Setting Up A Website

Category: Webmaster

So, you want your own website... Setting up a site of your very own can be free and easy, or as expensive and complicated as a NASA mission to Mars. Here are some tips on getting started...

Setting up a website

Create Your Own Website

The cost and complexity of creating your own website depends on what you want to do with it, and how well you want to do it. Let's start with what you want to do.

Do you just want to present information to visitors? Then maybe all you need is a blog... a site that displays Web pages and that's all. It doesn't do shopping carts or other things that require back-end databases and knowledge of SQL, C++, etc. It just shows stuff... text, pictures, embedded videos, hyperlinks to other pages on other Web sites. A blog is easy, and can be free. Many blogging sites will host your blog free of charge. Wordpress.com, Blogspot.com, and Blogger.com are just three of the bigger names in the free blogging space.

With these free blog services you'll get a domain name something like yourname.wordpress.com - which clearly tells savvy visitors that you are a tenant in someone else's building. If you want the prestige and brevity of your very own domain name - i.e., yourname.com - then you have buy it.

Your Own Domain Name?

For that, you go to a domain name registrar, register the name, and point it to your site. A domain name may cost as little as $5 per year. For tips on selecting and registering a domain, see my related article on Buying a Domain Name.

You can use the brevity of yourname.com to send visitors to yourname.wordpress.com or any other destination on the Web. You can set your domain to redirect visitors to another site. It's much like setting your cell phone to forward callers into voicemail; they call your number and reach the voicemail number instead.

There are drawbacks to using just a blog instead of your own full-blown Web site. Some blog hosts won't let you use Javascript and certain other types of programming code. There are limits on the types of content you can host on a blog. If you get your own Web server, you can do whatever you on it, like custom designs, interactive services, or an online store. For those applications, you need a Web hosting service.

Choosing a Web Hosting Service

There are free Web hosting services out there, but they all come with limitations similar to blogs. Your site name will be yourname.webhost.com or webhost.com/yourname unless you redirect from your own domain name as described above. The amount of disk space available for your use will be limited. Worst of all, the amount of traffic you send and receive via your Web site will be limited. If your site suddenly gets a spike in visitors, some may see the "bandwidth allocation exceeded" message that says, in effect, "the poor owner of this site has used up his freebies for now; come back next month." Many won't come back. You get what you pay for, but it needn't cost a lot to start.

Paid Web hosting service starts at around $50 per year. You can run server-side programs, scripts, and other code that lets you have sophisticated online stores, games, and many other amenities. Thousands of such programs are available as free open source packages. You can use as much storage space and bandwidth as you need. But of course, you'll pay for it.

Paid Web hosts typically offer several packages of services for flat monthly prices. For example, 5 GB of storage space and up to 500 MB of traffic for $X. If you exceed your traffic allowance the Web host doesn't cut you off; instead, you are billed additional fees for each megabyte of traffic over your monthly allotment. If you habitually pay extra traffic fees it will be cheaper to move up to the next higher bundled package.

I've used WestHost and The Planet for several years. Other friends of mine recommend BlueHost for economy hosting. Be careful when selecting a host for your Web site. You want one with very high availability; competent, responsive tech support; and good financial stability. Ask in online forums about the reputations of specific Web hosts.

Just Add Content!

Once you have chosen the domain and hosting company, you can start building the site. If you have never built a website before, there are many free resources on the Internet for learning HTML (the computer markup language most often used to build websites), and most large hosting companies offer free website design tools, as well.

In addition, software like Microsoft Expression Web or the free CoffeeCup HTML Editor makes building a website almost as easy as using a word processor, though you have to make sure your web hosting company supports FrontPage extensions. Here are some links to get you started:

  • W3 HTML Tutorial
  • Lissa Explains It All (not just for kids)
  • Free Website Templates
  • Free Web Tools

    There is a certain air of mystery about creating a dot-com website, but the process is simpler than most people think. The real challenge lies in coming up with a good design and then updating the site regularly with original and compelling content.

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    Most recent comments on "Setting Up A Website"

    Posted by:

    Bill
    16 Dec 2009

    Bob, I'm afraid you're behind the times on your recommendation to use MS FrontPage. Microsoft has replaced Front Page with Expression Web. Bill

    EDITOR'S NOTE: I use a plain old text editor to sling my HTML, none of that WYSIWYG stuff for me! So I guess I never got the "FrontPage is Dead" memo. I've updated the article, thanks.


    Posted by:

    GBO
    17 Dec 2009

    I USE www.000webhost.com for Free Hosting! Man! It looks like you paid a Million Dollars to be on this site. Check IT Out . . . You'll Fall In Love with It, too.


    Posted by:

    Larry W. Virden
    17 Dec 2009

    I highly recommend that you make certain that you maintain an up to date copy of your web site some place OTHER than your host. If you do that, then if the host has some sort of disaster (a flood in the computer room, a fire in the building, whatever), then you know that all of your web pages are recoverable, even if the web host has some guarantee of recoverability.

    Another thing that is highly recommended is keeping a backup copy of any databases that you build on the web host - for the same reason.

    Be certain that you do not keep sensitive data - credit card numbers, customer emails, etc. in a form that is easily accessible by others. Due diligence here will be a welcome site to any audit of the site in the future.

    Understand, most of all, that building and maintaining a good web site is not easier than building and maintaining a brick and mortar business. Some times people get the mistaken impression that one can just "throw up" a web site and bring in a lot of people. Generally, it will take many months of work, and likely many dollars, if a busy web site is your goal.


    Posted by:

    Mike B
    18 Dec 2009

    For those looking to create a quick web site for something, Google Sites can't be beat. It's free! Lots of templates. 1 meg of space. For personal web sites, clubs, anything that is straight HTML, it's just great.


    Posted by:

    Glenn P.
    24 Jan 2010

    This is for "Bill", who chastized Bob for recommending MS FrontPage...

    LOL! I'm still using FrontPage *Express*!!!

    ...still available, for FREE, at:

    http://www.123ecommerce.com/frontpage-express.htm

    Still works just fine. :) Enjoy!


    Posted by:

    amylr
    01 Oct 2013

    I want to say that http://www.bluehost.com/track/amylr was much better for me than any other sites I visited.


    Posted by:

    poin4d
    14 Oct 2016

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    Posted by:

    poin4d
    14 Oct 2016

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