Website Building 101
So, you’ve bitten the bullet, and you’re now ready to start building your very own website. Maybe you’re doing this because you’re tired of not having an online presence for your business. Or, maybe you’re simply looking to take some of your opinions and writings online via a personal blog. No matter what the reason, creating a website that actually meets your needs will be a slow, and often difficult process. But don’t let that deter you! Real results can be achieved, and if you use our step-by-step guide listed out below, you’ll have your very own web property in no time.
In the course of this article, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about starting your own website. We’ll be giving you the details on how to create it, how to get it hosted, how to design it, and even how to maintain it. In essence, if you have never before touched a web-server—and have almost no idea what you’re doing—we’ll be here to set you straight. So much so that, by the end of all this, you’ll be left with a site you can make solid money from.
Don’t believe us? Then we dare you to head on down below the break! We’ll be kicking into the full process of what’s required with creating a website. So without hesitation, let’s dive right into the meat and potatoes of the matter, starting with:
1. Know What You Want
No, this isn’t the beginning of a cheesy pop song from the 1980s. However, you’re still going to need a fairly accurate picture of what you want out of a website. You see, before you can start looking for hosts, designs, or even features that meet your needs, you’ll actually need to know what those needs are. To help you along, we’ve created a short list of some of the most common website creation incentives, beginning with:
Consider this. Will you be using your website mostly to post your thoughts and feelings, share moments that happen to you with friends and family, or even just upload photos from your latest vacation? If so, then you’re likely looking at a personal blog, rather than a more business-oriented website. This is hardly a bad thing, so if you think we’re taking a dive at you, think again! You see, a blog is a great way to write for fun, to explore the inner workings of the web, and to simply stay in touch. If you have enough readers attached to your blog, you can also make quite a bit of money out of the affair through ad revenues.
On that note, understand your financial intentions with starting a website. What we mean is, how much money do you exactly intend to make from the site you’re creating? If you’d like to make it your primary source of income, you’re looking at a much different website. Keep this in mind, as this specific genera comes with a wide variety of formats.
Business Online Avenue
When we’re not writing here, we spend a lot of our time being graphic and web designers. As such, about half of all the work we do there is involved with getting brick-and-mortar businesses up and running on the Internet. Why do we spend so much time doing this? Because for any modern business, having a website is just about the most important thing you can do! When people want to look up your business or venue, they aren’t going to flick through the YellowPages as they might once have. No, they’re going to fire up their favorite search engine, and then peg the link closest to the top that matches their search! This is a beautiful thing, but it requires having a website up and running for your business. If this is something you don’t already have, but very much want, you’re in the right boat with this category.
The One-Off Promo
There’s one more category for our websites, though it’s much more infrequent. Are you intending to create a website to promote a single event or situation that will soon be gone? For instance, are you promoting a music festival that will be no more in two weeks? This will change what you want out of a web host. So if you are interested in this kind of site, simply keep those modified needs in mind.
Now that you likely have a better idea of what kind of site you’re looking to create, it’s high time we talked about the next step in website creation. It’s a real doozy, though, so be sure to buckle down and get ready. Next, we’ve got to talk about web hosting!
2. Get it Hosted
Before you can even as much as fire up Photoshop to begin designing your website, you’re going to need to find an appropriate web host. In other words, before you do anything else to get your site up and running, you should always find a web host that you’re comfortable with. Why is this? Well, for a number of reasons, all of which have to do with the way a web host works.
What is a Web Host? You see, your site cannot simply “live” on your computer. It needs a permanent home on the Internet where other users can find it without fail. This private space dedicated to your data is called a web-server, and these servers are almost always owned by a web hosting provider. These are companies that stockpile databases and servers, and then sell portions of those servers to you, the web hosting consumer. Essentially, you sign the lease on your web-server space, upload all of the data you’ll be using for your site, and then the web host saves it to the space. Once uploaded, your data can be seen across the web, thanks to the domain name you’ve registered. So all in all, you’re going to need a web host to get this ball rolling.
Keep in mind, though, that not all web hosts are created the same. In fact, there are some downright terrible apples out there, and if you’re not careful, you may just find yourself saddled with one. So what’s a boy to do? Simple! Read these quick next tips, and you’ll be a-okay.
When looking at the storage and bandwidth allotted to you by the web hosting provider, be sure that you have an unlimited or unmetered amount of each to work with. You never know when or how your site will grow, and if you’re not given a big enough fit to work with, you really will never know. Always look for an unlimited feature set wherever possible, and we promise you won’t be sorry.
Good Customer Service
This one is a bit harder to get a hold on, especially if you’re not a customer already. However, you’re still going to want to find out if the company offers really good customer service and technical assistance. Why? Because in this business, things inevitably break! It could be the server, it could be your software, it could even be the site you’ve built. Either way, things go down, and when they go down, they really go down. The quick fix to this is a web hosting provider that offers comprehensive hosting support, and the ability to solve an issue quickly before it costs you time and money.
Do you know exactly what versions and what kinds of software you’ll be using to run and maintain your site? If you’re new to this whole game, this isn’t a bad thing, though, and you don’t need to go out and read a bunch of textbooks. No, just keep in mind that the more software and platforms a web hosting provider supports, the better off you’ll be in the long run. Why is this? Largely because the web host that gives you this freedom gives you room to grow. Someday you may want to add WordPress or forum support. And when that day arrives, you’ll most certainly need software.
That’s the basics of getting your site hosted! We’ll look more into this issue later, but in the meantime, it’s onwards and upwards as we take a look at the next step you’ll need to take to get your site hosted.
3. Design the Site
Now, a few years back we would have put this step before finding a suitable web host. However, the times have changed, and we now feel you should only be pursuing this option here. Why is that? For a number of reasons, all of which have to do with getting your site a physical form. So before we can dive into the meat of our hierarchy, let’s first talk about design itself.
What is a Website Design? A website design is the fabric, seams, and needles out of which your site is born. It’s all the stuff that your viewers look at, click on, and interact with. In essence, it is the site itself. You may have the world’s greatest idea for a website but without a solid design, you’ll be getting nowhere with it. To summarize, a website design is all the code, graphics, and links that make up a website. So how do you get these? Simple!
Web Host Provided Software
We put this step here for a reason. You see, a whole lot of web hosts these days are now offering built-in site builders to get your site rolling. They’re click-and-drag offerings, and typically they’re quite powerful. Or, you may also be able to choose from a template that’s available on the site. In other words, using nothing but what the web host gives you, you can very quickly have a website up and running. Pick the right web host, and this might just be easy as pie!
Have it Designed
Another option is to have your website designed professional by a web or graphic designer. This is an option we favorite a lot, and for a number of reasons. Firstly, you get a lot more customization, and your needs are guaranteed to be met. And secondly, it’s not nearly as expensive to have this done as you might think!
Content Management Systems
Lastly, you can also obtain a site design through a CMS like Drupal or WordPress. These are simple, easy frameworks which can be used to house, manage, and otherwise produce the raw content that will make up your site. Best of all, both of the ones we’ve mentioned are completely free, and come with enough pre-set templates to get anyone started.
So that’s the basics of getting your site designed. What’s left at this point? To find out, head on down below the break to the next heading, Cowboy.
4. Manage It
If you thought you were done with your site, now that it’s been designed and hosted, you’re dead wrong, mister! Your job is only just beginning. You see, a website is not typically a static thing that will remain in the exact same condition for years, months, or even weeks. Almost immediately, you’ll want to begin adding content pieces, changing graphics, or otherwise tweaking the whole. With this in mind, be prepared to manage your site. This could mean installing software updates, adding new posts to your blog, or even redoing the entire design when the old one starts to show a few cracks here and there.
Remember that your creation is a fluid entity, and that it can be changed at will—and often it should! Your site is your own brainchild, and if you take the time to fine-tune all the last little elements involved, you’ll come out with a much stronger offering than you ever thought possible.