In this series of posts, I hope to remove some of the mystery of getting a website up and running, as well as explain some of the jargon associated with websites. I plan to add a post in this series each week for the next few weeks. You are welcome to comment with questions, observations, etc.
Often when working with clients that are new to the whole website thing, we find that there is a lot of confusion on what it takes to get a website up and running on the Web – and even with clients that have worked with other developers in the past, there is often confusion.
This post will (hopefully) clear up what it takes to get a website up and running and viewable by the public. (These steps can actually be completed in any order. But, the order presented here is what is most often used).
First – purchasing the domain name. The domain name is what people type in their browser to get to your site... the .com thing (or .net or .org or several others – we'll get into that in another post in this series). You must purchase a domain name from a licensed registrar. The cost is usually around $9 USD to $12 USD for one year. (This can change greatly depending on the registrar you use. So, shop around). People often think that once they've purchased the domain name, they are ready to go – but they are not.
The domain name is only a name. It can not 'hold' a website. The domain name is just a 'title' that will later be used to tell computers where to go to view your actual website.
Wait a minute, wait. a. minute. We've already introduced a new term while trying to explain this one. What is a 'registrar?'
A registrar is a business that is licensed by the group that governs the Internet. They gather the information needed to register a domain and maintain a database of that information. That database is available to all other registrars and the governing body. The information that is collected – the domain name (obviously), the name and contact information of the person registering the domain name, and the length of time you will own the domain name. Some of the more common registrars are – Network Solutions (one of the first and most expensive), GoDaddy.com – you've probably seen their commercials (mid-level in terms of cost), and NameCheap.com (one of the least expensive).
You do not get your domain name forever. You must renew it – usually on an annual basis. But, you may purchase it for multiple years as well.
Second – host (a.k.a. host provider). When you hear developers talking about hosting, they are referring to space on a server where a website is stored. The host is the company that owns the server. And the hosting fee is the cost of renting the space on the server. The host can be the same as the registrar. Both GoDaddy.com and NameCheap.com will host websites for the domain names registered with them – for an additional fee. Fees paid for hosting are usually paid on an annual basis, although some hosts will allow for shorter lengths and most will allow for longer. And the fees can vary greatly, so again, shop around. And ask for explanations when they are more expensive – they may include extra services.
Normally, your host will also provide you with email addresses that use your domain name (email@example.com). If you think you are going to have a lot of email addresses, it's important to ask your host how many email addresses you get for the cost of hosting and how much each additional address will cost. Some providers will have limits, some will not. (Note here that some registrars also offer email services. If your host provider does not offer email services, this is an option. But, I would recommend using your host providers service when available. It makes everything easier for the setup of your domain and service. This has to do with technical stuff that is beyond the scope of this post).
Third – web development. This is when all the pretty stuff that people see and some behind the scenes stuff they don't see is created. Here again, there are options. If your needs are simple, you can create your own website using templates – often available from your registrar. Also some host providers will offer template programs you can use to set up your site. These programs will walk you through the creation of your site in steps that are supposed to be easy to understand – but often are not.
If you want a truly modern, interactive site you should contract with a developer or development company. A web developer will work with you to create a unique site (or at least it should be unique... if he/she/they are just using a template, are you really getting anything you couldn't do yourself)?
A good developer or company will discuss your needs, the impression you would like to give, and your target audience with you. A good developer will also help you to understand all of the above info and more. He/She will help you understand your responsibilities in the development process and explain to you what they are doing as they work through your project.
When choosing a developer, it is good to remember the old adage, “buyer be ware.” But, it's also important to remember, you often “get what you pay for.” You should ask to see the developer's portfolio and even ask for recommendations. Do a little research – look at their Facebook page, check Linked In for reviews, etc. While no company is going to make every single customer happy, you should see overwhelming good comments compared to bad before deciding to contract with a developer.
Finally, your developer can be local – someone you can meet with in person, someone on the other side of the world, or someone somewhere in between. The internet and telephones are global. There is no need to settle for someone you don't feel comfortable with or who can't provide the service(s) you want.
If you have any questions, comments, etc., please feel free to use the space below or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be happy to help you.
And by the way, Freelance I.T. Solutions offers all of the services mentioned here. ;-)