Everything You Need To Know To Get Your Idea On The WebIf you want to get online and are wondering, "How can I get my idea live on the Web in the form of a website?" you have three choices: hire a Web vendor such as a Web designer to make it for you, use an online template-based turnkey service or make it yourself from scratch. This article is specifically for the Web novice that simply needs a place to begin.
Every website consists of a domain name, a host provider and the website content. To have a live website on the Internet, all three things need to exist.
Today, there are countless services that offer all of this in bundled packages. Yahoo, Earthlink, Go Daddy, Network Solutions, Register, Domain, Host Gator and Domain Direct are just a few examples of companies that offer everything you need to get up and running. These companies can provide you with a domain name, hosting services, and usually a template-based, turnkey website creation service as well. Homestead is an online service that allows you to create a website from a list of templates, customize it and publish it on your own domain name.
And there are websites that allow you to create a blog for instance, and they'll host it for you. Two examples are Wordpress and Blogger. They are very easy to use, even for the novice and you don't need to know any HTML.
The downside to template-based sites is that they are cookie-cutter sites that risk looking a lot like other websites (especially ones in the same industry). And if they don't allow you to have your own domain name (like Blogger.com) then any marketing efforts are severely diluted.
Finally, you could take the time to learn the craft of making websites and make it yourself. This latter scenario is good for two reasons. First, you'll save money in the long run by doing it yourself and second, you'll always be able to manage and update your site since you created it in the first place and you have necessary skills. Of course the downside to this option is that it takes a lot of time and dedication to learn the art and technical skills necessary to make a website that works.
Regardless of the choice you make, you'll fare much better if you understand the fundamentals of making a website. So let's look more closely at the three parts that make up every website.
An example of a domain name is www.YourWebsite.com/ A domain name is unique and contains two parts, the actual unique name and the extension. A domain name is also called a URL (for Universal Resource Locator). In the above example, 'YourWebsite' is the unique name and the '.com' is the .com extension is the most popular U.S. extension. Other examples of extensions are.net,.org, and.edu. Other countries use different extensions. Britain is co.uk, Canada uses.ca and Russia uses.ru, for example.
You buy domain names from registrars, basically domain name brokers. There are many registrars in existence today. However, I always use the original company that used to have a monopoly on domain names back in the dawn of the Web, Network Solutions (networksolutions.com).
To determine if a domain name is taken or not (remember, they all have to be unique), just go to Network Solutions and type in the name you are considering and you'll find out immediately if it's available.
An important thing to remember when buying and managing your domain name is that they are "rented" to you for a set period of years. This means they expire. So if you don't stay on top of it and renew, then you risk someone else grabbing your domain name if you let it expire.
Also, it is infinitely better to have your own domain name than it is to use an online service for your website. Online services that offer you a website but the site "lives" on their domain name are not as good because your marketing efforts are wasted. For example, Blogger.com offers a service like this so that when you create a blog, but your new domain name becomes YourWebsiteName.Blogger.com. Notice that it ends in blogger.com, which is different than a site with your own domain name which would be www.YourWebsite.com. If you market the first one, you are actually marketing blogger.com, whereas if you market the second one you are marketing yourwebsite.com.
A Host Computer (Server)
A physical computer where the content of your website is stored is called a host computer or Web server. This server can be one you own or one you rent from a hosting company. I recommend that you use a hosting company since it is far cheaper and much easier to manage. To access the content on a server, you type in the domain name of an Internet-connected website, which then accesses the content stored on the host computer and serves the content back to you. (This is basically the same process as opening up you're My Documents folder on a Windows machine and clicking on a file, except on the Web, the file is located on another computer.)
Simply put, if you want a new website you'll need a computer to store it on that's hooked up to the Internet. There are a huge number of hosting companies out there that will provide this service for you, and often at very low prices. You can expect to pay a set-up fee and a monthly fee. The set-up fee is sometimes waived or could cost up to hundreds of dollars. And the monthly fee can range from a few dollars a month up to hundreds of dollars. Two popular hosting providers are GoDaddy.com and Earthlink.net. For a first website you'll be a lot better off if you use a hosting company.
The content of the website is the files that make up the site, which can contain text, images, applications and media. Web content can either be static or dynamic. Static content doesn't change or move. Text and images in an HTML page are often static. Dynamic content comes from a database and is processed at the moment the user accesses it.Media content can be either audio or video files.
Dynamic content is managed by Web applications and usually accesses a database. Examples of website applications are forms that ask the user to give contact information that the user submits by clicking a button, or e-commerce where a user chooses a product and buys it with a credit card. There are many other types of applications on the Web as well.
What's important for you to remember is that creating Web applications is more difficult and more expensive than putting together a simple text and image website. This is because the skill level required is higher for those who write code to create applications and it usually takes more time to do. For a first website, it's best to stay away from dynamic content and Web applications. A simple text and image site will be enough for you to start.
How a Website's Content is Organized and Goes Live
The simplest way to understand this is to consider an example. Let's look at a three-page static website.
This hypothetical website contains a Homepage, an About Us page and a Contact Us page. The homepage is accessed on the Internet by typing the domain name (or URL) into your browser. When you 'arrive' at the homepage you'll see somewhere on the page two hyperlinks (links are the building blocks of websites and the Web as a whole). Links are generally blue and underlined. One link will say 'About Us' and the other will say 'Contact Us'. When you click on each one you'll be brought to that corresponding Web page. Back on the homepage, this list of two links is often called the 'navigation' or Nav bar. Most sites have many pages organized under numerous sections. Their navigation consists of a grouping of links that lead to each main section of the site.
In our three-page website example, the site contains a total of three HTML pages that physically reside on a host computer.
To have gotten this site live on the Internet you would have had to go to a domain name registrar (by going to their website or by calling them) and purchasing an available domain name. You would have then had to have the three static Web pages created (either by someone you hired or yourself), and then you would have had to have purchased a hosting service to provide a permanent place (a server) for the three pages to reside. Finally, you need to make sure that the hosting company associates your domain name with the machine your website resides on. This is called setting the DNS.
These three pages would sit there on the host computer, or server, and await requests from people on the Internet typing in your domain name into their browsers.
So to recap, here are the steps to making a website:
1. Buy a unique domain name
Whether you hire a Web professional to do all these things for you, use an online service or do it yourself, you'll need to have each of these steps completed in order to get your site live on the Web.
If you choose to hire a Web professional or use an online service such as Network Solutions, GoDaddy or Homestead, you should ask them if they take care of each of the above six steps. If so, look at other sites that were made by them to see if they meet your standards. And be sure that the site is built taking into account what you want it to accomplish and who will be the site's audience.