A friend of mine is new to business, and to the business-side of the internet. She knows she needs a website (because everyone needs a website), but is a little stuck on anything past that. I ran into a great visual analogy over on ProPhoto that I found helpful for breaking down the different parts of having your own site, and I thought it might help some of you who are struggling with the same thing.
Now, I’m paraphrasing these steps from ProPhoto’s example to make it even more basic. I suggest reading through all the steps here before acting on any of them, because a lot of companies will bundle their services together, and you don’t want to buy something you don’t need.
1. Get A Domain Name.
Think of this as your sign-board; just a piece of wood with your business name painted on it. When you register a domain name, it means you own the rights to ‘www.BobPhoto.com’ or whatever you want your website’s address to be. Some things to note: your domain does not have to be the same as your business name. For example, my business is registered as ‘Erika Jacobs’, but my domain name could be ‘www.ErikaTakesPhotos.com’ When brainstorming your domain name, think about what people will be able to remember – make it as easy as possible for people to find you. When you think you have a name in mind, try typing it into your internet browser, and see if it’s available.
2. Sign Up With A Host.
Hosting provides your physical space on the internet. Think of this as your piece of land, in which you can hammer your sign-board. You are renting space on a company’s server, and when you have a website you can put it there. This means that when people type in http://www.bobphoto.com it will go to the website files you put on the host’s server; In the same way that a mailing address is connected to a physical piece of property. Something I always look for when shopping around for hosting (besides price) is the availability of their tech support – can I call or web chat with them at 2am if I need to, or can they only help me with my problems between 9-5?
3. Make A Website.
Think of this as the building on your land. This is the framework for your photos, words, etc, that you’re going to put together (or have someone put together for you). If you have the skills, you can design your own site using a program like Adobe Dreamweaver; if you go this route, you’ll make the site, and then upload all of the files to your host’s server.
These days there are a lot of great template sites, and that’s usually the route I suggest. Companies like virb.com offer a variety of templates for you to choose from. When you buy a template, you can usually customize things like colour, fonts, etc, and then upload your own logos and photos. You will likely create an account you can log into to make any changes to your site; it’ll be a lot like logging to your email and typing a note. Many template sites also offer hosting, and some offer custom domain names as well.
A few notes:
– Be honest. If you don’t know what something means, or how to do it, call the company’s tech support and tell them you’ve never done this before. They’re usually happy to walk you through things.
– There is usually a cost associated with registering a domain name, usually an annual fee. You will need to renew your domain name at the end of each term.
– Nothing is set in stone. Do your research as best you can, but if you end up with a company you’re not happy with, or a service you don’t need, you can move your site somewhere else, buy a new domain name, or shut down the site completely. It’s not a big deal, but sometimes it can be a bit of a pain.
– Start small. Don’t sign up for things you don’t need or you’re not comfortable with. Think about what you need; maybe a little wordpress blog will work for you for now, and you can upgrade to a ‘real’ website when you get going a little more.
Eugen and I both have experience with our own various sites, and blogs, so if you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments below.
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Image Sources: Marcin Bialek and Trevor Adler