Layman Version –
Creating a website in 2017 is super easy. All it takes is these three simple steps.
1- Buy a domain
|123 Reg||£11.99||£11 .99|
A domain is the name of your website. It has to be unique and convey the brand of your business. To get your own domain, you need to register it with a domain registrar.
Above are some reputable domain registrars to consider.
2- Order web hosting service
|A2 Hosting||$4.90/mo||Fast web host, newbies friendly.|
|BlueHost||$3.95/mo||Cheap signup price, newbies friendly.|
|Hostgator||$8.95/mo||Reasonable price, reliable server.|
|InMotion Hosting||$3.49/mo||Cheap signup price, reliable server.|
|SiteGround||$7.95/mo||Premium hosting with excellent customer support.|
A web host is a big computer (aka, server) that stores your websites. Some giant companies – like Amazon, IBM, and FB, own and manage their web servers; other businesses simply rent their servers from a hosting provider (which is a lot more cheaper and easier).
Note: Skip this step if you are opting for a site builder to create your site (see step #3).
3- Create your website
|WordPress||Free||Customizable, easy to use|
|Joomla||Free||More built-in options|
|Drupal||Free||Technically advanced, websites generally perform better.|
|2- Site Builders|
|Wix||$8.50/mo||Build from scratch, with built-in SEO functions.|
|Weebly||$8/mo||Easy to use, highly customizable.|
Two methods to create your website easily: 1- using a content management system, and 2- using a site builder. You get more flexibility in designs and site functions with option 1; the creation and management process is much easier with option 2.
Geek Version –
For users who want to learn more – we have created this very detail guide (4,000+ words) to explain A-to-Z in creating, hosting, and managing a website.
By end of this guide, you should have fundamental understanding on how web hosting and domain names work; and how to build and host a website.
You can make use of the navigation menu (the grey box on the right of this page) to jump to the section you wish to read.
So… is your coffee mug filled? Let’s rock and roll!
1- What is a web host?
Web hosting is a place where people store their websites.
Think of it as a house where you store all your stuffs; but instead of storing your clothes and furniture, you store computer files (HTML, documents, images, videos, etc) in a web host.
More often than not, the term “web hosting” refers to the company that rent out their computer/servers to store your website and provide Internet connectivity so that other users can access to the files on your website.
Web Hosting And Data Center: Aren’t They The Same?
The term “web hosting” usually refers to the server that host your website or the hosting company that rent that server space to you.
Data center usually refers to the facility that is used to house the servers.
A data center could be a room, a house, or a very large building equipped with redundant or backup power supplies, redundant data communications connections, environmental controls – ie. air conditioning, fire suppression, and security devices.
2- Different Types of Web Hosting Servers
Generally, there are four different types of hosting servers: Shared, Virtual Private Server (VPS), Dedicated, and Cloud Hosting.
While all types of servers will act as a storage centre for your website, they differ in the amount of storage capacity, control, technical knowledge requirement, server speed, and reliability. Let’s dig in and look at the main differences between a shared, VPS, dedicated, and cloud hosting.
In shared hosting, one’s web site is placed on the same server as many other sites, ranging from a few to hundreds or thousands. Typically, all domains may share a common pool of server resources, such as RAM and the CPU.
As cost is extremely low, most websites with moderate traffic levels running standard software are hosted on this type of server. Shared hosting is also widely accepted as the entry level hosting option as it requires minimum technical knowledge.
Disadvantages- No root access, limited ability to handle high traffic levels or spikes, site performance can be affected by other sites on the same server.
Dedicated Server Hosting
A dedicated server offers the maximum control over the web server your website is stored on – You exclusively rent an entire server. Your website(s) is the only website stored on the server.
Disadvantages- With great power comes… well, greater cost. Dedicated servers are very expensive and it’s only recommended to those who need the maximum control and better server performance.
Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting
A virtual private server hosting divides a server into virtual servers, where each websites is like hosted on their own dedicated server, but they’re actually sharing a server with a few different other users.
The users may have root access to their own virtual space and better secured hosting environment with this type of hosting. Websites that need greater control at the server level, but don’t want to invest in a dedicated server.
Disadvantages- Limited ability to handle high traffic levels or spikes, your site performance can still be somewhat affected by other sites on the server.
Cloud hosting offers unlimited ability to handle high traffic or traffic spikes. Here’s how it works: A team of servers (called a cloud) work together to host a group of websites. This allows multiple computers to work together to handle high traffic levels or spikes for any particular website.
Disadvantages- Many cloud hosting setup do not offers root access (required to change server settings and install some software), higher cost.
3- How to choose the right web host for your website
There are hundreds of questions that you could ask your potential web host, but by getting the answers to these questions before you sign on the dotted line, you should get a clear picture of what you will receive, what the provider offers long term, how they treat their customers, and if they are an organization you can trust and truly want to work with.
Questions to ask
- “What is the average monthly uptime?”
Are you given any uptime guarantee in written agreement? The higher the uptime guarantee is, the better. With cloud technology, some hosting companies guarantee 100% uptime nowadays.
- “How much does it cost?”
There is no point to go further if you are unable to afford the service.
- “Where are the servers physically located? Can you choose your server location?”
A server closer to your users allows your website to load faster for them.
- “What level of customer/ technical support are offered?”
See my recent investigation on hosting companies live chat support.
- “What type of set-up assistance is included at no additional cost?”
Free site migration can be a huge time saver – especially if you are not familiar with servers / website hosting.
- “What are the renewal terms and fees?”
Know that if you are a first-time subscriber, you will likely sign up at a discounted rate that the changes when you renew your contract – make sure that you know the full ramifications.
- “What type of scalability potential is there?”
For example, if you start with a shared server plan, are you able to expand your space later or even switch to a dedicated server environment? Or does the provider you are considering specialize in one environment? Also, find out what are their server upgrade protocols. For example, are they able to update and upgrade their servers without downtime? If so, how? During what hours of the day/ night do they make those updates?
- “What is the company’s policy if you need to change your hosting configuration mid-contract?”
For example, if you start out in a shared server configuration and need to move to a dedicated or VPS environment during your contract term, is that allowed? Are there penalties?
- “If you are looking at an unlimited hosting plan, exactly what does that mean?”
All unlimited plans have limitations – it’s just a matter of what those limitations are.
- “Does the hosting company offer a free trial?”
Almost every provider offers at least a 30-day trial, but some offer longer terms – keep your eyes and ears open and take advantage of the no-commitment period to test every facet of the service.
- How to choose a shared web hosting service
- How to choose a VPS hosting service
- WHSR hosting reviews – more than 50 web hosts tested and reviewed
4- What is a domain name?
A domain is the name of your website. Before you can setup a website, you will need a domain.
It is not something physical that you can touch or see; it is merely a string of characters that give your website an identity (yes, a name, like human and businesses). Now, here are some quick examples: Google.com is a domain name; so are Alexa.com, Linux.org, eLearningEuropa.info, as well as Yahoo.co.uk.
To have your own domain, you will need to register your domain with a domain registrar.
Domain name extensions
Now – getting back to our previous examples – Alexa.com, Linux.org, eLearningEuropa.info, and Yahoo.co.uk – note that all these domains end with a different ‘extension’ – .com, .org, .info, .co.uk. We call this “extension” as top level domain (shortform:TLD).
Examples of other TLD include .uk, .ws, .co.jp, .com.sg, .tv, .edu, .co, .com.my, and .mobi. While most of these TLDs are open for public’s registration, there are strict regulations on certain domain registration. For example the registration of country code top level domains (like .co.uk for United Kingdom) are restricted for the citizens of the corresponding country; and the activities with such domains website are ruled by local regulations and cyber laws.
Certain extensions of these TLDs are used to describe the ‘characteristics’ of the website – like .biz for businesses, .edu for education (schools, universities, colleagues, etc), .org for public organization, and country code top level domain names are for locations.
Country code top level domain
The full list of country code top-level domain (ccTLD) extensions are (in alphabet order):
.ac .ad .ae .af .ag .ai .al .am .an .ao .aq .ar .as .at .au .aw .ax .az .ba .bb .bd .be .bf .bg .bh .bi .bj .bm .bn .bo .br .bs .bt .bw .by .bz .ca .cc .cd .cf .cg .ch .ci .ck .cl .cm .cn .co .cr .cu .cv .cx .cy .cz .de .dj .dk .dm .do .dz .ec .ee .eg .er .es .et .eu .fi .fj .fk .fm .fo .fr .ga .gd .ge .gf .gg .gh .gi .gl .gm .gn .gp .gq .gr .gs .gt .gu .gw .gy .hk .hm .hn .hr .ht .hu .id .ie .il .im .in .io .iq .ir .is .it .je .jm .jo .jp .ke .kg .kh .ki .km .kn .kp .kr .kw .ky .kz .la .lb .lc .li .lk .lr .ls .lt .lu .lv .ly .ma .mc .md .me .mg .mh .mk .ml .mm .mn .mo .mp .mq .mr .ms .mt .mu .mv .mw .mx .my .mz .na .nc .ne .nf .ng .ni .nl .no .np .nr .nu .nz . om .pa .pe .pf .pg .ph .pk .pl .pn .pr .ps .pt .pw .py .qa .re .ro .rs .ru .rw .sa .sb .sc .sd .se .sg .sh .si .sk .sl .sm .sn .sr .st .sv .sy .sz .tc .td .tf .tg .th .tj .tk .tl .tm .tn .to .tr .tt .tv .tw .tz .ua .ug .uk .us .uy .uz .va .vc .ve .vg .vi .vn .vu .wf .ws .ye .za .zm .zw
And that’s not all. We now have more than 1,000+ generic TLDs (gTLD) opened to public, including .BAR, .FOREX, .CLUB, .COLLEGE, .REST, .WEBSITE, .WIEN, .XYZ, and so on. ICANN publishes a number of case studies (done by its partners) here, it’s interesting reads if you are interested to find out more.
Domain vs sub domain
Take mail.yahoo.com for example – yahoo.com is the domain, mail.yahoo.com in this case, is the sub domain.
A domain must be unique (for example there can only be one single Yahoo.com) and must be registered with a domain agent (example Godaddy); while for sub domains, users can freely add it on top of the existing domain as long as their web host provide the service. Some would say subdomains are the ‘third level’ domains in the sense that they are simply “sub folders” under the domain root directory, normally used to organize your website content in different languages or different categories.
However, this is not the case to many including the search engines – it is known fact that the search engines (namely, Google) treat sub domain as a different domain independent from the primary domain.
Terms of domain name
To quickly recap on what we have just learned –
Domain name WhoIs data
Every domain name has a publicly accessible record that includes the owner’s personal information such as owner name, contact number, mailing address, and domain registration as well as expiry date.
It’s called a WhoIs record and lists the registrant and contacts for the domain.
As required by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the domain owners must make these contact information available on WHOIS directories. These records are available anytime to anyone who does a simple WhoIs lookup.
In other words, if someone wants to know who owns a website, all they to do is run a quick WHOIS search, type the domain name and voila, they have access to the website registration details.
Domain name privacy
Domain privacy replaces your WHOIS info with the info of a forwarding service done by a proxy server.
In result, your personal info, such as physical address, emails, telephone number, etc is hide from the public. Domain privacy is important because your domain record (ie. the WhoIs data) may also be used in ways that aren’t legitimate or desirable. Since anyone can look up a WhoIs record, spammers, hackers, identity thieves and stalkers may access your personal information! Unethical companies check domain expiration dates then send official looking “renewal” notices in an attempt to get the domain owners to transfer domains to their company, or send invoices that are service solicitations for search engine submissions and other questionable services.
Both email and snail mail spammers use the WhoIs databases to contact domain owners with solicitations as well.
5- The difference between a domain name and web hosting
Domain name and web hosting are two different things.
It is very common for newbies to get confused between a domain name with a web hosting.
However, it is important to be crystal clear on the differences between the two before you move on to your first website. To simplify: A domain name, is like the address of your home; web hosting on the other hand, is the space of your house where you place your furniture. Instead of street name and area code, set of words or/and numbers are used for the website’s naming’. The same goes with hosting, computer hard disk and computer memory are used instead of instead of wood and steel for storing and processing data files.
The idea is presented clearer with the diagram below.
6- How to buy a domain name?
Here is a list of domain registrars where you can buy (or register) a domain name.
|Domain Registrars||Pricing||WHOIS Privacy|
|123 Reg||£11.99||£11 .99||£11 .99||£4 .99/year|
How domain registration works: Step-by-step
- Think of a good name you want for your website.
- A domain name needs to be unique. Prepare a few variations – just in case the name is taken by others.
- Make a search on one of the registrars’ website (ie. GoDaddy).
- If your selected domain name is not taken, you can order it instantly.
- Pay a registration fees, range $10 – $35 depends on the TLD (usually using PayPal or credit card).
- You are now done with the registration process.
- Next you will need to point the domain name to your web hosting (by changing its DNS record).
Tips on choosing a domain name
Your domain name is your identity. It’s how people find you, the name clients pass to others.
Needless to say, nothing is more important.
Give your businesses a step in the right direction for picking the perfect domain name – here are a few tips on how to find cool domain names.
- Keep it short and easy to remember (our domain “Web Hosting Secret Revealed” is a bad example!)
- Avoid trademarked names
- Get a .com or .net whenever it’s possible
- Don’t be afraid to make up a word or use a compound word (think – FaceBook, YouTube, Google, LinkedIn)
- Write it out and read it repeatedly before purchasing (example – be very caution if your business name is “Dickson Web”)
- Keyword relevant*
* Note: You don’t need a keyword in your domain name to rank well on Google nowadays. But it’s a good idea to theme your domain name around your core keyword as it will gives first time visitors an immediate idea of what your website is about.
Domain name generators / Tools for domain name suggestions
Here are a few tools to help you find the right domain name.
How domain name registration works, really?
Domain registration guidelines are not set on a pre-registrar basis, but are instead determined by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN.
This governing body is essentially a global regulator of best practices for registrars, web hosts, and the clients who interact with them. According to the body’s standards, all customers registering a domain name must be prepared to furnish contact information for themselves, their organization, their business, and even their employer in some cases.
For those users who are seeking to register a country-specific domain name option (like “.us” or “.co.uk”), a good portion of the registration process will be dedicated to determining whether or not the customer is a resident of that country and therefore legally permitted to purchase one of its country-specific top level domains (will talk about this later). And that should hammer home a secondary point to users .
While there are hundreds of available domain name suffixes (like “.com” or “.net), many of these domains have specific registration requirements.
For example, only organizations can register a “.org” domain name, and only American citizens can register a domain name that ends in “.us.” Failing to meet the guidelines and requirements for each type of domain during the actual registration and payment process will result in the domain name being “released” back into the pool of available domain names; the customer will have to pick a top level domain for which they actually qualify, or cancel their purchase altogether.
These two records determine which web hosting server’s content is displayed when a user navigates to the domain, as well as how email is addressed, sent, and received using that hosting package and the associated domain name. Inaccurate information will result in errors and page-load failures.
7- How to make your first website
After you have bought your domain name and hosting plan, you need to make a website that looks valuable and attractive at the same time.
There are a few ways you can create your website. Some require a good knowledge of web languages, while some other need just the basic operation of computer and internet. You should choose one depending on your competence.
Method #1: Creating a website from scratch
You can create your unique and distinctive website all by yourself if you know the main web languages and the fundamental of a website. Otherwise, it is advisable that you get in touch with a web developer.
Basic web languages / tools
Note: These skills are not compulsory (but highly recommended) if you are making a site using CMS or site builder (see method #2 and #3).
- HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language)
HTML is the basic structure of web pages and web applications which makes the content semantic to the web browser. It is consist of sequential tags which has an opening and a closing, and structurally a keyword enclosed by Angle Brackets. Ex: <strong></strong>
- CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)
CSS is the styling language which is used to decorate the HTML markup of a web page. Without CSS, a web page would look nothing but a large white page having some unordered text and image on it. CSS is the thing that makes the page ideally how we want.
- Scripting Languages
- Database Management
To store, manage and access user-input data of a website, a large table of information is considered which is called database. A Database Management System like MySQL, MongoDB and PostgreSQL is used in the server-side to do this job efficiently.
- FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
FTP is used to transfer a website’s source files to its hosted server more easily. There are web based as well as computer software based FTP clients that can be used to upload one’s files to the server computer.
Here is the overview of the process how you can create a first-hand website, assuming that you know the basic web languages and website essentials mentioned above.
Step 1: Setup a local working environment using IDE
In order to create and organize source files of a website, a good local working environment is important. You can create a web development environment on your computer device by installing an IDE (Integrated Development Environment). An IDE basically consists of a Text Editor, a Build Automation and a Debugger.
On the other hand, there are extended IDEs like Adobe Dreamweaver which offers a handful of other features (Ex: Server Connectivity, FTP).
Step 2: Plan and Design Your Website using Adobe Photoshop
Planning website structure and navigation system are of grave importance. First, you have to understand how you want to deliver your content. Plan how many navigation menus, how many columns or content fields, how many images you want to include and where.
The best practice is opening up Adobe Photoshop and creating a rough drawing of your web pages. You might need to make different roughs for different pages, for example, the home page, about page, contact page, service page etc.
Step 3: Codify the Design using HTML and CSS
After you have finished up making rough designs for your web pages in Adobe Photoshop, you can start writing the source codes.
This is the easiest part. Make HTML markups for the web elements you wanted to include and use CSS to decorate them according to the designs you made.
Only HTML and CSS based websites don’t exist in modern days because front-end user interactions cannot be controlled through HTML or CSS.
Step 5: Upload Local Files to the Server using FTP Client
The final step is uploading all your source files to the web server. The best and easiest way of handling it is through an FTP client.
First, download an FTP client on your computer device and connect it to your web server using an FTP account. After you have successfully connected it to the FTP account, copy all your local files to the root of your web directory.
Method #2: Creating a website with content management system (CMS)
Basic Operation of Computer and Internet (Better if you know the basics of HTML, CSS and PHP)
A CMS or a Content Management System is built so tactically that it fits first-day-at-work beginners to experienced web developers. It is a software application that makes it easy to create and manage online contents. Most of them are open-source and free to use.
If you know the basics of HTML, CSS or PHP, it is advantageous for you. It is not a big problem if you don’t know because these platforms are very much intuitive. Here are top three free choices of CMS platforms you can choose according to your need.
|Usage||311,682 million||26,474 million||31,216 million|
|Pros||Customizable, easy to use, tons of learning resources, excellent community & support||Easy to learn, great help portal, can be used for social networks, updates integrate seamlessly, more built-in options||More technically advanced, websites generally perform better, enterprise-level security|
|Cons||Needs code for major visual customizations, updates may cause issues with plugins||Modules are hard to maintain, middle-ground CMS (not as easy as WordPress, not as advanced as Drupal)||Users need basic knowledge of HTML, PHP, and other web development languages|
To learn more, check out: Top CMS compared (2017) – WordPress vs Joomla vs Drupal
WordPress, according to various statistics, is being used in the maximum number of blogs and small to medium sized websites. Nevertheless, many mighty big websites do prefer WordPress for its simplicity. WYSIWYG Editor is the only thing you need to learn in order to land your first content.
This platform is institutional for the beginners as well as heavily develop-able by different classes of web developers. It has many free plugins and themes on their own repository. For its being the #1 CMS choice, plenty of third party resources are available on the side.
- We talk about building a blog from scratch using WordPress in this guide.
- You can try this CMS out for free at WordPress.com; or download the CMS from WordPress.org.
- For those who are ready to jump in, here are the top WordPress hosting companies we recommend.
- Sites created using WordPress: Forbes, Tech Crunch, Sony
Joomla is similar to WordPress in many ways. It is also easy to use, easy to install, and can easily be expanded with the help of modules – the equivalent of WordPress plugins. As a result, it is the second-best options for beginners.
However, beginners might be more intimidated to explore Joomla because of the number of available options. In addition to the left menu, there is also a menu on the top bar right above the “Control Panel” logo. To avoid confusion, remember that some of the items from the left and top bar menus are similar, including “Content,” “Users,” and “Extensions.”
Just like WordPress, Joomla has some styles and templates that can quickly give your site a distinctive look. But out of all three content management systems, Joomla offers the easiest solution when it comes to creating a social network. With platforms like EasySocial and JomSocial, you are just minutes away from your very own social networking website.
- Download and try Joomla for free here.
- Sites created using Joomla: Lipton, Linux, Harvard University
Experienced web developers attest that Drupal is the most powerful CMS.
However, it is also the most difficult to use. Due to its flexibility, Drupal is the second most-used CMS in the world, but it is not a favorite amongst beginners. To successfully build a “complete” website using Drupal, you need to get your hands dirty and learn the basics of coding. Knowing your way around the CMS is also challenging for beginners.
- Download and try Drupal for free here.
- Sites created using Drupal: Tesla, Warner Bros. Records, University of Oxford
Method #3: Creating a website with site builders
Basic Operation of Computer and Internet
Site builders have made it effortless and instant to setup a website. Without knowledge of web languages, one can launch his full-featured website in a matter of minutes. They offer Drag & Drop website builders which require zero coding knowledge.
There are many site builders scattered over the internet – Disha covered 26 free site builders in this blogpost; but not all of them can satisfy the needs.
The following three are the most-talked and potential website builders you can use.
Wix is one of the easiest site builders in the market that features 500+ fully-customize-able templates sorted under various categories. So it is pretty much sure that you will find one that suits you.
They are offering a flexible Drag & Drop website editor that is always visible over the content. You can drag one item from the list and drop it anywhere on the website to add. Any visible item on it can be moved or edited.
The only drawback is that there are on-site advertisements on Wix free plan. You can get rid of it by upgrading it to their Combo plan, which sets you back at minimum $12/month.
Weebly is easier in many ways like navigation, user-friendliness. They offer hundreds of templates to choose from but personalization options might feel limited.
They have a good number of pre-designed page layouts (for example: about page, pricing page, contact page) that can be used and modified.
The Drag & Drop builder is easier to use but you are sometimes limited to the designated areas for customization. The availability of extensions and third party apps are also limited.
Squarespace offers more professional, minimal and polished templates than others, but with limited functionalities. Websites can be customized but it will feel less convenient than Wix or Weebly.
Meanwhile, the fact is that they have a great support team including live chat support who are ready to help whenever you need.
Squarespace is comparatively less intuitive than the other two. If you are a mere beginner and want to use a site builder, Wix or Weebly will ensure much easier experience.
|Free trial||14 days||14 days||30 days for annual subscriptions|
|Data transfer||Unlimited||Starts at 2 GB for the lowest paying ad-free plans (Combo).||Unlimited|
|Storage||Unlimited||Starts at 3 GB for the lowest paying ad-free plans (Combo).||Unlimited|
|Price||Lowest plan priced at $16/mo for monthly subscription; $12/mo for annual subscription.||Lowerst ad-free plan (Combo) starts at $12/mo for monthly subscription; $8.50/mo for annually subscription.||Lowest plan priced at $14/mo for monthly subscription; $8/mo for annual subscription.|
|Free domain name||Yes, for all annual subscriptions.||Only for Combo plan and above.||Yes, for all annual subscriptions.|
|SSL certification||Only for Business Plan.|
|Built-in site templates|
To learn more, please read: Top site builders compared – Wix vs Squarespace vs Weebly