If you’ve never had a website, never heard of WordPress, or only ever use computers for email or browsing online, building a website can seem like a pretty daunting feat. You may not know how hosting works, or what a domain is, or any of the other website vocabulary terms for that matter, but I’m going to break everything down so you can get a better handle on starting your first website. FYI, this message is for beginners, and I’m going to try to explain things as thoroughly and simply as possible.
The first place you need to start if you need a website is picking a domain name for your site. This can also be referred to as a URL, or web address. It generally starts with “www” and ends with “.com” but not always. Domain names can range in price from as affordable as $10 per year to unrealistically expensive. All domains must be purchased from an ICANN accredited Domain Name Registrar, such as LOJO. There are thousands of registrars out there, but where you purchase it from is not as important as knowing and understanding the terms, and that you will have to renew your domain every so often. Selecting a good domain name can be tricky, so its best to do some research and get expert opinions before committing to anything too costly. Here’s a pro tip: avoid domain names that include a hyphen or dash whenever possible.
For the same reason you need a plate to put your food on, you need a host to put your website on. A website is made up of digital data stored on a server somewhere, and you have pay the owner of that server for the space to store your website data. You could theoretically host your website on your computer at home, but your website would shut down every time you turn off your computer or put it in “sleep” mode. A server is a huge computer that hosts thousands of websites and never gets shut down; they are climate controlled, monitored, and routinely checked for glitches. Generally a good hosting provider has backup servers that are there if the primary servers needs maintenance, and have many security protocols to protect your data from being tampered with. Lucky for you, you won’t need to search for hosting providers because most domain registrars also host, and offer bundle packages. Hosting will also need renewal, but cost is relatively cheap and will vary depending on the space and level of security needed.
Now that you know what you’re calling it, and you know where to put it, what you’ll need next is the final piece we’ve been fussing over this whole time, a website. You need a structure to organize all the stuff you want to post online, and the best place to start, in our humble opinion, is with WordPress. WordPress became famous for its ease-of-use and variety of customizable features, but also likely due to it being 100% free. The templates however aren’t all free, and neither are the plugins, but there’s enough free content to get you started if you don’t care so much about how generic it looks. If you do care about how your website looks, as well as usability and customization, then our best suggestion is to get help from an expert web designer.
Pretty soon you’re going to be populating your new site with all sorts of pictures and stories, but before you dive into that fiasco, take a step back and consider how you want to organize all that information. You have a unique story to tell, and the best way to tell it is by splitting it up into sections, like chapters in a book. Every website should have an easy way for users to navigate through your site and find the information they want to learn about, and it will generally be located at the top of every page. We call that a navigation menu, and it will list all the top-level pages on your site. Again, an expert website designer can optimally help you break your site up into organized sections and subsections with the user in mind. Here’s another pro tip: keep the names of pages in your navigation short but descriptive, for example, instead of “A List Of Amazing Products We Currently Offer,” try “Door Handles,” (if your company happens to sell door handles). Also, try to keep the number of pages listed in your navigation to seven; if you have more content than will fit into seven pages, try combining pages or having pages within a page, such as a category page.
Before you take your website live and announce it to the public, its a good idea to make sure you’ve filled in all the gaps and holes. You’ll want a robust and content filled site that users can explore and learn from. I’m talking about pictures and text mainly. Someone has got to produce that content; it doesn’t appear out of thin air. This can take some time, coming up with and writing content, and taking pictures to make it interesting for your too-cool-to-read visitors. You don’t have to come up with content yourself; there are plenty of content writers and stock photography sites available online, but the person who knows what you want on your site best is always going to be you. Spend a little time coming up with some text and images yourself at first, and revisit it later after you’ve launched your site and you’re ready to optimize.
Promoting Your Site:
If you think people are going to find your site on the internet without directions, then you’re in for a not-so-pleasant surprise. There are many ways to get the word out, and they are all going to be either time consuming or costly, or both. The very best ways to get your site noticed are best left to the experts who know how to optimize your site properly. There is an art and science to successful website optimization, and it is constantly changing with every passing year. Whenever someone tries to tell you about online marketing, Google Adwords, or SEO (Search Engine Optimization), all you need to really know is that the more aggressively you want to rank against your competitors, the more expensive your marketing will be. Just remember, you don’t need a website if nobody ever visits it. If you want to know who is visiting your site, or where they are visiting it from, or many other valuable statistics, have Google Analytics installed on your site before you launch it.
So did I miss anything? Was this message helpful? Are you still scratching your head about certain terms or steps? Write to us and let us know your thoughts. I’d love to answer any questions you might have about what is needed to get your first website started. And good luck!
Creative Lead, LOJO