Series: How to Make a Website
Have you always wanted a super cool website? Do you want to enter the exciting and unfathomably vast and lonely sea of websites and mostly garbage that is the Internet? Do you look at Me with scornful envy in your eyes, cursing and damning and cursing again at my ability to website a whole bunch of times when you could never hope to website? Well, my friend, the time has come to learn that it isn’t that hard to website - in fact, even you can do it! Over the next few posts, I’ll show you every step in the process of putting together and deploying a fully functional blog-based website! No longer will you be held back by your technical ignorance. In a few days, the only thing that will be able to stop you from having your own website is your inability to come up with interesting things to write about.
I am a professional websiteman, by trade - that is, I specialize in doing websites. Aside from DenyConformity.com (pretty much the best website), I’ve made quite a few others for friends, clients, companies, or myself. The hard part is designing and putting together a unique and interesting site layout, and for the most part that’s what I get paid a bunch of money for. It’s actually really easy to website, though, if you don’t mind using pre-made components. Okay, so it’s still pretty complicated, but as long as you follow the proper procedure, for about $100 a year you can have your very own website on your own unique domain name. This is all assuming, of course, that you’ve thought about what you actually want a website for, and have a clear goal in mind for what you want to do with it. I’ll show you the “how” but you have to bring the “why.”
I should mention that this whole guide is about Windows 7. This is all equally easy in Mac OS or Windows Vista, but I don’t have those so I can’t really get screenshots of them.
Part 1: Get Ready to Website
You could make things easier for yourself by just buying a hosting plan and doing everything there, but that’s not the right way to do it. You could end up taking days or weeks (or years) setting up the site, and in the meantime your janky-assed “work in progress” is fully public for the world to see. Sure, you can set it up to show a “coming soon” page and block search engines until you get it finished, but it’s way easier to just set the site up on your computer and then deploy it to your web space.
You probably should go ahead and buy your hosting plan right away, though. The sooner you register your domain name, the better, so that nobody else steals it from you. Also, it can take up to a few days for your new domain name to start working, so you might as well do it now. I won’t get into explaining what a web host is, but basically you need a little hard drive to put your website on which is visible to the Internet. There are many companies you can use, and most of them are very similar - just make sure your plan includes a MySQL database (you’ll be hard pressed to find one that doesn’t) and email addresses if you want your own email addresses. DenyConformity.com is hosted on Bluehost, and I’m very pleased with them. Whatever you do, avoid GoDaddy or Startlogic.
The process is different based on who you use, but it should be pretty simple. Just find the “sign up now” button and fill in the blanks. Most hosting companies will give you a domain name with your plan, and they will help you register it (and make sure it’s available). There is really a whole industry around picking a domain name, but don’t overthink it. If you’re setting up a personal website, just use your name (dot com). If you have a small business, use the company name - or some variation of it (dot com). You can use a .org or .net address if you absolutely have to, but you should stick with a .com. Also try to avoid dashes, underscores, or other awkward characters; it can be harder to tell people “something dash something dot com” than just “something something dot com.”
If your preferred domain isn’t available, but it obviously isn’t a real site (like the picture above), it’s probably held by a cybersquatter. These ne'erdowells are the scum of the Internet, but there isn’t much you can do about them. Sometimes GoDaddy can help you buy these domains, usually because they’re the ones illegally holding them. If all else fails, you can do a WHOIS lookup on the domain to get the contact info for the people who registered the domain. Don’t expect much luck, because usually these are very undesirable types, but you never know.
Anyway, once you get the hosting all squared away, they’ll send you an email with a bunch of technical gobbledygook in it about your new website. Make sure you archive, print out, or otherwise save that info in a place. Don’t worry about it for now, but know that it is important. Now you just have to wait patiently for Magic to Happen so that your new website becomes an Internet (it’s all very technical).
Don’t just sit back, though, because you still have a lot of work to do! We’re going to create your website right there on your computer, which means we have to turn your computer into a sort of makeshift Internet. Unfurrow that brow; it’s actually pretty easy.
So today we (maybe) bought a new hosting plan somewhere and got the ball rolling on getting some real webspace, then we set up IIS and took a look at an adorable little Internet running right there inside your computer. Next time we’ll look at setting up and configuring a new local Web Site, and we’ll install and configure a MySQL database.