This may or may not be a hot topic, but I’ve been asked “Where do I start with this website stuff?” so many times – I thought I’d write a blog post about it. If you’re not using a web Developer such as myself to do your website for you, and you don’t know where to start with Domain names and hosting, then this is for you.
Disclaimer: If you’re kinda savvy and know what a host, domain name, DNS etc is then don’t continue reading, as this is BASIC 101.
So as part of this blog series, I will list a step by step guide to starting your very own website from purchasing a domain to setting up WordPress and installing a theme and your first plugins. This blog post will just concentrate on buying your Domain Name, hosting and setting up your site.
Before we start I want to explain what a Domain Name and Hosting essentially are. If you’re already savvy with these explanations, keep scrolling.
Domain Name: Your address on the World Wide Web.
Host: Where all your website files are kept on a server that the general public can access. So if you’ve installed WordPress, then what is happening is a bunch of files that WordPress consist of have been uploaded to your host (the server) that “talk” to each other via code (PHP) to make your site work the way it does. All themes and plugins are also uploaded to your host everything you install on (more on that later). Your host points to your domain name, so when a user types in your web address it automatically goes there.
BUYING YOUR DOMAIN NAME
You can buy a domain name from a number of places nowadays, sometimes they are offered as part of hosting packages, but you can also buy them solo.
You don’t need to buy your domain name and hosting from the same place. Shop around and find the best prices for domains, not all of them are the same. You can point your host to your domain name later (I’ll show you how).
I buy all of my domain names from Crazy Domains*. I find that they have a good interface to manage them from their dashboard.
Once you buy your domain name you need to find a host. If you’re buying a package domain name/hosting then you’ve done two things rolled into one and you will usually get a step-by-step email from that host in order to move forward. If you’ve done this, disregard the next few paragraphs.
FINDING A HOST
So I’ve explained what a host is above, so what we need to do now is find an appropriate one for your needs. If you’re reading this post, then I assume that you want to do this yourself and you’re not a large company.
So we need to look for a host… Where to start? A lot of hosts nowadays are pretty good, but they vary with price. What you need to know first if what you need. You don’t need to get a super expensive hosting package with its own dedicated server if you’re starting a small blog or e-commerce store.
I’ve listed a (non exhaustive) list of what to look for:
- 24/7 Support – this is IMPORTANT for a newbie. Look for one that has a chat especially. I love it and I’ve used it with my host a number of times.
- For a newbie, look for a shared hosting account. These are cheaper and you can always upgrade when your site gets bigger in the future.
- Server uptime. Look for something that is over 99.5% uptime. Don’t pick anything that is under 99% – you don’t want your website unavailable at critical times.
- Compare what is included in your hosting package. Make sure Emails and Software Installations are included. This will make your life a lot easier when it comes time to install WordPress and create your own custom email addresses.
- You will need a good dashboard – I love cPanel – it’s easy to navigate and make changes, check files, set-up emails, install WordPress and amongst so many other things.
- Look for a host that enables you to change configurations in the dashboard such as PHP Versions (you might need this with WordPress and it’s plugins), Maximum Upload sizes etc.
- Speed & Storage. Make sure that you pick a package that suits your particular business. How many people are you expecting to come by your site? Are you going to be uploading lots of photos or is it a small blog which won’t require that much file storage? Consider all of your options and buy accordingly.
- Sign-up price as opposed to on-going costs. Sometimes hosts will discount their first year CONSIDERABLY to get your money, then the rates will go up sometimes 50% or more the next few years after that. Also if you know that you will be in business for a few years, then buying a few years together with some hosting companies can work out much cheaper overall. Also – look out for currency conversion. Sometimes hosting will appear cheaper (then you realise it’s in USD not AUD!).
There are more points to look out for, but for now these are the important ones.
GETTING YOUR DOMAIN TO SPEAK TO YOUR HOST
If you purchased your Domain Name separate to your Hosting, then you will need them to be able to communicate with each other. You do this via DNS (Domain Name System).
This is a quick definition of DNS:
DNS stands for Domain Name System. DNS is how domain names are translated into IP addresses, and DNS also controls email delivery. DNS is what allows you to use your web browser to find web sites as well as send and receive email.
So we need to log into our Domain Name service provider and change the DNS records to point to our host. Every interface is different, and some are a bit hard to find.
What you will need to do first is find the Name Server addresses (there are two and usually look like ns1.yourdomainname.com and ns2.yourdomainname.com). They may have come in your welcome email (most likely), in the dashboard of your hosting account under DNS or you might want to contact your host through support and ask them (probably quicker sometimes!!).
Once you have these addresses you can log into your domain name service provider and find “Change DNS” and enter the addresses there. Again, if you can’t find it for the life of you – don’t be scared to contact support – they may even do it for you!
Once this is done, it may be immediate or take up to 24 hours to propegate or in other words “connect to each other”.
Once this is done you can install WordPress! YAY!!!! Aaaaaaand I will show you how to do that next week.
More to come in Part 2!
Can’t wait? Email me for a consultation and I can talk you through it step by step in starting your own WordPress site.
*I am not affiliated with any of these companies – All companies mentioned are purely recommendations.