I Can’t Build a Website


When you think of a website, what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of the television guru who will give you your very own site, so that you can become filthy rich. Maybe you think of Facebook, or watching videos on YouTube.

The most common thought that I seem to hear is the following: “I could never build one of those.” My response to that is the following…”Have you ever tried?”.

People usually respond with “No.” These are the same people who have managed to sign up for Facebook, stalk all their children, and spy on their ex-boyfriend from Middle School. They spend, on average 3 hours a day doing nothing but tagging people in photos, getting to level 110 in Mafia Wars, and forwarding useless “gifts” to everyone they know.

My point in that little rant…You will become an expert at whatever you spend the most time doing. If you will follow the directions I am going to give you, and practice them, I can show you how to get a basic website up and going in under 30 minutes.

With all that said, let us begin our education.

A website can be simplified into 3 distinct areas: The Domain Name, the Web Host/Hosting Server, and the website content. There are more pieces, but you don’t need to know more than that, at this time.

A domain name (or the website address) consists of a string of letters or numbers, and generally ends in .com, .net, or .org . Incidentally, these are known as TLD’s or “Top Level Domains”. (Note: You generally don’t want the bargains that are offered on endings like .info or .biz . If you do, more power to you.)

The domain name must be bought through a licensed registrar. Now, I don’t want to lose you here. So, I’m going to move on to the host, or hosting server.

A good web host will serve as both registrar for your domain name, and serve up your website content to visitors. I recommend Dreamhost.com for people who are just starting their own website.

Once there, you can register your domain name(they’ll let you know if the one you want is already taken.). From there, you need to choose a hosting plan. This will pay for the space that your website will occupy online, email service, along with support in case something goes wrong.

Most beginner hosting packages are anywhere from $ 8-10 a month, depending upon the host.

Once you have purchased your domain, and signed up for your hosting plan, there are two ways to put up your first website:

1. Upload and configure your site or Content Management System through FTP.
2. Use the host’s “one-click installation” feature to install WordPress, or some other type of Content Management System (CMS).

Now I am going to explain both methods to you.

Up front, path 1 is quite a bit harder than path 2, and will require you to invest some time in learning how to use different technologies.

First, you have to tell the host that you want the domain name you just bought from them hosted there. Just because you have a domain name, does not mean that they understand you want actual content on it.

Secondly, you will have to go to your MySQL database, and create a new database. Again, why I recommend Dreamhost…they provide a short wizard to do that for you. Select a password for that database.

Next, you need to download WordPress. WordPress is a Content Management System, or CMS. While it started out as “just” a blog platform, it has morphed over time into a great website creator.

In short, a CMS takes care of all that boring code that we nerds do, and allows you to write your thoughts, add pictures, and publish a webpage in a minimum of time. WordPress is the simplest one to get a grip on up front, and has a strong community to help you out if you get stuck.

Ok, so now that you have downloaded WordPress, you’ll need to get an FTP client. FTP simply stands for File Transfer Protocol. FileZilla is a free client that you can download, and I recommend it highly. Download that, and install it.

Now, check your hosting account for an FTP username and password. Each hosting provider keeps that information in a different place. Some will have a special tab for “FTP”. Once you find the username and password, open up Filezilla. There’s a section up top for the ftp address for your site, username and password. Your FTP address will be: ftp.yourdomainname.com (or whatever name you registered…that could be widgets.net, in which case it would be ftp.widgets.net).

Enter your username and password in the boxes provided. If done correctly, you should see a file structure appear on the lower, right hand side. Open up the wordpress folder, and follow the instructions to upload, exactly. There are many sites that will show you video on how to upload WordPress properly. I don’t have that luxury using this article.

Login to WordPress, and Whammo…your first website has been created. Then, begin to learn the installation of themes. I recommend paying for the Thesis Theme, as it is one of the best for customizing your site, without having to learn tons of code. If you have some time and patience, path 1 is the way to go. If not, take path 2.

Path 2 is the “one-click” WordPress install. As its name suggests, there is only one click to install WordPress. You don’t have to set up a database, or download the FTP client. You just tell it to install the software on your domain, and it does. Login, and there’s your website. Easy as pie.

The biggest problem is, not all hosts have “one-click” installs. Two of the many that do are Dreamhost, and MediaTemple(mt is quite a bit more expensive). There are other hosts who have this feature, as well. It just may take a little bit of hunting around.

Another issue is the fact that most of these installs have a limited selection of themes that you can run on their installation. Be sure they have a design you really like, before using the “one-click” process.

Now, as to what pictures to use, content to write, and how to use WordPress…I’ll leave that up to you. After all, that’s the fun of having a website in the first place.

So good luck. And if you don’t take my advice, remember me the next time you are leveling up in Mafia Wars. You could be doing something far more worthwhile.

Kurt Hartman is Head of Web Development for Mobile Fleet Service, Inc. They sell heavy equipment tyres to the mining and earthmoving communities. You can find them at http://www.buybigtires.com

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