There is one question that you must first address when building a web site: are you building an ecommerce website like http://flatscreenshelving.com where you will sell products directly or are you building a site that is meant to share information and possibly incorporate an affiliate program.
If you choose option number one, I recommend going with a shopping cart ecommerce solution like 3dCart. The other option is to use and open source program like Magento, but I’ve had some issues with using open source solutions. The nice thing about paying for an ecommerce solution is that if there are any back-end problems, they will be the ones to fix it. If you aren’t a programmer and a server wiz, I highly recommend paying for your shopping cart solution.
If you are simply going to have a site where you share information, then a hosted blog using WordPress is going to be the way to go. I’ve hand coded many, many sites and I can tell you the first rule of building a web site: someone else has already built what you are trying to do and it’s 99% likely that you can get it for free.
The rest of this tutorial is going to focus on building the later, a site where you are sharing information and maybe trying to make some money with affiliate links.
So how do I build a website?
1. The domain
The first thing to do is register a domain. Now I won’t be getting into any keyword analysis or how to pick a domain name because this topic is easily researchable online. Domain hosting will cost you less than $10 a year. You will want to use the .com extension because this is the most recognized extension on the web. If someone has widget.com and you are selling widgets, registering widgets.info is a terrible idea. No matter how loudly you shout the .info in any advertising you do (free or paid), 99% of people are going to type widgets.com into their address bar. Another thing to mention about registering a domain is domain privacy. When you register a domain, your contact information will be included in the whois website. This means that people can find out that you are the owner of the domain. If you enable domain privacy, for a fee, this information will be replaced with the information of the company that you select for the domain privacy. Ipower is a great hosting solution that I have used for years. The best practice is to register your domain for 3 years. Search engines like Google consider this when determining authority of your site. (Authority = how well you rank in the search engines.)
While the domain is the address of the site, hosting is the place where the files for your site are stored. My recommendation is to combine the domain registration and the hosting with the same company. This will make it easier on your accountant. Hosting will cost you at least $4 a month depending on how much information you upload to the host and the amount of traffic that your site gets.
While it is possible to design a site without knowing anything about what an FTP client is, it will make your life much easier to know the basics of using an FTP client. Basically, an FTP clients allows you to transfer the files from your computer to the host. Again, the topic is too broad for this discussion and is easily researchable on the net. There are tons of FTP clients out there, but I have used CoreFTP exclusively and have had no problems. The information that you need to enter into your FTP client to connect to the host can be found in the account settings of your hosting account.
As I’ve mentioned, I have hand-coded many websites and I can tell you that using WordPress is the most efficient way to get a web site up and running. Now WordPress.com is a site where you can build a free website blog with limited functionality that will be hosted on WordPress, while WordPress.org is where you can download WordPress to install on your own website and also contains links to plugins (things that will make your life as a web designer much, much easier) and also a forum with topics regarding all thing WordPress.
WordPress is something that requires a database to store the information and can be uploaded directly to your host with an FTP Client, but the best part about using a host like Ipower or GoDaddy is that you can have them install WordPress for you as part of your hosting.
Whichever way you choose, having WordPress installed will make designing your site 1000 times easier. I’ve had a fully functioning website up in two hours this way and have gotten great feedback on the design.
To be continued…
In the next session, I will go over some of the basic WordPress features as well as present a list of essential WordPress plugins that will make your life as a designer much easier.