How to build a website is a huge topic with many areas to cover . This blog entry will focus on the basics if you have no idea where to start or what the terminology means. If you have any questions please ask.
So you want to start a website but have no idea of where to begin. you have been searching the web and have no doubt seen ads for squarespace.com and wix.com and many others. I have had websites since 1997, which is how long I have owned this domain name http://www.steverotter.com so let’s start with that.
A website address is called a domain name. You will need to purchase a domain name. It has to be one that isn’t already taken. A domain name is the address of where your website will reside on the web / internet. Similar to when you buy a home, it comes with an address. There cannot be 2 of the same addresses on the same street, in the same city, just like there cannot be 2 of the same domain names in the world. There are many companies that offer domain names for purchase. One of the most popular is godaddy.com. I purchase my domain names through A2 hosting. I love them and still use them. When purchasing a domain name, you choose how long you want to rent it for, as you will not have it forever. You can purchase 1 year at a time for anywhere between $5 and $20 a year with the option to renew. If you forget to renew and choose not to, that domain name will be up for grabs and anyone can buy it. Some people think of names that may be important, then buy them, and resell them for higher cash. Let’s say Brad Pitt wants to start a website but you purchased the name http://www.bradpitt.com. You can sell it to his agent and you name the price.
Purchasing a domain name is very easy and takes a few minutes online with the company you choose to go with. You simply type in the name you want and they let you know if it’s available. Wording is important to consider when choosing a name. If you are a photographer living in Chicago, as I am, you might want to choose something like http://www.chicagoweddingphotography.com. This name is already taken but it would be a good one since it would come up in google is someone were to do a search for Chicago wedding photography or similar. Keep that in mind. You can also but a few domain names and link them to the same website.
Now that you have a domain name you need to think of hosting your website. This sounds scary but it’s not. Most companies have tech support who can help you out. Hosting is simply where your website is going to live. Meaning, all the files, photos, videos, text and anything else in your website. All this data needs to be somewhere. It isn’t magic when they click on a website. The images don’t appear just because you click on a website. All these files need to be hosted or kept somewhere. You know when you post a picture to instagram or Facebook? Facebook and instagram are hosting that image. That photo lives on facebook servers. A server is a fancy name for fast computer. Companies of all shapes and sizes have servers in temperature controlled rooms where client data is stored and that is all they do at hosting companies…store data.
You will search the web for hosting companies and find one that has good reviews and that fits your price. $5-$12 a month is the going rate for most places. Once you have your domain name and hosting company you can start creating your website. There are various methods to this. Of course you hire someone to design it but that will cost even more money and you will need to hand over your username and password for your hosting company so they can work on it. I never liked this idea. I don’t have that much money and I would rather do things on my own anyway. How else would you learn? Right? Web design can also be really expensive and most designers will rape you financially if you don’t know what to look for. I don’t trust many people.
You have heard of html coding, which is programming for website design and building. I would stay away from that, as it’s complex and is an awful lot to learn. In this day and age, your time is better spent creating and having fun and getting your content up. Most people don’t have the time to learn html and it’s boring so I suggest other things available in this day and age.
HTML coding is behind the scenes in all websites. You just have to determine if you want to work on that coding, pay someone to work on that coding, or just have fun and use templates or online web hosting.
I used website templates for years. Templates are graphical creations by web designers that you purchase and all you do is enter your text and photos. They’re easy to use and kind of fun as well. No html coding is required, but it’s there behind the scenes, as with all web page design….you just don’t need to touch it. Templates can be had anywhere from $15-$200 or more. Some require a program to run them such as FRONTPAGE…that is what I used to use for webpage design. Within the FRONTPAGE app, as an example, you would update the template or THEME with your info and upload (transfer files to your hosting provider directly through the app.) Now, when someone goes to your website, they are actually accessing the files you uploaded to your hosting provider. that’s how it works. I have made this pretty simple. There is more to it and your hosting provider can help with that. An app that I used for mac for website design is SANDVOX. I used sandvox and loved it. I paid for the sandvox application, installed that on my mac, then entered my username and password for my hosting company into the sandvox app so I could publish files to my hosting company. Sandvox can be found on the app store. I think it was around $90? It was fun and pretty easy to use. The thing I hated about sandvox is the very limiting choices in website templates. The templates also looked pretty cheap, as did the ones I bought from private parties to be used with sandvox.
If you want to have more fun and spend more time working on your website than learning anything, you can go with the all in one companies that do it all for you. When I say do it all, I mean you can buy your domain name through them as well as host your files and you don’t need to purchase an application like frontpage or sandvox or anything to build your website. Building your website is all done online! You’ve heard of these companies. The three biggest are squarespace.com, wordpress.com and wix.com. These companies host your files and are web-based. Web-based means all your files are stored on their servers. To work on your website, go to squarespace.com, login and work on your site. I like this method since I can work on my site at any time, from any computer in the world. Having a separate hosting company means you need to be on your computer where you do all the work, and once that work is done, it is uploaded, or SENT to your hosting provider from that specific computer, using the application you bought.
Facebook is web-based. If you want to add something to Facebook you simply logon to facebook from any computer. What if facebook was an application stored on your home computer? You would need to wait till you got home to use it. That’s what I’m talking about with a separate hosting company. I prefer web-based website design. Does this make sense?
I chose to use WordPress and I love them. That’s what www.steverotter.com is built with. Right now I’m sitting on a different computer than I normally sit at, logged in to wordpress.com, typing away. When I’m done, I’ll click PUBLISH and it will be saved to wordpress servers under my account / domain name. It’s more fun for me even though I’m a techy and I know what I’m doing. I don’t want to spend my time with software and making things work and figuring things out and dealing with a hosting company. Those days are done. I just want to create. So for me, web-based hosting is great. I also recommend it for someone just starting out. If I didn’t use wordpress, I would use wix. Wix has great reviews and I would like to try them someday. I used squarespace and the learning curve was pretty big. Squarespace also seemed clumsy in design. It’s not just me saying that. A lot of people say the same.
Speaking of starting out, www.wordpress.com is totally free (the free version doesn’t allow you a specific domain name.) They tack WordPress.com on at the end. For most people this is no big deal. I chose to pay the $99 a year to wordpress.com to have my own domain name. So instead of http://www.steverotter.com.wordpress.com it’s just http://www.steverotter.com. With the price I also get some other nice perks such as much more storage space for my website files and the option to make money for blogging. I allow ads to show up on my pages, which, in turn, make some money on the side for me. Of course you need a massive following to see any type of income worth mentioning but that’s not why I have this website. I have this website because I love writing and showing my photography and video work. I also have my YouTube channels linked all over this website. This website is my landing page for my art.
There are 3 WordPress options. One is http://www.wordpress.com that is free if you don’t mind their wordpress ads popping up, you don’t make money, and you don’t have a true domain name. Then there is wordpress.com where you pay either $99 or $299 a year. You get the domain name through them, they host your site, you can make money from ads, and the wordpress ads are gone. WordPress is also your hosting company. Your files are kept on their wordpress servers. Some people don’t like that and would rather go with their own hosting company. I have used hosting companies and had issues at times, just as with anything in life. In the end, I’m happy with my choice since it’s all under one roof at wordpress.com.
If you use WordPress as a stand alone software download with your hosting company, it can be cheaper, and you get WAY MORE OPTIONS with templates and plugins to make your site super cool. The wordpress software download is free and most hosting providers make it really easy to install wordpress from their servers. Plugins are little applications such as a stats counter to see how many people hit your site, or a contact page for people to contact you, and any other little thing you want to add to your website such as weather tracking or whatever. Plugins are little software programs that you add to your main program, to enhance it. In this case, you would add plugins to wordpress, which is hosted on your hosting company’s servers. Want a live twitter feed on your page from your twitter account? There’s a plugin for that as well. The issue with wordpress on your hosting company servers is, you are responsible for updating the wordpress software and plugins every single time an update comes out and they come out A LOT. I got so tired of dealing with that. Then, sometimes, the updates to plugins break other plugins and your site doesn’t work. Screw that! I would rather have a nice site that works without all the bells and whistles, than to deal with updating garbage all the time. Not to mention, the more plugins you add, the slower your website will be. That is why I’m letting wordpress.com host my site and I no longer use a separate hosting company. I like everything under one roof and the less I have to do, the better. I only want to deal with one company at one location. By the way, that is the reason for the $299 with wordpress, per year. You get access to their plugins and they are updated automatically and always work. For the $99 a year I pay, I don’t get access to their plugins. That’s ok, I don’t need them yet. At this point in time I am using the $99 version of wordpress and absolutely love it.
Well, that’s it. Hope this helps to shed some light on website design. If you have any questions, let me know. I blog on technology, photography, video production and editing and YouTube marketing.