So, Where Do I Begin to Start A Website
Daunting is probably the best word if you want to start a website yourself. Before you begin there are things you have to consider, you first need to decide how you will build it. There are lots of options out there and WordPress is by far the most powerful and most popular. Other options can be likes of Squarespace, Strikingly and Wix but you are then tied into their hosting for life and will be possible but you will lose some info. With WordPress, you have the freedom to choose your own hosting, and if you are not happy, you can migrate it to another hosting company and still use WordPress. WordPress is more powerful too and can be customised more easily so it will grow with your business. Just to make sure you are clear, there are 2 types of WordPress. The initial WordPress.com which is free with a WordPress domain ($15 per month to use your own) and is not as powerful or as customisable as the hosted version, WordPress.org. For business, I suggest using a hosted version of WordPress. Most web hosting will have a single click install for WordPress to make it easy. Some are more user-friendly than others too which I will go into in the web hosting section.
You first need to organise two things, firstly your need a domain (that is the www link bit or also called URL) and some type of hosting provider. The domain for my website is emercarr.com and I have my health website on itsallaboutliving.ie but I chose this one a long time ago. Yes, it gives a great view of the mission on the website but it doesn’t tell you who it is.
You can think of your domain like a phone number or email address, it must be unique and make sense to your website. It is how people are going to find you and some user to your website will come from remembering the website name. I always suggest including your name if you can or have your name as an umbrella website and different businesses connecting them to you and your main business (as I do now). Remember, people are more likely to remember a name and a person than a generic business one.
Costs for Running a Website
Domains vary in price, a .com is around €8/$9 per year while TLDs like .ie can cost €30-35 per year after the first year. There are lots of different domain extensions including new ones like .club, .company, .online as it was getting more and more difficult to get suitable .com domains but I would always start with a .com if you can because your audience is likely to type this at times.
The other cost to run a website is hosting. There are different types of hosting which you can read more about here but starting out, shared hosting with a good provider is more than adequate. Most will give great deals in the first year but will average out €8-€14 ($9-$15) per month starting out. Some are a lot more expensive so research before you choose. I use Hostpapa and I'm very happy with them on price, service and the fact they are a green company. You can find out more about hosting further on.
But, can I get a Free Website?
Yes, that is possible BUT you will not have your own website domain (or custom domain) without paying for the hosting. Even with likes of WordPress.com (the free version of WordPress) or WIX. If you are a business, you need to look professional and not having your own domain will not give a professional impression.
If you are a business, you need to look professional and not having your own domain will not give a professional impression. You should always have a proper domain and business style email (not a gmail or hotmail) for business if you want to be taken seriously.
So where do you get your domain from?
There are numerous registrars for domains, most are web hosting companies too which we will discuss in a minute. The first thing to note, your domain and web hosting do not need to be with the same company. Plus, certain domains called ‘country code top-level domain (ccTLD)’ like .ie are only available from registrars accredited by the IEDR (IE Domain Register).
For my own use, I keep my .ie domains with Hostpapa and use Namesilo.com for all my other domains (yes, I do have a collection at this stage). If you choose to register with Namesilo, use the code emercarr and you will receive a small discount.
So why choose Namesilo? For me, there are a few reasons. Firstly, the price you see is the price for renewal so no big shocks when you come to renew. While others may discount the 1st year costs, they also will charge you extra for WHOIS privacy and trust me you need it (I’ll explain what that is in a sec). With Namesilo, it is standard and part of the price although you do need to select it.
What is WHOIS privacy?
In order to register a domain, ICANN (governs domains etc) requires your personal details which will be published on the WHOIS lookup if you don’t have WHOIS privacy set. Think of it like an ex-directory phone number. It is something I highly recommend for your own privacy and security.
How to check your website name availability
So you have some ideas for a website domain name, but how do you know they are available? The easiest way, type them into a browser. If nothing is returned, BOOM! You can get it for yourself. You can also check on the likes of Namesilo.com for available domains and it will suggest other domain types. Simply type in what you would like and hit Search.
WARNING: I would suggest trying to get a .com if you can rather than some other option. Also, if the option is gone, be sure it is a legitimate website, not some dodgy one. You don’t want your users accidentally landing on a weird website!
You can use tools like namemesh.com or other domain name generators if your first choice is gone and you want to look at alternatives.
Tips for selecting a domain
- Keep it as simple are possible
- Watch out for words that are easily misread when spaces are removed, eg: therapist could be read as the rapist!
- Watch words ending and starting with the same letter, eg. successshines
- You can use numbers or a hyphen but again, watch the readability.
How to host your website and where?
So now you have your domain, what next? You will need to host your website somewhere. It is a bit like having a phone provider, you need a hosting provider. I go into the different types of hosting on this blog here. For starting out, shared hosting is more than adequate, providing you go with a reputable web hosting company. I use Hostpapa for their great support & service and also the fact they are a Green company and I am very much about eco and sustainability where possible. They are all quite similar, they give you a fantastic offer in the first year and level out on price thereafter. Hostpapa is well priced for what you get after the offer ends plus they offer a security feature which monitors my websites which again, is again is something I value. They support WordPress and they have made it really easy to install from their user-friendly cp panel (a dashboard for managing everything).
For years I was with Blacknight but due to poor service, I left about a year and a half ago. There is a 24hr chat feature with Hostpapa so if I have questions out of office hours, I can ask. It is all about service in my opinion. Through clients, my experience with GoDaddy and HostGator were not good, my experience with both was a constant upsell in order to get things fixed, I have never experienced that with Hostpapa. Do your research! When you are reviewing anything, make sure you are always checking independent reviews not just from the company themselves and make your own decision. Some will give 30 days trial so another point worth noting.
You will also want emails for your website, so make sure whatever web hosting you choose allows for unlimited or a large number of email addresses. While you might not need them now, you will in the future.
One last thing to note, if you have your domain with one company and your hosting in another, you need to connect them by adding in the Nameservers of your hosting to your domain. This can take a few mins to take effect so if it doesn't work, check back in 10mins. Some can take longer to populate so please do not do this when you are in a rush. It never works then! Murphy's law.
Planning Your Website
So you know the setup, but have you planned your website? This is a step people regularly fall down on. Don't overload your website, users/visitors will not hang around if things are too cluttered and difficult to find things. With most things in business and life, applying the KISS principle will give you the best results. KEEP IT SIMPLE & STRAIGHTFORWARD. You can add as you go.
The basic structure of a website, you will need an About page, Contact(inc your location) and 2-3 key business goals for your website. Even if you are doing this for a club or charity, think of it as a business. What are the main reasons you want people to interact with ‘your business' or ‘your club/charity'? These should be your main headings on your menu and you can create sub-menus underneath. You can also add a blog to your main menu too. This should be the max for main menu.
So you are ready to go! Next comes building your website. I run workshops to help you get your website in place in just one morning. Check here for details and get in touch if you are elsewhere in Ireland and we can see if we can arrange one near you.