After my thrashing of the all-in-one website tool Site Build It, I figured it would be a good idea to show how easy it is to set up a great-looking website with conventional hosting.
Even in this age of user-friendliness and online how-to guides, it can still be a bit overwhelming to set up your first website. It can be daunting just shopping for hosting, where you’re bombarded with all sorts of foreign terminology (eg. cPanel, mySQL, FTP, etc.) Admittedly, there is a fairly steep learning curve. But with the right guide, you can easily get a website set up and start publishing your content right away. Here are the four steps to set up a website:
- Register a domain name: The first thing to do is claim your name. Domain name registration costs around $10/year. It doesn’t really matter where you register, so just find the best price. I recommend Moniker based on their great prices ($8/year for .com).
- Find a web host: You’ll want to make sure you find a good host. Hosting is very important and is your main expense. I recommend HostGator—they’re a solid company and their hosting has all the features you’ll need at great prices for both single and unlimited domain accounts (in case you ever decide to create more websites). Once you have an account set up for your domain, move on to step 3.
- Point the domain at your host: Your host will give you at least 2 nameserver addresses (e.g., ns1.hostname.com and ns2.hostname.com). Log in at your domain registrar and paste the nameservers from your host into the nameserver (DNS) records. This points your domain name to your host where your website will be. It can take as long as 72 hours for domain propagation, so don’t panic if your domain name doesn’t take you to your host right away.
- Build your site: Now that the groundwork is complete, you can start building your site. To begin, briefly familiarize yourself with the basics of cPanel (the video tutorials and help pages are excellent). There are a lot of things to play with, but you really might only use a handful: Softaculous/Fantastico, File Manager, Backups, FTP accounts, and MX records (for using Google Apps). When you’re ready to create the actual public website, open an installer such as Softaculous or Fantastico. If you want a blog or a content site, go with WordPress; for forums, try phpBB. (You can even test drive applications to get a feel for them.) By using an application, you’ll never have to write any HTML source code! Fill out the required information and let Fantastico work it’s magic. That’s it: your site is now live. Log in to the application and start creating your content.
With these four simple steps, you can create a website within hours. From here on out, the going is much easier. Popular applications like WordPress are very easy to use and learn, with a wealth of documentation to help you with anything you can’t figure out on your own. By using themes and plugins, you can create an amazing website—customized to your preferences—with minimal effort and without any experience (or extra costs)!
Publishing your ideas on the web is easy, cheap and rewarding. There are still countless opportunities on the web—for profit, fame or disseminating information. I often have trouble finding information on the web and find myself thinking, “here’s a niche website opportunity.” And as you know, the web evolves at a breakneck pace—who knows what new opportunities will open up? More and more people are using the internet each year. Better to be ahead of the game than to be a latecomer and miss out. If you can’t justify spending any money yet, check out Blogger or WordPress.com to start a free blog—you even buy a domain and have them host it for a small fee. There are no good excuses not to own a website. So get started right now—I could use some help challenging the mass delusions of our time!
Updated: Feb 17, 2010