You have the greatest idea! Or you've been a brick & mortar business for years but just know you're missing out! Maybe you built your own site 5 years ago and then forgot it existed because you were just too busy.
SO YOU WANT A SHINY NEW WEBSITE!
Well, gee, that should be easy right?! You use the web everyday and know what you like so... Well, yes... and sadly, no.
Creating your first website (or refreshing an old one), or having it done for you is an exciting and sometimes frustrating process. Anytime you are taking a concept and trying to fit it on one screen, let alone millions it is bound to be pretty hectic.
So I, your trusted Digtial Citzen Admin would like to take a little of your time and give you some of the things you'll need to have ready to venture boldly into this new electronic frontier.
First thngs first... words that you thought had one meaning all your life? Not so much the same. And the web loves itself some acronyms, so be prepared to learn a whole new language about languages and technologies.
When you build a house or have someone build it for you, you are creating a space for yourself in your town or county. A place to name your own, keep your things and do your day to day living. And that is a good analogy for a website and all things that go with it.
You need to have 3 things to have your own website. A domain name, hosting and the files or site itself are what makes your site. Let's talk about those 3 things a bit more in depth in this blog using our house building analogy.
- The Domain Name
Every website has one. For years they started with www. and ended with .com, but that isn't the case so much anymore. .biz, .info, .co and many more are finding wider use. But we are still mostly trained to .com
A domain name is the address to your home on the web. Unlike your street address it doesn't change everytime you move though (more on that in a moment). It is your calling card, name recoginition and often the first impression people get of your website.
You can register your domain in any number of places, but register it you must. Godaddy tends to be Digital Citzenry's recommended Registrar because they are inexpensive and hand out coupon codes like Halloween treats. I've worked with them for years and their registration is straightforward and not horribly upsold in the later years. Often a registrar will get you in the door with an incredibly low intro price and then charge you 3 times as much for subsuquent years.
No matter where you register your domain name it is IMPERATIVE that you register it in either your name or your legal business's name. NEVER let a web designer or developer offer to "just add your domain" to their account. Your domain name is a business asset and should be treated as such, since it is the ultimate controller of your presence on the web.
Domain addresses are "cataloged" in the WhoIs directory. WhoIs is basically the phonebook for the internet. Like the phone book it is public record. Also like the phonebook you can pay a little extra to have your information private. The price varies by registrar but it is worth it.
If the domain name is the address in our house analogy then hosting is the ground your house is built on. And like ground a good host offers you a solid foundation. And that is important.
Probably 90% of small businesses used what is called shared hosting, meaning they buy their hosting from a company or reseller (like Digital Citizenry) who uses huge server "farms" to offer multiple customers space on their network. Godaddy, BluehHost, 1to1, HostGator are just a few examples. Digital Citizenry offers hosting on GoDaddy servers and I'll tell you why in just a moment.
A good host needs to have the following:
Consistant, stable "UP" time. This means there aren't outages or server snafus. They happen mostly with small to medium hosts who are either busily growing and so outstripping their resources or just mismanaged.
Good Customer Service/Technical Support available 24/7 and with easy to reach channels. Now you would think this is a no brainer but customer service in the hosting world is hit or miss at best. Overall I swear by Godaddy. Their tech support can answer my question about SQL or a DDoS attack in depth as easily they can help someone whose site "Fell down Go BOOM!". Unfortunately their shortcoming is actually GETTING to customer service/tech support. You can hold for hours if there is a system issue and I am fairly certain they are the only company in America to feature the same 60 seconds of a Squirrl Nut Zippers song for 20 years as hold music. On the other hand I have dealt with hosting companies who never actually speak to you about an issue (ticket systems only), don't listen to you when you give clear detailed trouble reports, take forever to respond or simply don't answer.
Consistant Updates Of Technology: The language websites are written in changes quickly and that means the tech they are built on needs to as well. This protects servers from hackers (though there is never a 100% guarantee, sorry folks), exploits and spam.
Cost: You might think this should come first. But I will be honest, a quality web host is something worth paying a good price to have. That is another reason I resell hosting. I know the product, I know its quality and I keep it tended to for my hosting cients and web clients alike.
- Your Website
This is the house you build on your hosting and set the domain in front of... Whether you build it, Digital Citizenry builds it or someone else this is the important part of that all the neighbors see.
And looking at the midnight oil burning it's way down... We'll talk about it more in Part II!