Steps for getting a website established

1. Setting your budget

First thing to decide is how much you want to spend on your website, which really comes down to what you want to use your site for. 

Free / basic websites

If you just want it for your family and friends to look at, you can get away with using one of the following options to run a free website

Low cost websites for small businesses or non-profit organisation

If you are running a small business or non-profit organisation you will most likely want to keep your budget reasonably low.  And you don't want to spend money every time you want to make a change to the content of your site.  And you probably want to a reasonably simple website without too much whizz-bang functionality.  This is where we can help you.

Higher cost / complex websites

If you are a larger business, your needs for your website will be much more demanding.  Not only in terms of the functionality that it provides, but you will also want it to be highly available with high performance and immediately available support.  You will be willing to set a high budget for this.  Unfortunately we are not geared up to help you.

2. Deciding where you want to host your website

Using the your own ISP

Typically your Internet Service Provider (ISP) will give you a facility to create your own site.  This will be limited to a certain storage size.   You may have to use their website creation tool.   These sites typically do not allow for dynamic sites, e.g. a website that allows for functions to be added that control your website.   In essence, this option does suit well if you want a very simple site, e.g. a personal website. 

You will end up with a website address provided by your ISP, e.g. homepages.ihug.co.nz/~ron.beernink/ActorTooMany/index.htmUnless you have your own website domain name, which you can then point at the sites that you have with your ISP.  But even then, once your visitor gets to the site, they will see full address provided by the ISP.

Websites provided by services like Google

Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo all provide website content management facilities now to help you create your own website.  But pretty much like the option above, this provides limited functionality and typically restricts how you want your site to look.   On the other hand, they have the advantage that you can link into other application services that these companies provide, e.g. Google Documents. 

You will end up with a website address that reflects the service, e.g. https://sites.google.com/site/mccallumbeernink/.   It may be possible to get the service provider to use your own website domain name, but you are likely to have extra charges for this.

Subscribing to a Website Hosting Provider

This is the best option if you want to set up a more professional / commercial site.  Most hosting providers give you options for what sort of package to subscribe to.  Often the starter package will suit, which should give you sufficient storage space for an average site, plus the ability to install your own website content management software.   These hosting providers also often provide a control panel, through which you can have various software automatically installed for you, or which provide wizards for getting your website started.

This is the option we recommend.  It is up to you which hosting provider to use, but we can recommend www.openhost.co.nz who we have used for a number of sites now.  We have no affiliation with this company and only recommend them as from our experience they are reliable and very affordable.  A standard package costs as little as NZ$8 (US$6, EUR 4) per month.

3. Selecting a Website Domain Name

The domain name

A key decision is what name to use for your site.  This is often called the (Website) Domain name or URL (Unique Resource Locator).   As the name URL indicates, it has to be unique.  It obviously needs to describe what your site is about.  And you need to decide what extension to use for your site, e.g. .com, .org, .net.au. 

It is important to get it right because there is nothing worse than having to change your site name once people are familiar with it.  It also means reprinting business cards, stationary, etc.

Registering your website name

Next you will need to register your website name.  There are a large number of Domain Name Registration companies who you can do this with.  Most charge a yearly fee.  A word of warning: there are a number of companies with bad reputations for offering a very cheap deal but who make it very hard to switch to another register company.  Basic rule is "cheap is nasty".   Avoid locking yourself into a multi-year contract.  And do a search on the Internet to see if anyone has posted warnings about the company you are looking to go with.

We can recommend www.openhost.co.nz.  We have no affiliation with this company and only recommend them as from our experience they are reliable and very affordable.  They charge from NZ$30 (US$22, EUR 17) for a yearly domain name registration.

Linking your domain name to your website

Once you have registered your website domain name, you will need to link it to your actual website.  Unfortunately this is a more technical process that is difficult to explain in simple steps, particularly as it may different for each domain name registrar and website hosting provider.  It is best to look at the information that they provide.

4. Selecting a website content management framework

It used to be that you would need to know the HTML (HyperText Markup Language) code that is used to define your website content and how it looks.  Thankfully that is no longer necessary, although it sometimes useful to understand at least the basics of HTML.

Some sites give you wizards for creating your website.  This is useful for simple sites, but too limiting for most professional sites.  The better option is to have a website hosting provider and to install your own website content management framework.  It does require some technical knowledge, so therefore better to have someone (like ourselves!) do the initial install for you.  Once it is installed, it is easy to start creating the various website pages etc.

There are few popular website content management frameworks available and the good news is that they are free, because they are developed as open source software.  The popular ones are:

Name Advantages Disadvantages
Drupal
  • Huge variety of functionality. 
  • Very flexible.
  • More complex to set up and manage
Joomla
  • Somewhat easier to use.
  • Not as functionaly rich as Drupal.
Wordpress
  • Easy to use.
  • Wordpress specialises more in so-called Blog sites,although the later verions have made it into a more general website content management framework.
  • Limited functionality.

For a good comparison of these open source software packages, go to www.goodwebpractices.com

5. Useful links

The Sitewizard.com provides further useful information: