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Assuming you’ve named your business, chosen a corresponding domain name, settled on brand colors, and have established a legal and financial foundation as learned in Chapter 1, you are ready to move on to Chapter 2 of our How to Make Your Own Website series. In this chapter, you’ll decide on a website host and platform to power your online business.
In a Hurry? Use a Website Builder With Hosting Included
Recently there’s been growth in bundled services that offer you an easy to use platform that includes hosting of your website (i.e. keeps it live on the internet so your visitors can see it). While these don’t give you as much flexibility as hosting yourself, and are not necessarily recommended for large businesses with lots of web traffic, they can be a good starting point for a new business owner. These services try to make things as easy as possible for you. But, if your online business grows significantly in the future, you may wish to transition to self hosting down the road which will require a careful migration plan. Without further ado, here are some of the top website builder services on the market today:
If you have time on your hands and want to maintain more control and flexibility of your website from the get-go, you can skip the website builder article and continue reading. The first thing you’ll want to do is pick out a good hosting provider.
Phase 1: Choose a Website Host
Let’s walk through choosing a hosting provider that is both affordable and reliable.
How Does Website Hosting Work?
A website host provides the hardware that will “host” the files necessary to display your site on the internet. Your domain name registrar, discussed in the previous chapter, will point what’s called a DNS (Domain Name Service) record to your hosting provider, which will in effect “associate” your domain name with your files, enabling your visitors to see your site in their web browser.
There Are So Many Hosts, Which To Choose?
The hosting business is lucrative and there are literally thousands of hosting providers fighting for your business. Choosing a web host is one of the most important decisions you’ll make regarding your online business. The reliability of your host determines whether your website stays online, and therefore whether your visitors can access it. It took us years and probably a dozen hosts before we learned what to look for in a hosting provider. We break all this down in our article comparing the best hosting companies:
Within the article you’ll also find a comparison table that breaks down providers by features, price, and reliability criteria.
Phase 2: Decide on a Website Platform
Once you’ve chosen a reliable host, the next important decision to make is the platform you wish to power your site. In the early days of the Internet, web pages were created using simply HTML (HyperText Markup Language) files. These files contained instructions that your web browser would follow in order to display copy, links and images on pages. As the internet has evolved, websites have gotten more complex, programming languages and databases have gotten involved, which allow for dynamic content (such as audio and video) to display on pages, as well as operations to be performed on massive amounts of data. This has enabled large e-commerce sites to run efficiently with a diverse number of products.
We’ll show you the most popular website platforms, how to install them, and which one might be the best fit for your business needs. The open source movement has given business owners everywhere access to free and powerful website platforms that are updated frequently and supported by large communities of developers. We show you the most popular ones, and how to configure them for your unique needs:
Phase 3: Make it Look Good!
Fortunately, making your website look good is a lot easier than it used to be. Back in the day, web design involved hiring a graphic designer and having them work with a web developer to turn your design into a website layout that wouldn’t fall apart the second a visitor showed up. This often took many iterations with budgets that spiraled out of control and missed deadlines. Additionally, you would need to get the layout to look the same in half a dozen different web browsers (i.e. browser compatibility testing on Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome, etc.), and make further changes every time a browser updated their coding requirements. Fortunately, the day has arrived where inexpensive themes (i.e. web templates) are available and are updated automatically to be compatible with all the primary web browsers out-of-the-box for all the website platforms we discussed above. The task that remains is to select a theme that you not only like, but that gets good user feedback, too. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of template providers, and not all of them release great templates. For this reason, we review the top providers so you can be confident in your theme selection:
The article includes a comparison table where you can review template providers based on features, reputation, and pricing. For those with larger budgets who wish to create a completely unique experience for their visitors, you still have the option of finding a dedicated designer and developer to create a custom theme based on the web platform of your choosing.
If you are looking for the easiest template solution:
If you are working with WordPress and only want to see those options:
- Naming and Branding Your Own Website
- Build Your Website: Hosting, Platform, and Design (Current Chapter)
- Website Optimization: Security, Backup, and Experience
- Website Marketing: How to Get Traffic to Your Website
- How to Monetize Your Website
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