Websites 101: Do You Know What You’re Paying For?
Domain names, web hosting, how to build a website... Confused? You're not alone!
There’s a lot of confusion among personal historians and the general public about the basics of setting up a website. The confusion is understandable: when one tries to set up a website for the first time, there is a dizzying array of options. It seems as though website companies deliberately make their purchasing process as confusing as possible so uninformed consumers will buy more than they need.
In this article, I’ll teach you the basics you need before you build a website, hire a designer, or signup for webhosting. Even if you already have a website, these fundamentals will help you make intelligent decisions next time you revamp your site or renew your hosting.
Confusion led this client to costly mistakes
One of my clients, Tish, had tried to set up her own blog months before and didn’t get far before the demands of everyday life caught up with her. Being a lawyer, business owner and mother left her little time to learn about websites, domain names and web hosting. By the time she called me for help, she thought she had everything she needed to get on the web.
When I looked at her account with her hosting company, it took a while to untangle and decipher just what she had been sold. I was astounded by what I found. This educated, intelligent woman got so confused in the obfuscation of the sign-up process that she paid for many things she didn’t need but lacked the basics to get her website up and running!
Buying a website is like buying a car
Many people are good at using the internet, but don’t know how it works. It’s like knowing how to drive a car, but having no clue how the engine works. Before you invest in a website, buy a car or make any other big purchase, it’s good to educate yourself about what you are buying.
Before investing in a website, educate yourself by knowing the basics:
Website Building Options
A domain name is a name that is purchased and serves as the address for a website. Traditionally domain names end with a .com or some other short extension such as .org or .net. There is a plethora of extensions these days such as .io, .co, and .club. Most people remember .com the best, so always get a domain name that ends in .com if possible.
Domain names can be purchased from independent domain registrars or webhosting companies such as GoDaddy. I highly recommend Hover.com, because they are good at what they do and don’t try to sell me anything I don’t need. It’s a good idea to purchase a domain name for your business before you are ready for a website, so no one beats you to it. Domain names typically cost $10-$20 per year.
This is a common and inexpensive way to host a site. This is typically what small businesses start out with. The low prices are attractive, starting as low as $2.99/month for the first year. As the name implies, with shared hosting, many websites “share” a server, which can slow the speed of your website considerably.
I’ve been happily using Web Hosting Hub for many years with no problems at all. Other highly regarded hosting companies include InMotion and Siteground.
Website Building Options
There are many ways to build a website. You may have heard of WordPress, Wix or Squarespace. They are all examples of systems used to make websites. WordPress is a content management system that powers over 25% of all the websites on the internet. That’s a lot of websites! Most small business websites are made with WordPress these days.
It is certainly possible to build your own website. Many hosting companies include WordPress and “website builders” which make it possible to build a website without knowing any code.
Building our own website using WordPress
You can get a nice overview of WordPress by taking the Lynda.com course WordPress Essential Training. In it, they explain the basics of what a theme is, how to choose one, and how to manage a site. The course only takes 5 1/2 hours so if you are motivated, this is a great way to learn about WordPress.
However, be prepared for hours of pulling your hair out trying to figure out why something doesn’t work. I did. Over and over and over again. If you plan to build a lot of websites, then it's worth it. If you just want to build one, it may be a lot more work than you were expecting.
Building a website using a website builder
Wix, Weebly and Squarespace are examples of “website builders” designed for Do-It-Yourselfers. These companies wrap the domain name, web hosting and building of the site all into one package, with a monthly fee. Some of these sites look great, but some of them look, well, homemade. My main objections to these website builders are that the websites are not portable (you can’t host it anywhere else), you do not have as many options as with WordPress, and if the company goes under, so does your website!
Hiring someone to build your website
If you believe in the mantra “Do what you do well and hire specialists to do the rest”, then your time and money are probably best spent hiring someone else to build your website. Prices vary greatly depending on who you hire.
Freelancers off the internet
You may find someone on a freelancing website like Upwork who will build your site for $500. Beware—you get what you pay for! Horror stories abound of people hiring designers only to have them go AWOL during the project. Sometimes it’s done so poorly, the whole thing has to be redone from scratch by the next designer.
You could hire an agency to build your site, but they typically serve bigger businesses with bigger budgets. For example, this project quote calculator at http://www.webpagefx.com/How-much-should-web-site-cost.html estimates that a website similar to this one made with WordPress would cost between $10,000 and $16,000. Yikes!
Hire a small business owner like yourself
The best case scenario is to hire someone you know or who is recommended by a trusted source. You want someone who is experienced, trustworthy and has a connection with you. You want someone who will stand by their work and not disappear, because their reputation in the community is on the line.
As you can see, there’s a lot to know when you decide to have a website of your own. Hopefully, armed with knowing the basics will help you make wise choices the next time you want to upgrade your website, change hosting providers, or get a fresh new name for your business.
Are you looking for someone who knows the personal history business to help you with your website?
Contact me today and let's talk!