For $40 a year, you can get what you need to build a website. The easiest way to begin is to (a) get a domain name (b) get web hosting (c) install WordPress and (d) make some web pages. This is true for any type of general website including personal sites, blogs, a site for your organization, or even a small business.
Today you probably had a brilliant idea that requires you to make a website. With virtually no planning needed, you can build a website and get your message online in an hour or so. My favorite way to build a site is to use the tool called WordPress. The result will be so beautiful that everyone will think you’re an expert.
WHAT You Need To Do
The sequence of events is simple enough. Just follow these steps and see the details further below:
- get a domain name (e.g. example.com) – you need both a domain name PLUS a web hosting account. You can get a domain and web hosting at the same place. Actually, the hardest part will be ‘choosing’ the domain name. The easy ones are all taken. See some suggestions below.
- get web hosting – you need a machine to run your web site upon. ‘Shared Web Hosting’ is the cheapest option and the next step up from that is ‘Virtual Hosting’. Every web host offers cheap prices and free tools. The myriad of options is staggering, but you only need to start with the cheapest option with the ability to upgrade if you get lucky enough to have lots of visitors. The web host that I’ve used is http://www.smallb.us where you can get an unlimited storage site for $40 per YEAR which includes both the domain name AND the web hosting. $40?!? – I got a coffee at Starbucks for almost that much one day!
- get WordPress – you need a tool to build your website with and the best one is WordPress. WordPress was once a bloggers tool. But, with version 3, you can now build almost any type of site. The best thing is that its very, very easy to use – and FREE. 25 million sites agree! There are over a thousand (literally) free site templates to choose from giving you many options for a site look.
- make web pages – depending on the type of site you’re anticipating, you’ll want to create a few pages and arrange them in some logical manner. WordPress helps you do that. WordPress has an administration section where you make pages. It’s very intuitive with no need to do any website coding like the bad old days. A beautiful site is within your reach.
Four steps! Very easy! Follow those steps above and you’ll have a site that you can manage all by yourself — or even get much more sophisticated if you like. See the following sections for detail.
HOW You Need To Do It
Get a Domain Name
A ‘Domain’ is your internet website name or ‘address’. Its not really how people find you – they aren’t just going to know to type your address in the browser’s address bar – until you’re famous. Instead, you’ll send the link to friends, colleagues, or customers via email or Facebook or similar. Or, you’ll advertise and provide a link that way. Still, you want a useful name that folks can remember and you can mention at a party and you can put on your business card. This will cost you $7 to $15 per year with discounts for buying for multiple years. Pick a Web Host like http://www.godaddy.com or http://www.networksolutions.com or use the host that I use http://www.smallb.us.
Today, it is impossible to get a ‘simple’ domain name. Rather, you’ll probably put 2 or 3 words together to make a domain name. Here are some suggestions:
- at the Web Host site, find a link for ‘Domains’ and begin trying to construct a name.
- put 2 or 3 words together to use that as a possible name.
- .com .net .biz .us .org .info are some of the most popular HLQ (High Level Qualifiers) in the US – so any of those will work. There are a few rules for the ‘country’ HLQs (e.g. domain.us) – like being a citizen or having a business there.
- use .org if you’re setting up a non-profit.
- skip the expensive HLQs unless something fits your fancy and pocketbook – like .co
- a lot of the uncommon 2-letter HLQs were originally intended for a particular country (like .tv for the islands of Tuvalu) but they’ve negotiated royalties for the use of their assigned HLQ.
- ask a friend if the name you like makes sense – because everybody has interesting opinions. domain naming is important – so pick something that makes sense.
You’ll need to renew your domain every year before the anniversary of your initial purchase, or else your domain will go into a HOLD state for a period and then into REDEMPTION for a period. You may incur extra costs if this happens so be careful to remember to renew. A good web hosting company can automatically renew for you.
Get Web Hosting
A Web Host (aka. provider) has computers connected to the internet with fast network connections and the proper facilities for thousands of machines. The least expensive hosting plans rely on Sharing to run many many websites on the same machine. So, the monthly cost can be very low. These plans will limit the amount of computer resources your site can use — but, even a moderately busy site (say 100 visitors an hour) doesn’t come anywhere near those limits. More complicated plans are meant for busier sites because you need a bit more power to handle the incoming web site requests. So, being able to upgrade is important, but the lowest plan is probably plenty to get started. Usually, you should start with ‘Shared Hosting’ and upgrade to ‘Virtual Hosting’ when you get busy.
There are many, many confusing terms and numbers to differentiate hosting plans and limitations. The two most important are Storage (Disk Space) and Traffic. If you use http://www.smallb.us, these 2 numbers are “UNLIMITED” for all shared plans – so picking the least expensive becomes the correct thing to do. I’ve set up a lot of websites, and only Disk Space has ever caused me issues. All the other variables are unlikely to cause you to need a more expensive plan, so you shouldn’t worry about it until it happens. That said, here are some considerations and comparison points:
- some cheap plans might have low disk space limit like a 1 GB disk space limit – see Godaddy. With that limit, you’re out of disk space with 200 photos. I took that many photos yesterday afternoon. So, that’s your most important comparison point.
- if you have a desire to run multiple sites, a single plan might allow you to do that. At http://www.smallb.us – you can run 1 site for under 3 bucks and 5 sites for under 4 bucks. That might be a consideration. GoDaddy’s cheapest plan is $5 with support for only 1 site per plan (and the same is true there even with the more expensive plans).
- WordPress. You need a host that has WordPress available. Everyone will support it at least manually, but you want it right from your Control Panel. The Control Panel allows you to set up all kinds of free software, create email accounts, or make more complex setup.
- The Control Panel is important. It needs to be easy to use. I’ve seen some great ones (http://www.smallb.us of course), some ones that are just OK (CPanel) and some really, really bad ones (AIT.com). Take a test drive at the host you’re about to choose.
- after you get your domain and hosting account, set up an email account for yourself. You got a new domain. Use your new email address to flaunt your new domain.
Get WordPress (it’s FREE!)
Your web host probably provides WordPress as an install from your control panel. WordPress is used by 23 million sites worldwide. I consider it the easiest website authoring tool – and evidently millions of others agree.
Install WordPress v3.1 using the default options. It should be very easy. Here is the installation procedure to use at http://www.smallb.us.
- From the administrative control panel: choose the Installer tab
- Click Applications Installer>Applications Installer. An application installer page appears.
- From that page, click the WordPress link. The WordPress installation panel appears – see image to the left and follow the remaining procedure steps.
- Fill out the options as follows …
- Important: for “Path:”, change the value just to “/” (without the quotes) so that WordPress is installed directly in your website root and you’ll be able to access it with just your domain name.
- choose your usernames, password, email address – write these down, or save the result page after you click install.
- choose a template by scrolling thru the options – you can change it easily later in WordPress Administration.
- choose ‘automatic database’ – a database name will be generated.
- Click Install – your web site is now available at your chosen domain name like http://www.mydomain.com. If your domain name is brand new, it can take 24 hours for a brand new domain to register and propagate. So, your site may not be available just yet. Usually, the propagation time only takes about 1/2 hour even though registrars warn of up to 72 hours. Many factors come into play including your machine’s DNS settings (domain name server), your network’s DNS, and your internet provider’s DNS servers — and that’s why results vary.
- Note the information on the ‘successful installation’ page. Copy and paste it somewhere – I like to make a folder where you will keep admin info for your web site and put the information in a text file in that folder.
After installation, you should:
- Visit the administrative section of your web site.
- Try various templates … you can easily change one later. You might want to change it monthly even.
- Note the link to your NEW site and visit it!
Make Web Pages
Your new WordPress site has 2 views – the administration view (wp-admin) and the normal view. To get to the admin area, you can use the link ‘Site Admin’ on the normal site. Log in using the administrator userid that you specified at installation.
To create your site, log in to the Site Admin. Here are the basics you will find there:
- posts – these are optional ‘articles’ that you can write – news, recent events, or similar. It is common to let people leave messages on your posts.
- pages – these are static web pages of your site like: home, welcome, about, disclaimer, privacy, events, calendar, gallery, services, samples, customers, ….. These become available as links on you menu bar. You can also make sub-pages in a hierarchy.
- widgets – blocks of links or functionality that appear on the side of your website pages and posts.
- plugins – awesome pieces of functionality that extend the features of your site.
- users – people that have signed up on your site – left messages, left comments.
- comments – messages left by visitors. You must accept these for them to appear (termed ‘moderation’). Turn on the Akismet plugin and it will catch spam left by robots. If a comment is general – not about the topic – it was left by a robot trying to create links that increase search values.
- themes – the colors and layout of your site. Many themes are free. Some are very beautiful. From Site Admin, click the ‘Appearance’ link, then the ‘Install Themes’ tab. Try ‘newest’ and look around. Visit http://wordpress.org/extend/themes and find some you like.
Make Your First Site
There are uncountable options, but lets start simple. You will override the default configuration of WordPress as a blog and make several pages for your site. We’ll save plugins for the next class. Make a simple site by following these steps:
- create a Page called “Welcome” or “Home”. then, in Settings>Reading, set (a) Front Page Displays=A Static Page (b) Front Page=”Welcome” (or “Home”)
- create an About page – on this page, describe yourself, or your service, or your purpose.
Make a More Complex Site
Make a more complex site with ‘articles’, contact us, photos, or other features including:
- same as above and add…
- create a Page called ‘Articles’ then, in Settings>Reading, set Posts page=”Articles”
- install the “Fast Secure Contact Form” to allow a visitor to send you an email from one of your pages.
- if you want to show photos,
- install the Shashin WordPress Plugin (it’s free) for displaying photos from your Google Web Albums account
- create a Google Web Albums account (it’s free) and arrange photos into albums as you’d like
- (optional) download Google Picasa (it’s free) onto your PC to manage your photos and sync them with Google Web Albums
- include Shashin plugin code to display your albums
- check the plugins page at http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins and browse around.
You DID IT!
For $40/year, you can have anything from a simple static site to a more complex dynamic site. What a bargain. You can run your business or organization with a very professional look. The hard part is no longer the technology of making the website. But rather, it is deciding what text to include on your site — just like it should be.