What do I need to launch my own website?
To create your own website and make it available on the Internet for everyone to see, you need the following:
- A web hosting account
- A domain name
- Basic knowledge and access to website creation software
What is web hosting?
Web hosting is making your website available and accessible on the Internet by placing it on a web server. Servers are usually leased by web hosting providers like Hostgator, Bluehost, Web Hosting Hub etc. These companies ensure 24 hours availability of your website by maintaining their servers round the clock – they have skilled staff and equipment to be able to do this.
To sign up with a web hosting provider, simply visit their website and fill in their signup form. You’ll be given a control panel on which you can add your website’s files.
How much does web hosting cost?
The cost of web hosting plans varies significantly – from a few dollars to thousands of dollars a month. For a typical individual or business website, the price ranges from $4 – $10 a month (shared hosting). Most plans require you to sign up on an annual cycle, so the price can be anything between $40 -$120.
For dedicated hosting plans, the monthly price among the most popular web hosts can be between $50 to $100, or more. Hosting services provide essentially the same features but some hosts have better uptime and support. The difference in pricing is mostly due to that plus features like the amount of disk space, number of websites that can be hosted per account, bandwidth and other server add-ons that will improve the performance of your website.
Shared and dedicated hosting plans – what’s the difference?
Shared hosting refers to the hosting of multiple customer accounts on one server. Shared hosting provides ample resources and features, adequate for the needs of most websites. Many websites belonging to different customers can therefore co-exist on the same server. However, only the server administrators have access to these accounts, so you won’t have to worry about another customer gaining access to your hosting account.
A dedicated server on the other hand is a plan in which a server is leased to only one customer. The customer will enjoy more server resources – space, bandwidth and greater control over server configuration. It’s ideal for websites that receive a lot of traffic. Most providers allow you to switch from a shared plan to a dedicated server.
Why not just find free hosting?
Indeed, you can find free hosting services on platforms such as Blogger, Weebly, WordPress.com etc. But your website will just look amateurish for several reasons. First, you do not choose your own domain name – your web address will be something like mysite.blogspot.com. Secondly, you do not have much control on the design and functionality of your website. You are only allowed to choose the look from the set of templates they offer, and customization is severely limited. You’re also limited on the number of scripts or plugins you can add. Lastly, even if you can buy a domain name and point it to the free hosting account, the amount of space and data transfer is strictly capped, so your website won’t be able to handle a decent amount of traffic.
For a fee as low as $48 a year, you can find a nice, secure host with plenty of disk space and bandwidth for your website. That’s value for money.
How do I get to host my website?
If you built your website away from the web server – for instance, on your local drive – you’ll need to transfer the files via ftp to the home directory of your hosting control panel (the provider will usually indicate where you should place your files.) You can add the files into a zipped folder then upload them to the c-panel and unzip them onto the specified folder location (it’s much quicker this way).
The most common, easier and error-free approach is to buy hosting first and build your website on the server. This applies to most web developers and individuals who create their own websites using popular CMS scripts such as WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. Most web hosts provide one-click install features for WordPress and other CMSs.
Can I switch web hosts?
Yes. You can simply cancel your plan with the provider at the end of the hosting term and transfer your websites files to the new host. Your domain name won’t be affected regardless of where you bought it from. All you’ll have to do is change the DNS records for the domain so that it can point to the new IP address you’ll have moved to. This is a pretty straightforward process; if you get stuck, your new host will assist you.
What is a domain name, and do I need one?
A domain name is a unique identifier that represents the web address (or URL) of your website e.g. me.com, you.net, yourname.co. In technical terms, your website has a unique IP address which users would need to type to get to, such ashttp://126.96.36.199 . That’s quite hard for most people to remember. A domain name that corresponds to this IP (Digg.com, by the way) is much easier for people to remember and identify with.
For every website you create, you’ll need a domain name. If you create a site using free services like Blogger, Weebly or Wix, your ‘website’ will be nothing but your content on a subfolder e.g. mybusiness.wix.com. It looks unprofessional, lacks a personal touch and you should avoid it for the same reasons you should avoid free hosting (see above).
Another reason you should have your own domain name is that even if you change hosts, your domain name won’t change, though the IP address will. So your visitors won’t be affected or even notice when you switch hosts.
Search engines also hate sub-domain websites. You might have noticed that very few sub-domains ever pop up when you search for anything on Google.
How much do domain names cost?
The standard price of a .com, .org and .net domain name is about $10 a year. Some domains cost less e.g. .info while others cost more – most for country specific top-level domains (TLDs) such as .com.au for Australia or .ca for Canada. Some domain sellers also price their domains higher, so you can buy a domain name for $35 dollars on one site, while you have had it for $8.95 on another. Two of the most popular domain sellers are Godaddy and Enom.
Most of the good domain names you’d wish to buy are taken. Some are bought by domain flippers and sold for huge profit margins. For example, the prime domain stockphoto.com was sold for $350,000. If you find that the domain you want is being auctioned at extremely high prices, it’s not the end for you. With a little creativity, you can come up with a unique name and not have to pay the exorbitant prices. After all, you need not attach too much significance to the domain name. What matters more is the content of your website.
What’s a TLD?
A TLD (top level domain) is basically just the last part of your domain name, e.g. .com, .net, .biz, .co, .org (generic TLDs). Some TLDs are country or region specific and may only be registered by individuals belonging to that country/region. These are known as country code TLDs (ccTLDs) e.g. nz (New Zealand), .ru (Russia), .eu (European Union). Other TLDs are country specific but also allow worldwide registrations, e.g. .me (Montenegro), .bi (Burundi), .ly (Libya).
When registering a domain name for your business, it is best to buy all common the TLDs that are available e.g. Lightbulbs.com, lightbulbs.net, lightbulbs.com and lightbulbs.co. This will ensure your competitors do not get to register one of those names and confuse your target audience.
Do I need to a web host to be able to buy a domain name?
No. Domain names can be bought separately from hosting. Most sellers allow you to set up a placeholder page for the domain. You can then proceed to buy hosting, usually from a different company – or the same company if you like. Configuring the domain name to point to your web hosting account is as easy as updating the DNS records. If you bought your domain together with hosting, this step won’t be necessary.
What skills do I need to create my own website?
What’s the easiest way to create a website?
Custom websites such as Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook were hand-coded by hardcore programmers. But you can use a CMS to build any type website you desire – from a simple blog to a portfolio site or a community social network. All this has been made possible by the thousands of plugins that can be used to add just about any kind of functionality you’ve seen on other sites. CMSs are just as ideal for beginners as they are for advanced web developers.
CMS are pretty intuitive to use too – WordPress especially, is pretty easier to get to grips with when compared to Joomla and Drupal. The good news is, most web hosts provide one-click installs of WordPress and all other popular CMSs. From there, your can configure your site with settings such as site title, and permalink (URL) structure. You’ll then move on to install a theme of your choice and the plugins you’ll need. Adding, updating and publishing content is very easy.
Another easy option for creating your website is by using the website builder provided by your web hosting company. Using such a tool, you can create and configure your site in no time. However, site builders may not give you as much control and options as the CMSs.
I’m not good at design. Can I still build a beautiful website?
You do not need to be an accomplished designer to come up with a beautiful website. Thanks to the thousands of free and commercial website templates, your average design skills need not come to light. Drupal, WordPress and Joomla all have free templates/themes which you can find through a simple Google search.
If all you want is a simple blog or brochure company website, a free theme will suffice. However if you’re looking for more beautiful designs with custom functionality, you should consider purchasing a premium theme. With premium themes, building a function-specific website on WordPress, such as an events directory, a photography portfolio site, an ecommerce store, or a city portal is much easier. You usually do not need any additional plugins. You can buy premium themes on marketplaces like Themeforest or top theme companies like Elegant Themes, Studiopress and WooThemes. Prices range from $35 to $100. 3An easy way to find a suitable WordPress theme is by searching on Google “premium WordPress x themes”. Replace the x with corporate, magazine, photography or whatever term that describes the type of theme you’re looking for. You’ll find many options aggregated by bloggers. There are also many responsive themes that adapt to different screen sizes including, tablets mobile phones. With such themes, you can be sure that your site will display gracefully on all kinds of devices.
If you need a logo design, you can get it done for as little as $5 – $20 by freelancers on Fivver.com. You can have other web graphics done for the same price. Alternatively, there are thousands of free logo and web graphics templates that you can download and customize.
How do I add content (posts, videos and photos) to my website?
Adding content to a CMS website is quite a straightforward process. Look around on your admin dashboard and try out all the different things and see how they work. If you find it a little intimidating at first, worry not as there are many free video tutorials and written guides (blog posts, eBooks) that show you how to get started with your favorite CMS.