What do I need to build a website?
You have a new business, interest, gig or side hustle and you want a web site to inform your audience what you are able to do.
What do you need to set it up?
Primarily content: text, video, and images.
Think of your elevator pitch. What do you tell people in the first two minutes when you meet them?
That is your home page.
Ok. You say. If I have that how do I make it http://mywebsite.com?
Let’s start at the beginning and discuss hosting options and domain names.
Decide what platform you are going to use.
Are you going to use a platform that hosts the site for you or do you want to host it yourself?
Drilling down to details: Are you going to go for a free site to get started like WordPress.com, Wix, Squarespace, Blogger or Weebly? Are you going to host your site yourself and have full control?
What is hosting?
Think of a website like a home in a neighborhood. In order to build a home, you need a plot of land. In the website neighborhood, you cannot purchase your plot. You can rent it from year to year. That is the hosting. In order to have a home, you need services like water and electricity. The hosting company provides the services that you need to build and make your website visible as part of your plan.
A web host, or web hosting service provider, is a business that provides the technologies and services needed for the website or webpage to be viewed on the Internet. The software is stored on special computers called servers.
- Hybrid – hosted with extra functionality.
Hosted platforms provide a package deal where they take care of the heavy lifting and more complicated technical details such as software updates, hosting payments or web server management so that you can focus on building your site and content. Examples are WordPress.com, WIX, Weebly, SquareSpace, and Blogger. Many offer free trials to test the software.
The advantage is that if you have your content ready you can quickly build a website. I built a travel blog on WordPress.com in 20 minutes that would normally take about 10 hours on a self-hosted platform. Usually these platforms are free.The drawback is that functionality is limited. I call these micro-sites. They are similar to a Facebook page. That means that your website is a page on their larger site and includes their domain name. For example https://mywebsite.wordpress.com, or https://mywebsite.wix.com, etc. If you want to move your site to a different service or the company goes out of business, you will lose everything since you do not have access to the files or code.
The rules regarding content are very strict. If someone reports your blog, your site may be suspended without any notification and you can lose your content.
Building a self-hosted site gives your greater flexibility. You can choose the content management system (CMS) you like for your website. Hosting usually includes domain registration services and you can auto-install your CMS, like WordPress, Shopify etc. Many include tutorials on how to navigate the CMS in the Help section. WordPress is free. You do not need to pay to use it and can download it directly from https://wordpress.org/download/
The advantage is that the website is in the files and database on the hosting platform. You have access to that so you or your developer can easily pack that up and move it elsewhere if you are unhappy. There are no restrictions to the functionality of your website. Extra functionality on WordPress sites is provided by software plug-ins. For example, do you need a contact form? There are plug-ins for that. Do you need an online store, or merely want to provide a way for clients to pay you online? Plugins provide that functionality. Many of them are free. In addition, you can have someone customize a plugin for you specifically only if you are on a self-hosted site.
This is actually a version of a hosted platform. You pay a fee and gain extra functionality such as a domain name that does not include their domain name ( https://mywebsite.com), options to accept payments via the site, run ads and upload videos. The functionality changes from platform to platform.
Comparison of Hosted vs Self Hosted Websites
|Service providers||WordPress.com is a hosted service where you can set up a website or blog that runs on WordPress.||WordPress.org is free software that you can download and use on your hosted account.|
|Cost||Free up to 3GB space|
Pay for extra functionality
Hosting costs about $4-$10/month
|Access||Requires you to sign up||Requires a web hosting account|
|Enables you to have a website within minutes||Most hosts offer one click installation of the software.|
|Functionality||No plugins||Upload your plugins|
|No code access||Access all code|
|Limited theme options (look and feel)||Upload your theme or build one yourself.|
|Your host may run ads on your site||Make money by running ads on and selling goods from your site.|
|You can track activity using Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel|
|URL||Subdomain of wordpress.com|
|Use your custom domain name|
Can I switch from Hosted to self-hosted?
It depends on the platform.
WordPress.com, Tumblr, Movable Type and Blogger users can move their content, i.e. posts, pages, comments and associated images to a self-hosted account. However, the structure of the site will not be transferred.
As far as I know on other platforms there is no automated way to transfer content.
Which one should I choose?
Choose the one that is right for your situation and budget.
Think of Lemon cake.
When I want lemon cake I go to Starbucks and buy a slice.
The problem is that I like my lemon cake to have pecan pieces inside and I don’t know of a company that provides that.
That is why I often just bake my own.
The hybrid option is to purchase lemon cake mix from the grocery store and add pecan pieces to that and bake it.
Which one do you prefer?
If you need a website that is scalable, definitely choose self-hosted.
You can have someone help you to set up your site.
What is a domain name?
The domain name is the name that your website will use in order for your audience to find you. For example https://blockbusters.com. It is actually a translation of the IP address used by computers to find the location of your website and translate the numbers into something that is user friendly for humans.
Where can you get a domain name?
Most hosting providers will provide domain registration for free for the first year. If you are anxious to get yours immediately, try GoDaddy.com or namecheap.com. If you are not in a hurry wait for deals on major US holidays. If you purchase domain registration for 3 years it may indicate to search engines that you are invested in your business and are not a pop-up site.
Domain registration needs to be renewed every year. If you forget, you will lose your domain.
If you do not purchase domain registration from your hosting company you will need to point the site to the hosting account.
If you are on a hosted platform, you do not need to purchase domain name registration since it will be provided by the company
Think carefully about the relevance of the domain name and how it relates to your business or interest. If you are selling shoes then it is less likely for clients to find you if you call your site themagnoliatree.com unless they are familiar with your brand.
I believe in keeping it short, sweet and easy to pronounce so that users can remember it.
Numbers confuse people. If you include numbers the visitors will not know whether to spell out the number or type the numeral. They will never find you.
Steps for self-hosted WordPress sites:
- Install WordPress
- Choose a Theme
- Install Content and Pages
- Download plug-ins
The last step is one that is often forgotten and can endanger your site.
A good site provides new content regularly via the blog and always keeps software up to date.
The rigors of life often cause us to forget our website. Ignoring the software updates can make the site vulnerable to hackers.
New content can be loaded onto the site a few weeks in advance and released on pre-determined days. Search Engines boost sites that have new content and demote the “Halloween sites”.
If you are unable to commit to updating and maintaining your site, you may like to have someone take care of that for you.
Having a website is like printing a business card. The card cannot help you if it’s sitting in your drawer. The site needs to be promoted. When people visit the site, they will notice that your last post was from 2 years ago. If you have posts that are still relevant from some time ago, consider editing, adding something new and giving them a new date to freshen up the site.
Leaving some older content is helpful since potential clients will realize that you have been in business for some time.
I help people who are interested in building self-hosted sites using WordPress. I help them choose a hosting provider, register their domain names, install WordPress and build their website according to their specifications. Once the site is complete if they are interested, I show them how to make small edits and load blog posts onto the site. This can be performed from a mobile device whilst waiting in line at the MVA…
In the coming weeks, I will be expanding on some typical questions that clients have asked in our coaching sessions.