Is this the right article for you?
If you do not already have a company or a product or service, then this article is perhaps not the best place to begin. I would suggest reviewing articles on writing a business plan, finding a product, or business ideas.
However, if you do have a business and are ready to develop a website for your business (or if you want to develop a website for any other reason) then you are in the right place.
The importance of your website
Your website is the representation of your company on the Internet, often gives the first impression of your company to a visitor, and may be your only chance to impress that visitor and earn their business. There are hundreds of millions of websites on the Internet, so if yours does not clearly convey the benefits to the visitor right away, is difficult to navigate, takes too long to load, or has horrible copy then you might as well forward your website to your competitor's.
However, with a little bit of learning and practice, anyone can create a well-designed, easy to navigate, and quick-loading website that performs exactly the function you wish.
This article will teach you
1. How to register a domain name
Registering a Domain Name
The first step to building a website is to register your domain name. A domain name is the letters or words that visitors must type in to come to your website. For example, Yahoo.com, Amazon.com, and MSN.com are all domain names. Essentially, they are words (although numbers can be used), that tell your browser which server to go to and which website to display on the screen.
While, there are a number of free services that will host your site for you (like geocities.com), unless you are creating a personal site, you will not want to use these. If you wanted to buy some pearls online would you rather buy from http://www.freshwaterpearls.com or http://www.geocities.com/members/shoppark/jewelry/~fwp/pearls.htm?
Almost everyone would feel more comfortable buying from the merchant that has their own domain name. A domain name gives you a greater level of credibility than a free service and gives you complete control.
So if your site will be representing your business or you want to sell products you must have your own domain name. Not to worry, however. Domain names are inexpensive and easy to register.
The hardest part about registering a domain name is figuring out what you want your domain name to be. Almost every word and combination of words in the English language and many other languages have already been registered by someone else. It took me from noon to 8pm one day just to find a domain name for a content site I wanted to create. I had a number of ideas, but the first few hundred I thought of were already taken.
However, there are a number of extensions you can register for your site. If the .com extension is taken you can always register the .net, .us., .biz, .info, .cc, .org, or .pro. However, the .com extension remains the standard and with another extension you risk losing visitors as some will become confused and type in the .com when they try to return.
If you already have a business name, then you will usually want to register your business name as your domain name. However, you'll want to keep it as short as possible (best around 5-10 characters) and no longer than 14. If your business name is longer than 14 characters, then see if you can abbreviate your name. For example, a law firm by the name of Morrison and Foerster LLP could have registered morisonfoerster.com, which would have been long and harder to remember. Instead they registered the mofo.com, a very easy to remember domain name.
Don't have a business yet? If the website will be for your business and you do not have a business name yet, you'll want to develop your business name first. Be sure to do a trademark search and register with your local government. If you will be incorporating your business be sure to read the articles "How to Incorporate Your Business" and "Is Incorporation Right for Me?"
On the other hand, if you will just be posting information and articles and creating a community, then your domain name can be whatever you wish. Be sure to keep it short and easy to remember, however.
So how exactly do you register for your domain name? Well, there are many options. If you are just looking for a domain name and not hosting, then you can register your domain at sites like register.com and 000domain.com, among others.
You can expect to pay anywhere between about $8 and $35 a year to keep a domain registered. There are many discount domain registrars (like 000domains.com) that enable you to keep your domain registered for about $10/year. For more options, you can find a list of ICANN accredited registrars at www.internic.com.
Register.com costs a bit more but is unique in that it will register your domain name and also host a basic 3 page site for you. This can be a good option if you will just want 3 pages, do not need total control, and will not be selling anything. However, if you wish to sell anything, grow your website beyond 3 pages you will want to obtain hosting for your site.
Note: Keep track of how many years you originally register your domain for and what company you registered it with. Often competing registrars will mail you official looking domain name renewal notices when your domain comes up for renewal that are simply ploys to get you to switch registrars.
Keep your domain names short
For a website to come up when a visitor types in your domain name, all the files for the website have to be stored somewhere on a server. Hosting simply is the storage of these files on a server. Large sites will generally own their own server, and supersites like yahoo.com or amazon.com have floors of buildings filled with nothing but servers. However, for sites in the 1-2000 page range, generally you won't need your own server. What you will need however, is space on a server.
To obtain this space, you'll need to purchase a hosting package from a hosting provider. You have two options when it comes to getting a website started. You can register your domain name first, then buy hosting, or you can do both at the same time and save time and money.
Generally, the registrar sites I mentioned above are just if you want to secure a domain name but do not want to start building your site right away.
If you do want to get going as soon as possible, I'd suggest buying hosting and registering your domain through the same company at the same time. In most cases, the hosting company doesn't really register the domain themselves. They usually just register a domain name from a registrar. However, they'll take care of setting everything up for you and making sure you are ready to go as soon as possible.
So what are the options for hosting companies? Again, there are thousands. Personally, I use a host called Hostway at www.hostway.com. They seem to offer a good balance of price and quality. However, if you are trying to save money everywhere possible, you can save about $6 per month by going with a discount hosting company like OLM at www.olm.net. However, don't expect the same level of customer support, speed of servers, or uptime. If you are looking to the higher end of the spectrum and price is not an issue, then I'd suggest looking at hosting from Verio at www.verio.com.
So how much space and what features do you need? Most hosting companies offer a number of different packages that vary in a number of ways. If you will be creating a small site (less than 10 pages or so), all you'll really use is about 10 megabytes (MB) of space. Generally even the lowest priced option has 50 MB, so you should be fine going with the low end package.
For example, one of the sites I own receives 120,000 visitors monthly and is 185 pages in size. The site uses 95.2 MB of space and 4 GB of bandwidth monthly. My hosting package (which is $21.95 per month), gives me 200 MB of space and 10 GB of bandwidth monthly. Most likely, your site will (at least initially) be smaller than this.
Many hosts also offer ecommerce hosting. However, this is a bit misleading. Even if you plan to sell products from your site you generally will not need ecommerce hosting. If you plan to sell products on your site and will have less than 50 products or do less than $500,000 per year in sales, you'll likely want to have your shopping cart hosted by a third party provider. They host everything on their website and as such your server does not need ecommerce capabilities. If you do plan to sell products from your site be sure to read the articles here on ecommerce and ebusiness.
If you want to get started right away on your site, then you'll want to register your domain name with the same company you purchase hosting from.
Congratulations, You Have a Domain Name and Hosting! Now what?
Once you have registered your website and obtained hosting, generally within 24 hours they will send you an email with your IP address and login password. What is an IP address? IP stands for Internet Protocol and is the numbers that define which server your site is hosted on and where on the server the site is.
Once you have the IP address and login password, you can begin to upload your website to your server. However, typing in your domain will not bring up your site just yet.
It usually takes about 72 hours for your domain name to become live once you register for hosting. Why? You hosting company has to tell ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) that you've registered the site and which DNS servers to point the site to. Don't worry if you don't understand all this. Your hosting company will take care of this for you.
After about 72 hours (hopefully), you'll receive an email that lets you know your domain is live. Congratulations! Now you can type in yourdomain.com in a browser and your site will come up.
However, you haven't uploaded anything to the server yet so likely all that you'll see is a under construction or coming soon page that your host has provided for you
Article reprinted with permission from Strategic Services. All rights reserved.
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