So, you want a website. Part 2: The 4 Things Everyone Needs to Do to Get a Website
11/06/2013• 4 min read
In Part 1, I did a little breakdown (in language my great aunt Bethany could understand) of how the Internet is a bunch of computers doing different jobs. A client sends a message, through a series of routers, to a server, which sends files and messages back to the client. I made this nifty infographic to illustrate the process:
BOOM. That’s the Internet. Great Aunt Bethany pondered, “Why do I need to know any of this?” Boy, she likes to ask a lot of rhetorical questions. I answered her anyway.
If you’re thinking about becoming an online content producer, you need to know what the Internet is. Sure, you could just use Twitter to create content online. But if you want to create something of, you know, value, you’ll want to post your ish somewhere a bit more permanent. If you’re thinking of making a website or blog, these are the 4 things you need to do (or hire someone to do them for you).
1. You need to get a domain name.
A domain name does wonders for marketing yourself and sharing your content with people. I don’t think I would have my three followers if I tweeted, “Check out my blog at http://188.8.131.52/ !”
It’s important that you understand what a domain name is: essentially, it’s an convenient nickname for the IP address of the server where your website files live. It’s not the website itself.
I recommend using Godaddy for purchasing domain names because they’re the cheapest one out there (especially when you use one of they’re always-available discount codes. It’s best to go with the cheapest domain name registrar you can find since you will very rarely have to interact with their hideous websites and infuriatingly awful customer service—maybe a couple times a year to renew your registration or purchase a new domain. You can use this code when checking out on Godaddy to take 35% off your order (and give me a little referral reward):
2. You need to get hosting.
Remember, website files actually live on another computer, called a server. So you need to have access to a server in order to make a website. But getting a server computer set up to receive messages from and send files to clients is an extraordinarily technical process. Most web designers and even some developers wouldn’t have a clue how to even get started setting up a web server.
That’s where web hosts come in. You can pay a web hosting provider—or a knowledgable developer like me, wink-wink—a fee to do all the server setup and maintenance for you. Depending on the plan you choose, you’ll either have to (1) configure your domain name to point to the IP address of the server your host gives you, or, more likely, (2) set your domain name to use the domain name servers provided by your host, which will do all the IP-address-pointing setup for you.
Whatever you do, for the love of GOD do not use Godaddy for hosting. As good as they are for buying cheap domain names, they’re terrible at hosting. I have some recommendations for hosting, depending on your needs and interests, which I’ll get to in a bit.
3. You need to wait.
Recall that when a client asks for a domain name, the request first has to be sent to several DNS’s until the IP address for the domain name’s server is found. When I say “several” DNS’s, I mean a handful of the millions of DNS’s handling billions of requests everyday. They’re quite busy. So when you change a setting in the DNS database, like editing the host server’s IP address, the change takes a while to be communicated (a.k.a propagated) to all the other DNS’s on the Internet. Typically a change makes it’s way through the majority of servers out there within 24-48 hours. So when you link your domain name to hosting, you should expect to wait a bit before you see the website come online. Any sooner is a bonus.
4. You need to, um, make a website.
I’m under the impression that you’re interested in running a basic website or blog. If not, why are you even reading this? I could think a number of things I’d rather do than read this blog.
If you want to join the tens of thousands of other Internet users voicing opinions no one cares about, you’re going to need some kind of blogging platform to start with. You’ve probably heard of some them, like Blogger, Tumblr, and Wordpress. In my next article, I’ll give you a few tips for Choosing a Host and Platform.