Before you jump into making a website, you first need to understand the basic terms and structure. As mentioned, there are three main pieces needed to make a website: web hosting, a domain name, and the website content.
All websites consist of files that contain your blog posts, images, and videos; this is your content. Web hosting (or your web host) is simply an account you set up with a company to “host” your content. In other words, you are paying them for the physical computer space on which to store your files and to make them available to the world on your website. The domain name is the name people use to visit your website: the www.example.com part.
Think of it this way: the Internet is a large room filled with filing cabinets; on each cabinet drawer, there is reference number. You pay your web host to provide access to one of the drawers. Your rental of that drawer and access to the room are part of your hosting plan. You provide the files that go in the drawer; this is your content. The reference number on the outside of the drawer is how you or anyone else finds those files in the huge room; this is your domain name.
After you create a website, however, you will need to DO something with your site. You will want it to be easy to update and change your content, and you want people to find your site easily. This is where a Content Management System (CMS) is nice. A CMS allows you to add, change, remove, and update your content and how your website looks easily, without having to worry about HOW it all works. To return to our filing cabinet analogy, a CMS is the hanging folders in your drawer that keep your files neat and organized; you can easily change the files inside the folders without losing the overall structure and design. The most popular (and FREE) CMS currently in use is WordPress. Once your site is up and organized, you will want to market your site so others can more easily find it. WordPress also has features that make this easy to set up and automate.
“Ok, I’m ready to create my own website! How do I get started?”
We will cover this process in 4 main steps:
- Website Hosting and Domain Registration
- WordPress Installation
- Configuring WordPress
- Promoting a Website
STEP 1: Website Hosting and Domain Registration
To begin to create a website, let’s first purchase a hosting plan and set up a domain name. We will be using the low cost web hosting company iPage to walk you through this process. All domain names on the Internet must be unique. To ensure there are no duplicates, anyone making a website must register their chosen domain name. This also means you may need to choose a different name if the one you wanted initially has already been registered. Begin by opening a browser and navigating to http://www.ipage.com; Click “Sign Up Now” to get started.
You will be registering a new domain, so begin by picking an appropriate domain name for your site. When buying web hosting services from iPage, you get a domain name free of charge, so this step won’t cost you anything (See also - iPage review). Once you have entered your desired domain name (WITHOUT the www) click on the “Check Availability” button to see if your domain name is unique.
After you have selected a domain name you like, you will need to enter your contact and payment information in the next section. Make sure you have correctly entered your email address, as the system will use it to send you a log in username and password for your account.
The next section may look confusing, but don’t worry; these are simply options and services iPage offers when you create a website. Select whichever hosting plan option works the best for you from the top drop-down box under “Purchase Information”. You can leave the other boxes all unchecked to save money; none of the additional services offered here are actually required to create a website. Once you have made your selections, complete your “Check Out.”
Once the registration process is completed, you will receive an email containing a login name and password to your hosting control panel. As mentioned above, your hosting account is the place on which your files for your website are stored, so the “hosting control panel” is how you will access those files.