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Fundamentals of Getting Your Website Online

The process of getting a website online has never been easier and more complicated than it is now. There are so many options to help you get a site online that it can be overwhelming. One of the biggest pain points my clients have is understanding all of the moving parts that are needed to getting and keeping a site online.

This isn’t unique to new website owners, but also to those that already have an existing website. Untangling what was done to get their site online can often be an impediment to growing an existing site. Small business owners, freelancers and those in the ‘gig-economy’ that find themselves in need of an online presence beyond social media are tasked once again at wearing another hat that may not fit well with their skillset.

Being a full time web developer I will be the first to say that you don’t always need my services – which should come as a relief to those that may not be able to afford it. There are also a lot of options that automate the process and with a little effort you can get online with just a few hours of your time. There are some terms you should be aware of when setting out to get yourself online or hiring a professional. I touch on a few below; however, this is in no way an exhaustive description but should provide you with a basic understanding to some complicated terms.

The foundation for all  websites are a domain name (i.e. yourbusiness.com), and web hosting. Understanding what these are and how they relate to each other will help you build on a solid foundation. The best analogy that I’ve come up with for clients is thinking of how domain names and hosting work, is your cellphone. Albeit a simply analogy, think of a domain name as your actual phone number where people can reach you and web hosting as your cell provider (i.e. Sprint, AT&T). Hosting services refer to the place that stores your website and connects it to the internet via your domain name. Just like when some one dials your phone number your cell provider connects the caller to your cell phone.

Domain names are sold through a domain name provider. Popular choices for domain name providers are Godaddy and Network Solutions. There are actually thousands of domain name sellers, many that are actually re-sellers, but there are a lot to choose from. Best to stick a trusted top name when buying a domain name.

You should always register your domain name yourself. This is the single most important piece of advise I can pass along to clients. Owning your domain, as in registering it yourself, is crucial. Having it in your name allows you to control what you do with it, what is displayed when people type it into their browser, and gives you complete control of your website for as long as you own that domain name.

Many of the automated online website tools will sell you a domain name or include it in their price. Not the best option in my opinion but I do understand the appeal of it being easy. Not necessarily a bad option, however you should always make sure you have control over this. You should be granted a username and password to manage your account. I personally recommend you set up your domain yourself (or with the help of someone you trust) with a reputable provider. Also make sure you have access to an online control panel you can manage. Do not let your web developer or your hosting company be the registrar or owner of your domain. If you want them to help you register it for you that’s fine but make sure it is in your name, attached to your billing information. Trust me you will thank me later. It is worth the time.

Web hosting comes in many forms. A ‘web host’ is someone that maintains or has access to maintain a server that your website is stored on and served to the internet from. There are a lot of options, free and paid, when it comes to hosting a website. There are also advantages and disadvantages when it comes to choosing the right hosting company. Choosing wisely can help or hurt your website but the details of that are best left for another article or a consult. Suffice to say you do need web hosting for your website.

Once your decision to register your domain name has been made and your hosting options decided upon, be sure to keep track of your set-up information, specifically your user logins. You will need these when working with a web developer to get your site online quickly.

It can be complicated, but it shouldn’t have to be. Understanding these basic concepts and working with a developer that understands both them and your needs can make getting your project online a breeze and ensures that your existing site has a solid foundation for success.