Feeling intimidated by the mystique surrounding website design? You're not alone, but with a little understanding of basic concepts, you can build and maintain a distinctive Web page that keeps visitors coming back for more. The task is entertaining--if you don't let the jargon overwhelm you--and, best of all, you won't require a high-priced designer's assistance.
Buy A Domain Name
Reserve your own domain name. Many free Web hosting sites provide one, but it'll be too long and complex for people to find you. Domain names must be 32 letters or less, including the extension--the part after the dot. The most common extensions are .org, for nonprofit sites, and .com, for commercial ones.
Register yourself as the domain name's owner, especially if someone else does the work. Otherwise, you'll be unable to point people to your new website if you switch Web hosting companies. If you create your own pages, you can register them with companies like GoDaddy, or others that you find using your computer.
Visit the registrar's website for the hosting company that you choose. Fill in the name, and click the button, to see if the proposed Web address is already taken. Once you find an available name, buy it just like you'd purchase anything else online.
Find A Web Host
Find a company to host your site on a special Web server. In theory, this can happen on your home computer. However, visitors' response times will be slower, and you'll have to be present if something goes wrong--making it extremely unwieldy and impractical.
Double-check any hosting company before committing to them. Get opinions from friends, or search online resources (see Resources). Review the company's offerings, and double-check what kind of technical support, if any, they provide.
Gather written copy for your site. Whatever the clearness of your vision, outline the basic elements, and how they may link together. Keep all copy concise--if you're trying to sell something, you must satisfy a different need than a site that's dedicated to an obscure garage band. Just remember that length is lethal on the Web.
Line up your graphics, making sure they serve your site's purpose, not the other way around. Post images as GIF, JPG or PNG files, which are the most common formats. Limit images to 750 pixels wide, for easier reading on smaller screens. For faster downloading, keep overall sizes at one megabyte or less.
Start building your site's pages, which can work two ways. If you're using a template, you'll need to do little more than copy and paste the items into a particular section. If you're building from scratch, Adobe Dreamweaver is the most common software package, but less expensive alternatives abound. Always shop around for a better deal.
- Avoid the temptation to satisfy every taste imaginable. In reality, the most often-visited sites stake out a distinctive niche, and stick with it.
- If your business is locally-based, building a website may make less sense. Instead, list yourself on a "Yellow Pages"-styled site like local.com, which breaks listings down by location.
- Creating and maintaining a website requires enormous time and energy. If you're not sure that you can invest the time, or don't want to communicate so intimately with your audience, having a Web page may not work for you.
- Steer clear of free Web hosting. Your site may suffer from an overabundance of advertising, slowness and periods of unavailability. Pay the annual fee for a proper host.