Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I'd Like a Website -- Now What (Part Two)

Editor's Note: This is a continuation of Patrick Hester's column on websites from Monday, March 20. 


By Patrick Hester

Registering a Domain  

There are a lot of places where you can register your domain name that can be independent of where you host your website – remember how I said the two are different? These places are called ‘Registrars’.

Here are some examples of where you can search for and register your domain and the cost as of this writing (presented in no particular order of preference):

·       Go Daddy: https://www.godaddy.com/
o   $2.99 – $11.99 per year depending on what you want
·       BlueHost https://www.bluehost.com/
o   FREE domain registration when you sign up for webhosting
§  BlueHost says in the fine print you retain ownership of your domain name until/unless it expires and you choose not to renew it
·       Register.com https://www.register.com//
o   $5 per year or more based on the services you choose
·       Google Domains https://domains.google
o   $12 per year or more based on the services you choose

This is a simple cross section of some of the options out there. There are A LOT more. Many of these companies offer to bundle your domain registration with the hosting of your website, enticing you with discounts and deals if you do so. Before you sign up for one of these, consider how you are going to build your website and the software you’re going to use. More on that in a moment.

Your domain registration is usually good for one year, but you can purchase more than one year at a time in order to enjoy various discounts being offered. PPW’s fearless leader, JT Evans, went ahead and registered his domain for 10 years!

It’s important to note that you will have to renew your domain name eventually or your website will vanish from the Internet (even though your hosting with all your pages, posts, etc. is still there). There’s a grace period offered by most registrars that allows you to renew your domain name and turn everything back on should it expire. At the end of that grace period, your domain name will come up for grabs and anyone can purchase it.

NOTE: At this point, it can become very difficult and costly to you to get your domain name back. Make a point to remind yourself of when your domain name expires – put it on your electronic calendar, write it on a post-it, whatever works best for you. The registrar will also email you months in advance of the expiration date, so make sure email from them doesn’t go directly into your spam or junk folders.

ANOTHER NOTE: When it comes to registering domains, the registrar will require personal information about you like your real name, address, phone number, etc. There are some international laws (ICANN) governing how domain names work that require them to gather this information. Unfortunately, that information also goes into a public record archive about domain names. If you don’t want any Joe or Jane to be able to find that information about you, you can do an add-on to your registration to add a privacy layer. This will hide your information from public view, but keep it associated with your domain per the international laws to allow rapid resolution of technical problems and to permit enforcement of consumer protection, trademark, and other laws.

Web Hosting

Once you have your domain name registered, you need web hosting for everything that makes up the site itself. Companies charge a monthly fee for this and usually will give deep discounts if you pay in advance quarterly or yearly. I’ve seen hosting for as little as $2.99 a month, and as much as $300 a month, depending on what you want.

Think of hosting as the space where everything that makes your website up will live. Most of the discount hosting out there is what we call ‘shared hosting’. The host has a giant space and has cut it up into sections and rents out those sections to each person who wants a website. The sections have walls between them so you can’t see their stuff and they can’t see yours. But if someone else gets a sudden influx of traffic to their area, yours can suffer and your website might become slow or even not show up when people come to it. This is rare, but it can happen and is worth mentioning.

Dedicated hosting is expensive, and most everyone ends up using the shared hosting until or unless they become famous and have a lot of traffic coming to their website.

Some examples of web hosting companies and the cost as of this writing (presented in no particular order of preference):

·       BlueHost - https://www.bluehost.com/shared
o   Starting around $3.95 a month with discounts for pre-purchasing for set terms
·       HostGator - http://www.hostgator.com/web-hosting
o   Starting around $3.95 a month with discounts for pre-purchasing for set terms
o   Starting around $3.99 a month with discounts for pre-purchasing for set terms

Your webhost will give you a set of numbers and/or letters, sometimes more than one – these are called ‘named servers’. You take them to the site where you registered your domain, login to your account, and type that into a specific spot. Boom. Your website and domain name are connected, and your site will appear when you go to your domain name in a web browser.

Usually, your webhost also has an area where you can setup email addresses and then access that email through your phone, desktop client and web interface.

CMS – Content Management Software

Every web hosting company worth their snuff will include access to software you can use to build your website and/or blog. Some, like Blue Host listed above, specialize and offer support and services dedicated to specific CMS. For Blue Host, it’s Wordpress. Now, I talked about Wordpress.com above, but in this case, I’m talking about Wordpress.org.

When looking at CMS software, the leader comes from Wordpress.org. Wordpress is split into two projects - .com and .org. The .com is the paid side where you can setup a blog using their domain and pay for extras as I described above. The .org is where you can download Wordpress – the blogging software – for free and install it on your webhost. You then have access to everything that is out there and being developed for Wordpress, including tens of thousands (if not millions) of design templates, plugins and widgets. These come in free and paid versions, and are designed to make it easy for you to setup your site quickly and easily.

Blue Host features a ‘one click’ install of Wordpress, taking away all of the heavy lifting. Other webhosts have adopted this approach and usually have some sort of quick and easy installation of Wordpress that doesn’t require you to do much more than click a link – which is great.

I’m an unabashed fan of Wordpress, which you’ve probably figured out by now. I think it’s easy to install, easy to use and maintain. It comes very search engine friendly out of the box, and with a plugin like the free version of Yoast, you can amp of how easily your site works with the search engines by answering some questions and filling in the blanks.

That doesn’t mean Wordpress is the only horse in town. There are plenty of others. Some are more complicated than others.

Here’s a quick list of some of the options out there you can install and use for free:

·       Wordpress.org - https://wordpress.org/
·       Drupal - https://www.drupal.org/
·       Joomla - https://www.joomla.org/

If you have published works out there, you need a website. When someone reads your stuff, more likely than not they’re going to want to look you up online and see what else of yours is out there. Not finding you is bad, and can turn readers – especially young readers – off and make them look elsewhere.

Having a website is much easier today than ever before. If you’re at the point where you think you need a website but aren’t sure – maybe you don’t have anything published yet – sit down and figure out why you think you’re ready and what you think you need from a website. Make a list. Then take a look at what it’ll cost you not only in money, but time and effort. If the benefits outweigh the costs, then it’s time to take the plunge.


About the Author: Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and two-time Hugo Award Winner. He lives in Colorado, writes science fiction and fantasy, and can usually be found hanging out on his Twitter feed - @atfmb. His novel, SAMANTHA KANE: INTO THE FIRE is available at all major retailers. His short fiction can be found in the anthologies Space Battles: Full-Throttle Space Tales #6 and An Uncommon Collection, as well as the eBooks Conversations with my Cat, Witchcraft & Satyrs, Consumption, Cahill's Homecoming and Cahill's Unfinished Business. His Functional Nerds and SF Signal weekly podcasts have both been nominated for Parsec awards, and the SF Signal podcast was nominated for a 2012, 2013, and 2014 Hugo Award. His Scrivener Quick Tips articles exploded on social media and the web in 2012, and he’s been teaching writers how to use the software ever since.

1 comment:

  1. This was wonderfully informative in a straight forward manner. It was so helpful. Thank you.
    LaDonna Ockinga

    ReplyDelete