I am not going into great detail about HOW you set up your website because there are so many variables; what kind of site you want, how much you want to do yourself, how much you already know. But I will tell you what you need to KNOW and then you can find out the how by Googling, watching YouTube videos, or hiring someone to do it for you. When you use YouTube, make sure you filter the results by starting with videos posted in the past week, then the past month, etc. There are many fine instructional videos that are a year old but terribly out of date with their information because things can change so quickly on the Internet.
You can also hire someone to take care of all of this for you. There are probably several in your home town and thousands more available through the Internet. Look for “Website Designers.”
What kind of website
First you need to decide what kind of website you want. Do you just want to blog or do you want an informational/sales website, or a combination. Blogs can be easy to set up and are very versatile, but if you are selling a product or service and don’t want to write blog posts on a regular schedule, you probably don’t want to set up your website as a blog. It is possible to use blogging software to set up a site that doesn’t look like a blog and I will explain that in Part II. If you just want a blog, you can skip to Part II.
You will need a name for your website and a website address. The address is also known as a domain or URL (unified record locator) and looks something like: www.website.com. The letters after the last period or “dot” are called the extension and can now be more than three letters. Here is a list of extensions. There can be different websites using the same name but different extensions, such as www.samename.com, www.samename.org, www.samename.net, www.samename.museum. Even though they are all “samename” the extensions make them different websites that can be owned by different people/companies. Back in the early days of the Internet, www.whitehouse.com was a porn site that counted on people typing .com instead of .gov. So those letters after the dot are important.
When you are considering a name for your website, make sure you try it out by typing it in the address bar of your browser. That will bring up anyone already using the name actively, but it doesn’t tell you if someone owns the name you want to use, but isn’t using it. You will find that out when you go to buy or register the name.
I prefer to register my domains myself using a registrar like www.namecheap.com (affiliate link) or www.godaddy.com. You can also get your domain through your website host (I’ll explain website host next). However, some hosts have been known to make it look like you own the name, but really they do and if you want to move your website to another host, they won’t let you have the name! I think that is rare now, but you want to be very careful if you go this route to make sure that YOU are the owner of your domain. Website designers who also offer hosting and registration with their services have been known to retain ownership also, so beware.
When you register your domain name it will be for a specific period, such as a year or multiple years. If you do not renew your registration you CAN lose your domain name if someone else registers it. Make sure you keep track of when your registration expires and renew it before it expires. Once it expires, even if no one else takes it, it will stop working and people will not be able to get to your site.
A website host is a company that has the servers (extra powerful computers) and the software that runs your website. Some hosting companies run Windows servers and while Windows runs most personal computers, it isn’t widely used for website hosting. This may cause problems with what you want to do with your website because most of the free website software runs on LAMP. If you hire a website designer, they might require you to use a Windows-based hosting service. Generally, the Windows-based hosting companies tell you up front that they use Windows. If you are looking at a hosting company’s website and they don’t mention Windows, then they are probably LAMP-based.
Most website hosting companies also offer to bundle domain registration with your hosting so you only have to deal with one company. As long as you retain ownership of your domain name, this can be very convenient, but might cost a bit more than doing it on your own.
There are LOTS of website hosting services. I use www.totalchoicehosting.com. I have been with them for over ten years and have watched them grow. They are not the cheapest out there, but the services is reliable and the customer services is wonderful. There are many other good hosting services, you can ask your friends who they use.
The least expensive web hosting plans will be on shared servers. This means that there are more than one website on each server. You will probably buy a certain amount of storage space and bandwidth (rate of data transfer). Every time someone accesses a webpage, downloads something from your website, watches a video on your website, that is data transfer and the more people use your website, the more bandwidth you need. When choosing a website host make sure you can buy more storage space and bandwidth as your website grows in popularity.
You can also get an account on a dedicated server, which means that your website is the only website on the server, but this is a much more expensive option.
When choosing a hosting company, go to their website and see if they have a forum for asking questions. Check that out and see if people are getting their questions answered by employees of the company or just other users. How friendly are the employees and do they answer the questions quickly. You can learn a lot about a company by checking out their forum.
Part II will address what to do if you want a blog website and how to actually set up a website once you have your name and hosting.