files on other computers from a Wi-Fi enabled device, then you are familiar with servers. They are basically computers which are accessible by other computers.
When building websites, we want servers that are accessible not just within a home, but by the entire world. GoDaddy provides webhosting servers for about $40 a year. In fact, you can purchase a domain along with webhosting if you want to get a website up and running as quickly as possible.
Setting Up a Server:
If you want to run your own server then it’s quite simple. Sign up to DigitalOcean.com, create a droplet (virtual private server) for $10 a month, and then access it via a program such as Putty or Mac’s terminal. You will get your login details emailed to you after creating a droplet, which is essentially a virtual computer that runs on massive servers around the world.
Your VPS will have an IP address which you can point your domain to from GoDaddy’s domain manager.
If you want a visual manager for your server’s resources, and managing multiple accounts, then look into renting a cPanel license through LicensePal.com. If you want to resell hosting services, then look into coupling WHMCS with cPanel’s WHM solution. You’ll need to setup a PayPal account to accept payments via PayPal and credit cards.
If you are renting a server through a provider such as GoDaddy, you will be able to FTP into it to upload and download files. Open up notepad on your computer and write <h1>Hello world</h1>, and save the file as index.html.
If you open this file on your computer you will see the text “Hello world” within your browser. If you move this file to the main directory of your server, by uploading it via Filezilla, you will be able to view this same page when visiting your domain name that points to your server.
Learning How to Create Cooler Webpages:
Creating cooler web pages is a matter of learning HTML and CSS, which can be done through a free course such as the one offered by Codeacademy.
HTML & CSS Are Boring:
After creating webpages through HTML and CSS you will discover that they are very boring. Every time you want to update a page you have to open up your code and make a change directly.
Luckily, there are systems out there that let you edit content only as desired and separate development from content management.
Welcome to WordPress.org
WordPress is a content management system which pulls data in from a database and displays it on a site. Think of Facebook once again: they have a layout for a homepage that looks the same for all users, but the content within the layout is different. This is because Facebook works in the back-end to pull posts from the user’s timeline and the timelines of friends, and then it throws it in between its design.
WordPress uses PHP and MySQL to store and modify content on a respective database. Setting it up is as easy as going over to WordPress.org, downloading the WordPress file, unzipping it and uploading all of its files to the directory of your server. Then you have to create a MySQL database on your server, and connect the files of WordPress to your database.
Through WordPress you will be able to login to your website through an admin panel and edit webpage content as easily as it would be to edit a Word document. You will also be able to modify theme files to change the appearance of the site, and this will be separate from the content.
Setting Up Custom Email Addresses:
To setup a custom email address, such as firstname.lastname@example.org, you will need to go to your domain manager and change its MX records to point to Zoho mail’s records.
Then sign up to Zoho mail and verify your domain. From there, you’ll be able to send and receive emails from your custom email address.