You Know You Need a Website – Where Should You Start?
You have a fantastic business idea and you’re spreading the word about your great new venture. You’re handing out business cards to everyone you know and you’re really selling yourself on Facebook, Twitter, and a half dozen other social
media sites. Everybody knows you have a winning business idea.
After the 20th potential client asks you for your website address, you know you can’t put it off any longer. You NEED to have a web presence in this day and age. Without one, would-be customers get the impression that you aren’t serious about your business, or worse yet, that you are some fly-by-night operation that will take their money and disappear.
Where do you start?
All websites require 3 elements: A Domain Name, a Host Server and Content.
Your domain name is the online address of your website. And just like a physical home or business address, it is unique to you. No one else can have the exact same address as you. A domain name is something like www.fifthworlddesign.com or www.amazon.com or www.fbi.gov or www.hildascupcakes.com (I just made up that one).
You can purchase and register a domain name from any number of online registrars such as GoDaddy, 1and1 or HostGator. There are hundreds of registrars out there and they are all connected to the Domain Name System or DNS. As long as no one else has registered your exact domain name, it can be yours, in most cases, for under $20 a year.
Click on any of the registrars above and type in your chosen name. They will tell you instantly if your preferred name is available.
If you think of your Domain Name as your address, then your hosting server or web host would be the actual building at that address that would hold all of your possessions. Your website will be made up of dozens or hundreds of files that must be stored on the world wide web if they are to be accessed by other computers that are also connected to the web.
Unless you are a huge, multi-million dollar company, you will probably not own your own server, which has to be powerful enough to deliver or “serve up” your website files to multiple people, all over the world, at one time, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The files that make up your website will be uploaded to a hosting company that basically rents space to you on their server for a fee. Some examples of web hosts include DreamHost, Bluehost and inmotion.
Many of these hosting companies are also domain name registries, so you can purchase your domain name and rent your server space from the same place, which makes things a bit easier, but it’s not absolutely necessary. A domain name registered with one hosting provider can be “pointed” to the files hosted at a different provider. Most of the time, you can rent server space for well under $100 a year.
Great! A domain name and server space for under a hundred bucks a year! Sounds wonderful, right? It is, except for that third item - Content. This is the real cost of a website.
Ok. You have an address (your domain name) and a house (your hosting server). Now you need stuff to put in your house at your address. Content is your furniture, decor, appliances - all of the things in your house that make it yours. If there’s nothing in your house, there’s no point in going there. Or if the house is messy, disorganized and ugly, and all of the appliances are broken, no one will want to go there.
So, how much will it cost to create and design the content for your site? That’s like asking how much does it cost to furnish a home. You can get free stuff from a dumpster or from a generous family member or friend, but you really can’t be choosy about what they give you. You can also spend $10,000 for a built-in swimming pool, but is it worth it if you never use it?
There are plenty of “d0-it-yourself” website builders out there such as wix. They’re great if you have a basic knowledge of website design and need to get something up quick, like today.
Don’t be fooled though. They do have some insurmountable flaws and are never quite as free, fast and easy as advertised. If you have a very limited budget and some skill, they can be a great choice for some small start-up businesses.
Your other option is to hire a professional designer/developer. Depending on your needs, this can run anywhere from under $1000 for a 3 or 4 page site to tens of thousands of dollars for a large, multi-faceted website containing e-commerce, file-sharing or social networking platforms.
There you have it. If you need a website (and if you have any kind of business nowadays, you do), then you’ll need to purchase these three elements; a domain name, server space and content design, unless you are going to use a “free” website builder.
Have you had any experiences, good or bad, using a website builder or a professional designer or both? Which did you prefer? Tell us about it!