For many people, the first question is: What is a website? A website is a collection of files (text, graphics, scripts, databases, etc.) which specify the content of your website, how to display it and also defines the behaviors of this website on the internet. The collection of files which make up the website is just a collection of files until it is made accessible to the internet by a website host and a domain name (aka URL) which leads to the website. Modern websites also need to be concerned with automatically adjusting their look and operation for portable devices such as smart phones and tablets.
In recent years, the number of options for creating a website has increased tremendously. Things like wordpress websites make setting up and maintaining your own website much easier for many businesses and individuals. WordPress themes and pre-made widgets (modular optional features such as slideshows and webstores) provide such great functionality without the need for technical expertise. There are also many excellent free or inexpensive templates for website layout that are not based on wordpress. Depending on your websites needs, a template-style website may provide everything you or your company need in a website.
There are 3 main things you need to decide upon in order to set up your own website:
- What information do you want on the website, how should it look, and how should it behave (the website design)?
- Which web hosting service will meet the technical requirements to support the chosen website design within your budget?
- How do you choose and reserve a domain name(s)?
Decisions regarding website design, web hosting, and domain names can be closely related and affect each other.
What goes into a website design? The appearance and behavior, as well as the informational content of the website make up the design elements. The text colors, pictures, background, and website navigation methods are all part of the website design. The files which comprise your website design may include HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) files, digital picture files (JPG, GIF, and other graphic format files), script files to define actions and behavior (PHP, CGI, Perl, etc.), database files (for dynamic content), and other types of files for more complex websites. You can change your website by changing the contents of these files on the website host (and adding new ones if necessary).
There are many inexpensive or free programs available which allow the creation and editing of HTML and graphic files to create a simple website as easily as a letter or powerpoint presentation. It all depends on the appearance and behavior you want for your website whether or not you will need professional help to create it. Website templates are available which provide a framework of layout and predefined behavior for a website. They can easily be customized with respect to colors, pictures, and content.
Custom graphics and animations normally require some knowledge of programming techniques or graphic design to include in your website. Database interaction and unusual website behaviors also require specialized knowledge, and a web host which supports the necessary features. In general, a professional web designer can create a website in a fraction of the time an amateur would require.
Another important question is: What is a website host? A website host is a web server computer which makes your website available when someone surfing the internet tries to access one of the web pages which belongs to your chosen domain name. It responds to a request to view a particular page from your website by sending the appropriate group of code, picture, and data files needed to view that page in a web browser such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, or Google Chrome. Many website features or behaviors can be designed in more than one way, and only work correctly when the website is hosted by a compatible server or ‘host’ computer supporting those kind of design features. Not all web hosts support the scripting, programming, and database access needed for more complex websites. Many website hosting companies also provide free or discounted domain name registration with a web hosting package. There are many web hosting services which offer a website for free in exchange for allowing their advertising banner to be added to your website.
So now I have my website design. What comes next? After (or before) choosing a website host, the domain name(s) needs to be chosen for your website. Many website hosting companys provide websites as a subdirectory of their own domain, and can be used that way without registering a domain name. For example, Shaw cable internet accounts include a personal website with the domain name http://members.shaw.ca/accountname. If you want something more personal, you can choose to register a domain name (provided that noone else has already registered that domain name) for your website. A domain name is usually of the form www.yourdomainname.com. Your domain name does not have to end in ‘.com’ – it can also be .org, .net, .ca, .info, and many others. The ending of the domain name has a specific meaning. Domain names ending in ‘.ca’ indicate a canadian website, ‘.net’ or ‘.info’ domains usually indicate a non-profit or informational website. There are many websites which allow you to check if the domain name you want is available, and also to reserve a domain name for yourself for a period of time (usually from 1 – 10 years). The fees for registering a domain name vary from registrar to registrar. It is worth the time to do some research to find the right registrar for your domain registration needs.