Are you ready to build your very first website? Feeling a little overwhelmed? Don’t worry – I’ve got you covered with this quick-start guide to get you pointed in the right direction.
There are really just three components you have to worry about: your domain, hosting services, and the site itself, which is made up of code and image files.
The first part of your website is the address, otherwise known as your domain name or URL. You pay an annual fee, usually $10 – $30/year, to own your domain name. “Dot-com” addresses are addresses that end in “.com” instead of other endings like “.biz”, “.org”, etc. Dot-coms are preferred in the same way that true 800 numbers (vs. 866, 877, etc.) are preferred, because it’s what people type by default. You purchase a domain name at a domain registrar like GoDaddy.com.
The second part is hosting, which is basically space you rent on a server. The server can be just about anywhere as long as it’s connected to the Internet, but typically you want a server in a data center, not someone’s basement, and having a domestic-based host will slightly improve the speed of your website. Again, costs vary but for most small business owners you can expect $100 – $400/year. If you have a really busy site with millions of visitors, you may need an entire server of your own, and costs will be greater.
If you are working with a web developer, check with them before purchasing hosting. There are a variety of options available and you need to be sure your hosting is compatible with the code they use to build your site.
The code includes the look of your site, all the images and graphic design, the text, the formatting, and any special effects like audio, video, calculators, or surveys.
Most people will need help with coding a website. While your kid may know a little HTML, there’s a lot more to building a website than slinging some code or slapping some pictures around. Your website requires marketing savvy, graphic design skills, a clear purpose – and of course the technical skills to make it all happen.
There are a number of do-it-yourself services available if you are on a tight budget. Be careful though – homemade sites that create the image of a low-budget shabby startup can be worse than no site at all.
Tying it All Together
The last step in all this, once your site is ready, is the launch. First, you (or your developer) will move your code to the host server. Next, you’ll point your domain to that same server. Once you’ve done that, you are officially online and open for visitors!