Things to know when building a website. Beginners guide.
Building a website is one of the easiest and hardest things to do at the same time. No wonder some of the companies like Wordpress.com, Wix or Weebly is selling it on a premise of making it all look easy. You can get your domain through them, and they will host and build your website in a couple of clicks.
But there comes a time, where you want to take charge or at least understand the basics of creating a website. By knowing that, you will have more flexibility, choices, and power.
Please, be aware that this is a guide, not a solution. At the end of the day, the decision is yours how you choose to proceed with your website.
If I managed to get it as someone who is a purely visual creative, you will too. You only have to be willing to learn it, and you will never look back.
There are three main components of making a website:
- Domain Name — the name of your website, yourname.com.
- Web Hosting — a folder on a server storing the website platform and all your files related to your website.
- Content Management System (CMS) — a website platform or the framework of your website hosted on the hosting server.
To illustrate this, I use the analogy of a house. Your domain, yourname.com is your home address, web hosting is the property/land where your house is built, and the publishing platform is the structure of your house.
// Domain //
All websites are a series of numbers or IP addresses. Imagine this — you will never go to a networking event and say “go check out my website at 12.345.678.910” instead you’ll say “go to yourname.com.” It’s your domain name or the URL address you type in the browser.
Having your domain name secured is very important. Check if your name is available — if you haven’t already. And purchase it even if you don’t plan on building your website right away.
There are many companies you can buy your domain from. More about that in the section about cost.
// Web Hosting //
Web hosting is a folder on the server where all your website files are, just like you have file folders on your desktop for your projects.
The reason why it’s important to have paid web hosting is the flexibility that you have with your website. You have full control and ability to change whatever you want.
For example, if you decide to go with Wordpress.com that hosts your WordPress platform for free, you will not be able to install a custom theme. You will be stuck with the selections they gave you, and the same is true with installing plugins. Only a particular set of plugins are available for the free hosting option.
With your paid hosting, you don’t have those limitations. You can install and test themes and experiment with plugins, which there are plenty to choose from. Just look at this list https://wordpress.org/plugins/
Plus the biggest benefit of all, if you ever decide to migrate your website from one web host to another, you can do that with purchased web hosting. And most of the hosting companies nowadays offer free migration. It will be so seamless and without any downtime that the end user will never know you “moved.”
// Website Platforms or Content Management Systems (CMS) //
Think of the website platform as the structure of your house. It’s the foundation, empty rooms with floors and walls that you get to decorate the way you want it.
There are many website platforms or CMS you can choose from. One of the most popular ones is WordPress. It’s an open-source platform and free for anyone to install, modify and use. It has a vibrant community forum where members can post and answer questions. Utilized by many from small business owners to artists, there are many available WordPress themes both free and for purchase.
WordPress is just one type of CMS, and there are many others. You need to do a proper research on functionality, ease of use, and support before deciding what platform to choose.
For further information read this useful article comparing three most popular open-source platforms WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla, http://www.templatemonster.com/blog/how-to-choose-the-right-cms-for-my-website/
// Cost of Domain, Web Hosting, and CMS //
Now that we have the basics down, here is what you need to know when it comes to expenses.
The average cost for your domain name is about $8 — $10 per year. Often hosting companies offer a bundle where you can purchase hosting and get a free domain. Hosting prices vary from one provider to another.
One thing to pay attention to is that many bigger providers such as GoDaddy or Bluehost offer a great promotion for new customers. The price usually goes up to match the regular price the year after. For example, the promotional first year can cost around $60 and the year after will default to $120.
To avoid that, look for web hosting companies that offer fixed and stable prices.
There are pros and cons to both. Bigger provider companies have a good user interface platform where you can easily manage your account. Plus they offer customer support and can help with anything in a matter of minutes. Smaller companies with set prices might have a harder-to-use platform and a not-so-great customer support system. So please be aware — “you will get what you pay for.”
Both the cost of domain and web hosting are yearly recurring costs.
Regarding website platforms, there are plenty of free ones to use, and there are also proprietary ones that cost money.
More about the differences between these two, read in “Open Source vs Proprietary CMS,” http://www.bloomtools.com/articles/open-source-vs-proprietary-cms.html
You’ve come this far, hang in there.
There are two potential scenarios you may end up with when it comes to your domain and web hosting.
1. Your domain and hosting are from the same place
The ideal scenario. In this case, the setup is minimal, because your domain automatically points to your website.
Most of web hosting already have WordPress and other CMS ready to install with just one click. Once you install your CMS, you’ll get an email notification with your login info. From that point on, you’ll get to choose your theme and create your website content.
But there comes a time when you want to move your website. If you want to change your hosting for various reasons you will end up with scenario no. 2.
2. Your domain and hosting are in two different places
The first step is changing the domain’s DNS records to point from the old to the new web hosting server. Think of the DNS records like an address book where a name, in this case, your domain, points to a particular address.
For example, when you move from one place to another you notify the post office of your new residence. Otherwise, your will continue receiving your mail at the old address.
The second step is migrating your CMS from the old server to the new one.
When you create a WordPress, or any other CMS type of website, your content (posts, pages, and images) goes into a database and the rest are WordPress and theme files.
Make sure to do a FULL backup before you start. Login to the cPanel in your web host where your website is currently hosted and find the Backup files option. Make sure to choose to backup the entire site: database, WordPress theme files, and plugins.
As I mentioned, many web hosting companies offer free migration in which case you have nothing to worry about. If you do need to migrate the website by yourself, I find these two resources helpful:
You’ve made it! I know your head is spinning, but this is a resource you can always come back to and look for answers.
Please feel free to post questions in the comment section or reach me through http://lciric-design.com