Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts that will walk you through how to build your website. This post will focus on the technical setup to get your website off the ground.
Here's what we'll cover:
1. How to choose your domain
2. How to choose a hosting company
3. What platform should you use to build your website
Let's get started!
Step 1: Choose Your Domain
Your website domain is the www.yourdomain.com that someone can type directly into the address or search bar on their computer or other device. It is also the link you will use to send traffic from social media and other networks. It is the direct link to your website.
It might be easiest to think of your domain as the 'name' of your website. You could call your website after your own name, your business's name or make up a word, think Bing, Yahoo or Google.
Consider the points below before deciding on your domain.
Important considerations when picking your website domain:
Aim for no longer than 12-14 characters. Although if you are using your name as your domain don’t miss out letters or abbreviate just to make it shorter.
To give you an example: I recently designed a website for a dietitian called Evelyn Duran-Ponce. After a brainstorming session, we decided on the domain www.edpdietitian.com. So, in this instance, we did abbreviate to be able to include the word dietitian. www.evelynduranponce.com would also have worked in this case.
We considered it important to include the word dietitian, as this was going to be a keyword that she would want to rank for in search engine results.
Including keywords in the domain can be useful but it’s not the deciding factor. If you want to use your name as your domain, over time it will start to be associated with your business.
Try to keep it to only letters and avoid non-letter text like hyphens, comma's or slashes.
Your domain should be recognisable, or at least have the potential to become recognisable, and should be easy to spell. You don't want your potential customers going to your competitors due to misspelling your domain.
Choosing a domain extension
The domain extension is the .com, .org, .net or .co.uk part of the domain.
The .com extension is by far the most popular and well recognised. I know if I am trying to find the direct link to the website of a popular brand I nearly always type in .com. If your chosen domain is available with a .com extension then I would recommend going with that.
If you find the .com extension is already taken then it might be interesting to see if it leads to a live website. If you find a website that offers similar products or services that you do, consider changing your domain choice. You don't want someone to accidentally go to your competitor's website thinking it is yours.
If there is no website associated with the .com extension but it is still unavailable then check to see if the .org or .net extension is free. Or, consider your country-specific domain such as .ie, .co.uk or .nz.
Typically these require you to supply proof that you own the business associated with the domain. When I purchased the .ie domain for my website I had to email a copy of the letter confirming I owned the business name before being able to purchase the domain.
I purchased my .ie domain from BlackKnight and simply had to add my SiteGround nameservers into the required places on my BlackKnight dashboard. If you are unsure about how to do this then reach out to your hosting provider who should be able to help you.
More than one extension?
You can own more than one domain for your website. I created a video to try and describe how this works.
This video is from my course Build Your Amazing Website. You can find out more about it here.
Next, we want to decide on a hosting provider.
Step 2: Choose A Host
Before you decide on who you use for a host consider the points below.
How Big Will Your Website Be?
Will it be a small simple website of about 5 pages? Or will it be an extensive e-commerce store? How much content will you be putting on your website? For example, I recently built a website for a client who wanted to sell an online course that is drip-fed to customers over ten weeks. This added up to A LOT of content. The more content you have the more data requirements you have.
There is nothing wrong with having a lot of content on your website. It is your platform to share your knowledge, after all, however, we, in the above case, took advantage of SiteGrounds GrowBig plan, to ensure there was plenty of space for all of this content. They provide 20 GB in this middle tier plan.
How much space do you need? This might be hard to know, especially if you don't have a website yet. To give you some examples I have a screenshot below of the data usage of some of the websites on my hosting plan. I have 20 GB total at my disposal.
BurnsButchers.com is a very small one-page website so it does not use much space (302 MB) but www.helenharveydietitian.com, a website with some blog posts and more content is taking up more than 2 GB of disc space (still well under the 10 GB limit for SiteGrounds smallest package).
How much traffic will your website receive?
How many people will land on your website per month? It’s OK if you don’t know this yet, you can always start with the cheapest plan and upgrade if needed.
Does the host provide and include an SSL certificate?
An SSL certificate helps assure Google and other search engines that your website is secure and helps the little locked padlock appear beside your domain. It means the data that someone enters on your website is encrypted so it cannot be easily stolen. This is very important, essential if you have a website where you are asking people for personal or sensitive information.
I would recommend using an SSL certificate even if this is not the case. Having a secure encrypted website is a factor that may affect your ability to be found on google so I always put one on my client's websites or recommend them to.
Many website hosting companies will provide a free SSL certificate but some don’t so check this out before you commit. SiteGround provides a free SSL certificate on all of their plans.
Note: I have seen expensive quotes for SSL certificates from website designers. Be sure you understand what you are signing up for and if you need the level of protection they offer.
Does the host offer any additional optimization tools or daily backups?
Caching is an optimization feature that can significantly improve the speed load time of your website. It does this by storing some of the information that is required to load your website, so all of the information does not need to be downloaded every time someone visits your site.
Image optimization is the automatic process of compressing your images as you add them to your website. I always use Kraken.io for this in addition to image optimization offered through SiteGround to ensure fast loading images. I discuss the process of image optimization here.
Daily backups can be a lifesaver if something ever goes wrong on your website. I like to think of websites as living, breathing things that are constantly in a state of change. Regular updating will be needed on all WordPress websites and a daily backup can allow you to restore the previous version with the click of a mouse in the event an update or something else breaks your site (don't worry, this doesn't happen often).
What is the monthly cost of the hosting package? Does the cost increase after the first year? SiteGround's first level of hosting comes in at under €4 per month for the first year but it does go up in the second year. Make sure you know what you are signing up for.
Having someone you can reach out to when things go wrong or when you are unsure of something can be a lifesaver. I have experienced good levels of support from both BlueHost and SiteGround.
This is very hard to test before your website is live but if you have an issue with website load speed and have optimized your website as best you can then the host could be the problem. I previously used BlueHost for my hosting but my website speed was slow. Changing to SiteGround significantly improved the speed. You can check the speed of your website with GTMatrix.
Bluehost has a bad reputation for slow websites, in part, because they were been taken over by Endurance International Group. This company has grown to unprecedented size by buying out many smaller companies. In short, they put too many websites on too few servers, which equates to slower websites.
Do you need to purchase your domain and host it through the same company?
No, but it might be easier for billing reasons. If your domain is with another company you will need to change your nameservers to point to your host's server. Your hosting company should be able to help you with this if you're unsure or watch the video above that describes the process of pointing a domain to a different server.
Step 3: Choose A Website Platform
The next step is to decide the platform which you want to build your website. We will focus on using either an all in one platform like Wix or WordPress.com or a more hands-on approach where you get to build your website piece by piece using WordPress.org.
Here are the most important things to consider when choosing how to build your website:
Your skill level
Be honest with yourself. If the extent of your technical knowledge equates to turning a computer on and no more, perhaps you should use a done for you, all in one platform like Wix. If you're a little more tech-savvy consider a more flexible option like WordPress.org. It’s important to recognize there will be a learning curve with whatever option you pick.
The all in one platform will usually have a monthly cost although many have a substantial free trial. At the time of writing Shopify has a 90-day trial which should be long enough for you to get a feel for it. Their most basic option might seem affordable but if you require email integration, payments, or booking services you might find your costs rise significantly. Many will also take a % fee for every transaction a customer makes so this could end up cutting into your profits.
WordPress.org is free to set up (you would just expect to pay your domain costs annually and your monthly hosting fee) but will allow you much more individual expansion capabilities. I use a page builder plugin called Thrive Architect that costs $67 but we will discuss more about how to design your website in a later post.
Are you willing to dedicate several hours to learn to use and build a website using WordPress.org, or do you just want to input your text, images, and contact details and get going as soon as possible? It’s important to be aware that all website builders, even the all in one platforms, will need some time for you to learn your way around them.
In the past, I have used a platform called Podia. In my experience, this was one of the easiest most straightforward ways to build a website quickly. Podia is a platform where you can offer online courses, memberships, email service integration, and much more.
I decided to leave Podia because there were limited design capabilities and there was a substantial monthly cost but this might be an option to investigate if you want to get up and running quickly.
What do you need your website to do?
Do you need to sell a range of different products via your website? If so perhaps something like Shopify might be a quick and easy way to get your store up and running quickly. Monthly costs can be higher for this type of option so you need to weigh this up against the time you have available.
Is your business predominantly an offline business?
If this sounds like you, you might want something simple, that is quick and easy to modify and update. If you are hoping to move some or all of your business online then perhaps it would be worth taking the time to learn the skills to build and grow your self-hosted website through WordPress.org. This will allow you to start growing an email list, create landing pages (pages dedicated to sales), and optimize your website for conversions.
And, that's it.
You have all the information you need to make some important decisions regarding how to get your website up and running.
Your task now
Decide on your domain and find a hosting company or all in one platform that will offer you what you need. Go ahead and sign up..
Congratulations, you are one step closer to having a website!
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Do you have any questions or queries regarding any technical website set up? Please leave any comments below this post, I would love to hear from you.