The internet is ingrained in most of our day to day lives at this point. It’s hard for me to imagine a day that I do not touch the internet in some way. While most people utilize the internet every day, they do not know how to start their own website. This guide is aimed at teaching beginners the basics of how to make a .com website, or really, any website regardless of the extension. If you want to learn how to make a .com website, be prepared for some reading!
I am going to cover several somewhat complex ideas today. Don’t be intimidated if you are not familiar with the concepts, I will do my best to explain these ideas in words that someone new to the web can understand. As always, if you have any questions feel free to post in the comments or even contact us. We do our best to respond to every question, but sometimes we can get overwhelmed.
Today we will cover the basics of creating a website including:
- Domain Name Registration
- Website Hosting Options
- Web Development and Markup
- Content Management Systems
- How to Get Visitors
- Making Money on Your Website
The Domain Name System and Domain Registration
The Domain Name System, or DNS, is a system of assigning human readable names to website addresses. When you visit ebay.com, you are actually being directed to an ebay server via the DNS system. The ebay website itself is actually location on the internet at the IP adress of 126.96.36.199. Think of IP Adresses as the location of your website on the internet. An IP adress works somewhat similar to the way a postal adress works. It notifies the carrier where you are located. To run a website you do not need to know the complex workings of DNS or IP adresses, but it is important to know of them.
Now imagine trying to remember a group of numbers like 188.8.131.52 for every website you would ever want to visit. This is originally how we accessed a website until the DNS system was create. The DNS system contains a record that will associate the name of your website with the IP adress of your website. That way any human can remember the location of your website and type it in.
You may wonder why I this is important to you? Well, the only thing that is really important as a website owner is that you have a registered domain name for your site. You’ll need to pick a name for your website and a top level domain (TLD). There are several available top level domains available for use. Some are reserved for special purposes such as a country code (.us, .uk, .asia) while others are for more general use (.com). The most popular three extensions that most people are familiar with are .com, .net, and .org with .com being the most common by far. The .com domain is actually intended for commercial websites, and most recently the United States has claimed the it was only intended for US based companies (I’m not going to go to far into detail). Anyone can register a .com, .org (originally intended for non-profit organizations), and .net (originally intended for networks) domain name from a domain name registrar. You should look into what other domain names are available. This is especially true if you do not live within the US and/or want to target countries outside of the United States. For more information on the purpose of top-level domains names take a look at this article.
Now that you have a basic understanding of what Domain Names are you need to decide what you want your domain to be. If you intend to register a .com domain be prepared to spend sometime finding a name that will not be registered already. Since .com is the most popular domain name, many of the website are already taken. Some .com domain names can even sell for millions of dollars if they have a good one word domain name. You can use the tools available at the domain name registrar that you choose to find a good domain name.
A domain name registar is the company that will sell you whatever-site-you-want.com. You will be paying yearly to reserve the name for your website. Normally, this should cost some where between $10-20 per year, but can vary depending on the TLD. Some unscrupulous companies will send out mail saying that you need to renew your domain name for $100 a year. They prey on the secretaries or accounts payable clerks who will send out checks like this. This is just something to be aware of. Never pay anyone except for the registrar that you initially choose to register your domain name with.
Two domain name registrars that I have used are namecheap.com and godaddy.com. Godaddy is probably the most popular registrar and is pretty good for beginners as they offer a lot of ad on features. However, most of these features are not needed to run a website. I prefer namecheap because they do not try to up sell you on every product they offer, their support is awesome, and their interface is easy to use. All you need is a domain name and a web host to get up and running.
What is Web Hosting?
Once you’ve decided on a domain name for your website, you will need a place to keep your files. While you could technically keep those on any computer connect to the internet, it’s generally better to have a server designed for this specific purpose. That is where a web host comes in. They have thousands of servers all connected to the web just to host files for various websites. Hosted web servers are designed to respond to web requests and handle the traffic that a website can receive.
There are a few options you will need to consider when deciding on a web host. I’ll touch on each topic later:
- What type of server will you need (shared, VPS, dedicated server)?
- Will you need managed support?
- What operating system you want to use on your server (Windows, Linux)
- Will you need a control panel (cPanel, etc)?
First of all you need to decide what type of hosting you need. Web hosts offer several different server configurations for different types of customers. If you are just planning to run a website as a hobby, or if you are just starting a website you may want to go with share hosting. A share host is one physical web server that hosts multiple websites. Your website would be on the same server as up to hundreds of other websites, however you will still be abled to have your own domain name and manage your website to an extent.
In general, shared hosting doesn’t allow much flexibility when it comes to configuration. This done so that no one person can crash the server for all of the other websites. Like I said, shared hosting is good for hobby sites and low traffic sites. If you have big goals you may want to avoid share web hosting. The downsides are that you don’t have much control over the server and these server can’t handle large amount of traffic. If you generate too much traffic your web host will ask you to upgrade to a better server. Take it from someone who has crashed his shared of share hosting servers: if you have big goals you may want to pass on shared hosting and go for a virtual private server. The main benefit to share hosting is that is can be cheap. You can get shared hosting for about $4-12 per month.
Virtual Private Servers
Also known as a VPS, the virtual private server bridges the gap between share hosting and a full blown dedicated server. These physical servers with many virtual instances of server on them. These virtual instances cannot interfere with each other as they are contained with in their own virtual machine. The benefit to this is that you can have a the control over the server as if it was your own physical machine, but at a much cheaper costs.
The most powerful servers you can buy are dedicated servers. These are physical machines in a datacenter that only run your website. You can usually run several of your own websites on your dedicated server. Dedicated servers can handle many more tasks as you will be able to utilize all of the hard disk space, memory(RAM), and processor cycles. These servers can be configured from a wide range of specification. A host can even setup multiple server in what is know as a cluster. If you get to the point that you need more than a single dedicated server then it is probably time to hire a server administrator to handle this for you. For most needs, a dedicated server is sufficient.
This options provides you with all the benefits of a dedicated server, but also allows you to resell hosting to other websites. Unless you want to get in to the hosting reseller business this option is probably not necessary, but you could choose this if you plan to host a lot of your own domains.
Hosting on the Cloud
Another new option that is appearing is cloud hosting. This basically means that your data is host in a cluster of machines that the host will provide. For example amazon has a cloud hosting service known as s3. They host many sites all on there server farm which resides in “the cloud”. One thing that cloud based hosting can provide is an easy way to scale your server needs as your site grows. For your first website you probably want to stick with a shared or VPS solution, but keep in mind that the cloud option exists.
Managed servers are when a hosting company provides support for your server. This basically means you are leasing a server administrator in your hosting plan. Usually managed servers cost a little bit more than non-manage servers, but can be well worth it if you are not familiar with web servers. Even if you are a somewhat confortable with server configuration, a managed solution is a good idea. If you break something or can’t figure out why something is broken, then you can always lean on the support of the hosting company. I fully recommend using a host that provides managed hosting.
Web servers come in different flavors. You could have a Windows Server that will run Internet Information Service to serve web pages or you could have any flavor of the Linux Operating system and apache or nginx (pronounced engine-x)as your server. While most of you are probably familiar with Windows, Linux with apache is the most popular web server on the internet. It may actually be difficult to find Windows based servers, but they are out there should you really want one. I recommend going with a Linux solution such as CentOS. CentOS is a free enterprise level operating system. Plus if you have managed support you don’t have to worry about knowing how to use Linux.
Another option for administration is a control panel. A control panel is a way to manage your server from the web. It provides an easy to use, graphical interface for configuration of your server. The most popular control panel is called cPanel. Finding a host that offers a control panel, such as cPanel, is highly recommended. Having a control panel will allow you to perform many administration duties without having server knowledge or having to rely on the support from the hosting company.
Where to get hosting?
Here are a few sites that you can look into for hosting. Our website is hosted by surpass hosting.
Once you have a hosting server setup you will need to set your domain name to point to this new server. You’re domain name registrar will be able to help with this step.
Basic Web Development and Mark Up
Content Management Systems
Content management systems (CMS) are web applications built to allows normal users to administer a website and add content. Most content management systems will give you a nice, web-based, interface for updating your website. It does take a little bit of work to install a CMS, but there are well documented guides on how to do this. If you have a host with cPanel, then it is likely that a program called Fantastico will be include. Fantastico can install several popular content management systems with the click of a button.
There are tons of content management systems available depending on the type of site you want to create. One of the most popular is called WordPress. WordPress was created for blogs, or online diary type sites. Blogs have matured to a popular form of media and WordPress has also matured. One reason I like WordPress is because you can always find the answer to your question with a quick online search. Other types of content management systems exist for forums (buddypress, ip.board, vbulletin), help ticket systems, project management, and almost any other type of site you can imagine. This is also a topic that will take another post to explore but we have several WordPress tutorials available.
Once you have a website, the next step is getting visitors. I can’t go to far into each topic, but I want to make you aware of some of the ways you can promote your website.
When I want to find something on the web I generally use a search engine such as google.com. You will want to make sure you website is available to search engined. There are several sites you can pay to “submit” your site to search engines. Never to this. Modern search engines will fine your site provided that it can be crawl. The process of getting your website to rank high in the search results is known as Search Engine Optimization or SEO.
Social networks are also a major traffic source on today’s internet. Sharing your content on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn is a good way to build traffic. If you have a good product or content your users may even share pages for you.
The other main source is advertising. We’re exposed to all types of advertising every day and the internet is no different. There are several types of advertising you can utilize. A few different types to research are Pay Per Click, Pay Per View, Display/Banner advertising, CPM or Cost Per Impression, affiliate programs.
Making Money From Your Website
If you are making a website then chances are you intend to make money from this site. If you have no intention to make money that is ok, but you may want to still look into monetization to pay for your hosting and domain bills. There are many ways to make money off of a website. Some of these include advertising, charging for premium content or membership, affiliate marketing, and lead generation. If you are interested in any of these topics you can find tons of information online. Some of the information is good, most is not. We at teamtutorials.com will be putting together some good courses on traffic generation and how to make money off of your newly formed website.