Building a website can seem overwhelmingly complicated, but it does not have to be. Using the right tools, you can create a basic website in a few hours. Depending on your goals and how popular your website becomes, you could spend a few minutes every week managing and updating it, or you could devote several hours per day. The key to a successful website is planning and organizing the information you publish to make it easy for your readers to find.
Set Up the Back End
Decide on a domain name and get it registered. The domain name is your website's unique address on the Web. The domain name "ehow.com" is the Web address for the site eHow. Brainstorm a list of five to ten names for your website and possible domains for each name. You might use "greatgardeningtips.com" or "great-gardening-tips.com" as a domain name if you want to name your website "Great Gardening Tips." Research available domains once you have a few ideas ready. GoDaddy.com is a widely used domain registrar (see Resources), but you can use any registrar you like. Shop around, as prices can vary widely.
Set up a Web hosting account. You can get free website space from some Web hosts, but that's not recommended if you are building a commercial site. Most free Web hosts do not allow you to use your own domain name, and some will pepper your website with ads. Shop around for a Web host that meets your budget and support needs. The more expensive hosts often provide 24/7 live technical support, while lower-end hosts provide email support only. Look for a Web host with an up-time guarantee (backed by a solid refund policy) and an anti-spam policy. One spammer operating on a Web hosting server can get the entire server blacklisted by anti-spam groups, causing your legitimate emails to be classified as spam.
Modify the domain name service records for your new domain name. If you registered the domain name through your Web host, they may take care of this for you. If not, you will need to find out the addresses for their primary and secondary DNS (domain name system) servers. Log into the website where you registered the domain name. Follow the instructions to set up the primary and secondary DNS servers. This tells the rest of the Internet where to look for your website. After you have set up the DNS servers, it can take up to 24 hours for your domain name to point to your Web hosting account. This is normal.
Brainstorm everything you want for your website, including any interactive features to enhance your presentation. Try to organize the features into logical groups, so visitors can easily find the information they are looking for. You may decide at this point to remove some things that just do not seem to fit well. Include a contact page if you have not done so already. Prioritize your content, especially if you have a lot of it. You do not need to have everything written before you open your website--in fact, it's a good idea to slowly add information over time. This keeps your website new and interesting, and encourages readers to return.
Use a content management system unless your website consists of only two or three pages. This could be as simple as a blogging system like Wordpress (see Resources), or something more complex like Drupal (see Resources). The important thing is to choose a system that includes the features you need and can be used intuitively. You should be able to quickly and easily add and edit pages to your site, and also choose themes that give your site a unified look.
Begin writing the content for your new website. You can use a word processor, then cut and paste into the content management system, or you can write directly in the content management system. Present your ideas simply and logically, and keep in mind that most website readers have a short attention span. They will not sit around to read six pages of background before getting to the information they really want to know. According to Jakob Nielsen, Web usability consultant, 79% of website readers do not actually read most of what you write, but rather they scan it, searching for the one piece of information they need.
Ongoing Website Management
Keep track of how many people are reading your website, what content they are most interested in and what they are actually searching for when they find your website. This information and more is available through free Google Analytics software. Follow the setup instructions on the Google Analytics website to post a small tracking code on each page of your website. Most content management systems have a place for you to save this tracking code and can automatically include it on each page for you. You can retrieve basic visitor reports on the Google Analytics website, where you can set up more complex filters and goals.
Check the feedback from your readers, either in the form of website comments or emails. If you have enabled comments within your content management system, check them daily. It will not take long for spammers to find your site and begin to post links to the latest herbal diet pills, work at home scams, and more. You will want to delete these links as soon as possible.
Keeping your readers interested by providing new information every time they visit. If your website never changes, readers are unlikely to return. Ideally, you should post something new on your website daily or weekly.
- Some Web hosting companies include domain name registration in the Web hosting fee, while others require you to have already registered a domain name in order to set up hosting.
- Wordpress and Drupal are both free software, but do not be put off by the lack of price tag. These systems run some of the largest websites on the Web, and are considered extremely reliable.
- You can set up your site to require users to register before they are allowed to post comments. This can discourage readers from bothering to post, so a better solution (unless your spam problem is really out of control) is to use a CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart). They are the distorted letters or numbers that you have to type in to websites in order to access certain information. They work because humans can easily interpret the distorted images, but computers cannot. Spammers use computer programs to post to tens of thousands of websites automatically.
- If your Web host offers to register a domain name for you, be sure it is registered in your name. Some unscrupulous hosts register their clients' domains in the host's name, making it impossible to change Web hosts in the future.
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