How to Start / Create Your Own Website: The Beginner's A-Z Guide
by Christopher Heng, thesitewizard.com
Although thesitewizard.com contains guides for a wide variety of issues faced by a webmaster, new or old, none of them provide a step by step A-Z guide for getting started with your website. As a result, I'm often asked by people who are absolute newcomers where they should start. Having an encyclopaedia in your hands is not much use if you don't know which articles you should read first, and which next. This tutorial attempts to fill in the gaps by providing you an overview of the web creation process from the beginning, linking to selected relevant articles on thesitewizard.com that you will need to read.
The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Starting Your Own Website
Get Your Domain Name
The first thing you need to do before anything else is to get yourself a domain name. A domain name is the name you want to give to your website. For example, the domain name of the website you're reading is "thesitewizard.com". To get a domain name, you have to pay an annual fee to a registrar for the right to use that name. Getting a name does not get you a website or anything like that. It's just a name. It's sort of like registering a business name in the brick-and-mortar world; having that business name does not mean that you also have the shop premises to go with the name.
Detailed information on getting a good domain name can be found in the article Tips on Choosing a Good Domain Name.
After you read that, you will need to know the steps to registering a domain name and the things you need to look out for when registering. You can find a detailed guide in the article How to Register Your Own Domain Name.
Choose a Web Host and Sign Up for an Account
A web host is basically a company that has many computers connected to the Internet. When you place your web pages on their computers, everyone in the world will be able to connect to it and view them. You will need to sign up for an account with a web host so that your website has a home. If getting a domain name is analogous to getting a business name in the brick-and-mortar world, getting a web hosting account is analogous to renting office premises for your business.
There are many issues involved in finding a good web host. Read up on the various things you need to look for in searching for a good web host in the article How to Choose a Web Host.
After you have an idea of what to look for, you can search for one from the Budget Web Hosting page. You can also find out which web host I'm currently using from the Which Web Host Do You Recommend? page.
Designing your Web Pages
Once you have your domain name and web host, your next step will be to design the web site itself. In this article, I will assume that you will be doing this yourself. If you are using a third party web designer to do it for you, you can probably skip this step.
Although there are many considerations in web design, as a beginner, your first step is to actually get something out onto the web. The fine-tuning can come after you've figured out how to get a basic web page onto your site. One way is to use a WYSIWYG web editor to do it. There are many commercial and free web editors around. If you don't mind spending money on a commercial web editor, one of the most highly-regarded WYSIWYG web editors is Dreamweaver. Thesitewizard.com has a tutorial on how you can use Dreamweaver to create your website: Dreamweaver Tutorial: How to Create a Website with Dreamweaver CS3.
If you prefer to use free software, you can find a complete tutorial on using KompoZer, a free WYSIWYG web editor, in the article How to Design and Publish Your Website with KompoZer. The tutorial takes you through the steps to creating a website that has a home page, an about page, a site map, a links page and a feedback form. It also teaches you some of the basic features of the KompoZer software so that you can go on improving and updating your website on your own.
There are many other web design software around. If you prefer not to use either of the above, you can find some others listed on thefreecountry.com's Free HTML Editors and WYSIWYG Web Editors page.
After you have followed my tutorial, and are on the way to designing your website, you might want to read the article Appearance, Usability and Search Engine Visibility in Web Design as well. The article takes a brief look at some of the real world issues that every web designer must deal with.
An integral part of web design is search engine readiness. Search engine promotion does not start after the web site is made. It starts at the web design stage. The article 6 Tips on How to Create a Search Engine Friendly Website is a must-read. My article on How to Improve Your Search Engine Ranking on Google is also important for the simple reason that Google is the most important search engine around, at least at the time this article was written.
There are many other issues regarding the design of web pages. The above will get you started. However, if you have the time after you get something out onto the web, you may want to read my other articles on Web Design and Website Promotion and Search Engine Ranking.
Testing Your Website
Although I list this step separately, this should be done throughout your web design cycle. I list it separately to give it a little more prominence, since too few new webmasters actually perform this step adequately.
You will need to test your web pages as you design them in the major browsers: Internet Explorer 7, Internet Explorer 6, the latest versions of Firefox, Opera and Safari. Since all these browsers are free anyway, it should not be any hardship to get them and install them. The trick however, is testing with two versions of Internet Explorer since the later version will overwrite the earlier. For that, please see the article How to Check Your Website with Multiple Browsers on a Single Machine (Cross-Browser Compatibility Checking). Although there are two possible ways given in the article, I suggest that you take use the emulator/virtual machine method to do this. (It's probably easier.) Read the article to find out more.
One way to improve your chances that your website will work in future versions of the web browsers is to make sure your web pages' code validate as correct. You can read more about this in HTML and CSS Validation: Should You Validate Your Web Page? There are numerous free web page validators listed on the Free HTML Validators, Broken Link Checkers, Browser Compatibility Checkers page.
Collecting Credit Card Information, Making Money
If you are selling products or services, you will need some way to collect credit card information. You should read up on How to Accept Credit Cards on Your Website.
If you need advertisers for your website, you might want to read How to Make Money From Your Website and the follow-up article How to Increase Your Website Revenue from Affiliate Programs. A list of advertisers and affiliate programs can be found on Affiliate Programs: Free Sponsors and Advertisers. These companies are on the constant lookout for new web publishers to display their advertisements.
Getting Your Site Noticed
When your site is ready, you will need to submit your site to the search engines, particularly Google. You can find the Google submission page by clicking on the "About Google" link on Google, and then locating the "Submit your content to Google" link on the page that appears. However, submitting your site to Google alone is, quite frankly, a pointless endeavour. If there are no other links to your site on the web, Google will be appear most reluctant to index your site and show results that include your pages. If there are many other links to your site, you don't even have to bother to submit it to Google - it will find your site by itself.
This is where promoting your website is important. This involves many things, including the usual way people did things before the Internet: advertisements in the newspapers, word-of-mouth, etc. You might want to consider advertising on places like Yahoo! (which puts your ads on Yahoo!, AltaVista and CNN), Ask (which puts your ads on Ask, Excite, Match.com, Gifts.com, etc) or Google. As discussed in my article More Tips on Google Search Engine Results Placement, ads can be a quick way to get onto the first page of a search engine's results page.
There are also Less Obvious Ways of Promoting Your Website, which you might want to consider.
Naturally the above guide is not exhaustive. It is a distillation of some of the basic steps to getting started with your site. If you want more information, you should read the other articles on thesitewizard.com. However, the above tutorial should get you started in putting your website onto the Internet.
Copyright 2006-2008 by Christopher Heng. All rights reserved.
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