As far as I know, mechanics are wizards and they use magic to fix my jeep.
I don’t know the first thing about engines or what a clean air filter really looks like. I am required to trust due to my lack of knowledge.
I imagine the feeling is very similar for anyone looking to build a website that isn’t in the industry. Where do I begin? What is a website and how does it work? Do I need to hire someone? These are just a few sample questions that millions of people ask themselves every day.
We’ve put together a list of seven essentials that we believe you must know to confidently create a website.
1. What Exactly is a Website?
A website, in the smallest nutshell, is a collection of files.
Most of us are familiar with different file types. “.doc” files are Microsoft Word files, “.pdf” files are generally documents, “.jpeg” files are images. Each of these files contains information that is formatted in a specific manner. That way, programs can know how to open them and handle them correctly.
HTML – HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is the skeleton of any website. This is where the content lives. Every piece of content is categorized with different “tags” to tell your browser how to display them. HTML gives structure to websites.
CSS – CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is the language with which we style websites. This is where those tags come into play and styles are given for them. For instance, I can say that any text with the tag “red” becomes red, and I can say that anything with “middle” goes in the middle (like the picture above). This can be both the beauty and bane of web designers everywhere.
2. What is a Domain Name?
A picture is worth a thousand words.
A domain is the address of a website. Well, more specifically, it’s a sort of nickname for a website’s address. Websites’ addresses are really IP (Internet Protocol) addresses. If you’re not familiar with these, they are a series of numbers that make it easier for a computer to locate things. You can actually still use IP addresses to get to websites.
For instance, instead of going to https://www.google.com, you can go to http://188.8.131.52/.
So that we don’t have to remember a series of numbers to get to any website, domain names were created. If you’re going to a friend’s house for the first time, you ask for their address. They hopefully won’t respond with a longitude and latitude location of their home. Though still correct, it wouldn’t help you out at all. Instead, they give you something that is easy for humans to use, a street address.
Though a bit more advanced, it is worth noting that there are sections to a domain name as well. Reference the figure above.
The Top Level Domain (TLD) is the “.com”, “.us”, or any of the common variations.
The Second Level Domain (SLD) is what most of us think of when we think domains.
The subdomain is the “www” portion, and that part is a bit out of the scope of this list.
3. How to Buy a Domain Name
There are a number of services that are available online to buy domains, and they are generally purchased for a given amount of time (e.g., 2 years). To find these services, simply search for “purchase a domain” in any popular search engine. I highly recommend that you shop around to find the best price as not all of these services offer the same rate for a given domain.
(Include us in your search! We now offer hosting services through a partner, checkout our store for current low prices)
It’s worth noting that some domains will be more expensive than others (based on demand).
4. How to Host a Website
Once you purchase a domain name, you need to put it somewhere and tie it to an IP address. The web host puts your website onto one of their servers that are connected to the Internet so that your site can be accessed worldwide.
If you need to access a file on your computer, you open up your file explorer and select the file. Now, what if you need to open a file on a different computer? Well, those computers would have to be connected with some kind of network, say a wireless network. The internet is the largest network in the world, and millions upon millions of computers are connected via this network.
Hosting services connect your website to the internet via their servers, and just like a domain name, this service is not free.
There are many providers out there for hosting as well. Many companies that offer domain name purchases (like us) also offer hosting services. I highly recommend you shop around for hosting services, and really look at what you’d be getting with each plan.
Note: You do NOT have to host your website with the same company where you purchased your domain name.
5. Do You Need to Hire a Professional?
Short answer . . . not necessarily, but you should ask yourself why you are creating a website. There are plenty of software programs out there that allow people to create websites with zero coding experience. Some are drag-and-drop page builders that let you create a website with a Graphical User Interface (GUI), while others are premade templates where the user simply fills in the content.
These are great for individuals who might just be looking to have a resume page, a simple blog, or a simple website.
There are a few downsides to these programs. Template websites are generally recognizable as such, and they don’t allow for much customization unless you know how to code. Drag-and-drop builders can be prone to bugs, and these bugs can cause a lot of frustration for the website owner.
If you are looking to build a professional website, then I recommend hiring a professional web developer. Many of our previous clients have tried the above methods and either quickly scaled past their use or ended up with a broken website. It’s much cheaper and easier to begin your web process with a web developer than to try to cut corners and end up needing more assistance.
Again, it’s important to ask yourself why you are building a website in the first place.
6. How to Find a Website Developer
First things first: Beware of scammers.
In general, if you have received an unsolicited email from an unfamiliar source, think twice before opening it. If you have received an email promising you an amazing website at an unbelievable price, then it’s probably too good to be true.
Another warning: Use caution with overseas developers.
Many overseas companies specialize in website development. Just like manufacturing, overseas counterparts are generally much cheaper than those here in the USA. This is where the old saying “you get what you pay for” comes in. While there are reputable overseas companies, a good chunk of the websites we have had to fix have involved these web developers.
One good way to find a developer is to look for websites in your industry that you like, and when you find one, scroll all the way down the bottom of the page. This is what is called the “footer”, and often web development companies will put a little mark on there, giving themselves credit for the site.
You can also use search engines to find highly rated local companies. While it’s not necessary to be closely geographically located, it sure doesn’t hurt to have the ability to sit down face-to-face when going over ideas and designs.
Finally, I recommend that you simply ask around. You may be surprised to find out how many people around you know a good, reputable website developer.
7. What is a CMS?
CMS stands for Content Management System. As the name implies, it’s a way for you to manage your website’s content. While many CMS programs exist, WordPress is by and large the most used and most supported. WordPress dominates the CMS game.
WordPress has a dashboard that allows users to change the layout (theme) of their site, add software tools (called plugins), add/remove menus and pages, etc. The WordPress CMS gives users complete control over their content. Think of it like a Social Media interface. Want to add a post? Easy, just click “Add New” under posts. Want to delete a picture? Also easy, just go to your Media page and delete the one you want.
WordPress bridges the gap between programmers and clients who want to control their site. It still allows web developers the freedom to customize anything and everything, while at the same time providing a very simple user-interface for clients.
We almost exclusively build WordPress sites for our clients.
Unless you’re familiar with the ins and outs of websites, I recommend WordPress every time.
We can help you
DivDev offers solutions for each of the steps we discussed. If you need assistance with anything, we’d love to help. Just click here to fill out a short, simple form to start the process. We hope you found this information helpful. Feel free to share this article using the links below.
If you have any questions we didn’t hit, or you’d like to see answered, ask away in the comments.
Good luck with your endeavor!