From freelance writers to major conglomerates, everybody has their own website. In this online century marketing can reach the most obscure places with the touch of a button. Can you imagine how places like the Vermont Country Store would have managed to advertise to a worldwide audience twenty years ago? Yet now they can receive orders from anywhere in our global village.
So here are some tips to get your own website up and running with the minimum of effort:
1. Web space. You need a domain provider to host your web space on their server. There are a number of cheap providers around, and you can usually obtain a decent amount of storage for just a few dollars a month. A Google search for web hosting will bring up a number of options and you need to look for a price within your budget, with a host that is not so small it will get overloaded if you get floods of traffic (which is what we all hope for). Once you have signed up for the package, you can choose a domain name (which may cost extra) and you then have your web space.
2. Create the website. Most people have heard of the website design program Dreamweaver, which is a good resource if you can afford the price tag. However, there are more basic programs that can create a reasonable web-page for anybody with design flair. If you have Microsoft Office installed on your machine then you are likely to have the program FrontPage. This is a basic web-page creator that will fulfill the needs of most users. You may need to be a bit creative, but, for the novice, this can be an excellent tool, and there are plenty of websites offering various resources to dress up your page. Just be aware that less is more. An overcrowded web-page can send traffic elsewhere quicker than the blink of an eye.
3. Uploading your web-page. Once you have your web space, and your finished pages, it is time to upload all the information to the server. Typically, this involves signing into your ISP account (details of which you would have been given at sign up) and logging into your web space. This is often more tricky than it sounds. Once you log in there will be a folder hierarchy and you need to place your content in the right place for it to show. The host will usually have a control panel where you first access your website and this should tell you which folder you need to use. This will be your root folder. You need to place your homepage (the first page you wish the public to see) in this folder and make sure the server knows this is the homepage (the host will usually give instructions on how to do this). Once the website address is entered into the browser the homepage is the resource that will be collected from the server. If the homepage is located in the wrong folder the server will not be able to find it and your website will not load.
4. Images and Data. You need to be aware that if you have any items like jpegs, gifs or data files that need to display as part of your pages these need to be copied across to the server separately. The page design will just place holders where pictures, or data files, are to be displayed. The server will then link the separate files into the form so they need to be on the server for them to be available. It is usual practice to set up separate folders for the pictures, or data files, within the web space, but you must ensure all links from the placeholders point to the correct directory and file. Making sure that the hyperlink for the resource correctly indicates the location of your item ensures this happens. If the links aren’t correct all the user will see is a box with a red cross in the corner. So make sure to preview the pages before you go live.
5. FTP Programs. You will need to use FTP protocols to upload your content. Although you can do this through the control panel it is often easier to upload with a separate FTP program. There are many freeware versions on the Internet so choose one that is fairly easy to use as this can get quite complicated. You need to set the destination folder in the program settings, which will be the root folder as specified earlier, and then you need to tell the program which files you want to upload to the server. Again, if you have image or data files that need to be placed elsewhere, you will need to change the destination folder.
Once all your files are in place you just need to test the domain name by typing it in your address bar, as you would any other website, and check that your web-pages show up correctly. If not then you need to check that your homepage is set properly. This can be a frustrating process so, if all else fails, most hosts have an online help-centre where you can chat to an operator via a small chat-box. They can easily guide you through the first stages to set the website up correctly. Once the domain name shows the correct web-page then you’re away.
This is just a basic outline of the process but will enable any budding webmasters to get started. Of course, nobody will find your site without a bit of help. For this you need to register with search engines (so they know you exist) and maybe do a bit of advertising if your budget stretches to this. However, these are large and in-depth subjects and need to be discussed in another article.