Beginner’s guide to setting up a website

by Manshu on March 13, 2011

in Opinion

Today we’re going to deviate from the regular topics, and instead take a look at a different subject – one on which I’ve fielded a few questions on emails lately, and has  finally popped up on the Suggest a Topic page as well.

Shilpa asked me to write about how you can go about setting up a website, so in this post I’m going to share the mechanics of setting up a website, and also offer some opinion on what has worked for me, and what hasn’t, so that you can keep that in mind while getting started with your own website.

Name

The first thing you need is a name for your website. This will have two parts to it – the TLD (Top Level Domain) like .com, .net, .in etc. and the name itself like OneMint or TheHindu.

A name is called a domain and has to be registered for a fee. I have registered all my domains with GoDaddy, but I don’t know if they are the cheapest or not. I registered one with them a long time ago, and just stuck with them. I’m sure you can do a little bit of research and find better deals yourself.   This doesn’t cost much – maybe $20 or so per year after taxes, and that’s part of the reason I never tried to switch.

Choosing a name can be harder than you think because you’ll find that a lot of meaningful names  have already been taken, so keep the Godaddy window open, and as you think of names – search for them there to see if they are available or not.

My preference is to get a dot com because that’s what most people think about first when they think of a website name, and there have been examples where someone bought a dot net domain, and after their site became popular had to buy the dot com domain from someone else for a lot of money.

So I’d personally stick to dot com as far as possible. A possible exception to that could be if the name has a really nice ring to it. For example – about.me – this name has a great ring to it, and it’s not hard to remember either. I’d also suggest avoiding hyphens or numbers in the name because that creates confusion also.

Getting a name and registering it is the first thing you need to do in order to setup a website, and after you’re done with that you will need hosting space.

Hosting Space

Think of hosting space as the real estate from which you will operate your website. There are several hosting companies that offer you space for a fee, and the one that I use is Hostgator.

They are certainly not the cheapest, but for OneMint’s size and traffic – I think they are good value. If you don’t have reliable hosting then you can find your site down at times, so if you are serious then I’d suggest spending a little extra and get someone that has a reputation for being up most of the times and has decent customer support.

Content Management System

Now that you have a name and real estate, the next thing to do is to set up the office – you need a mechanism to publish articles, post pictures, create categories etc.

In my opinion – the best way to do that is to install WordPress. That’s what I use as the back-end to this site, and it is an extremely powerful platform that allows you to create a website, and is used by millions of people all over the world.

It is free to use, and is easy to install. However, how easy it is to use depends a little bit on how technically inclined you are, and if  you have never done any software related work before then I don’t think you will find it easy. Don’t get me wrong – I mean you will be able to accomplish it, but it’s not likely to be easy.

The other alternative to WordPress is Blogger, but I’m a big fan of WordPress because of its ease of use, and powerful features, so I’ll strongly recommend it.

I do very little WordPress related work on this site myself, and almost always consult with Kim Woodbridge, who is quite easily the best WordPress consultant that I know. She is an expert, and really honest as well; I think we have worked together for almost 2 years now, and in that time my respect and admiration for her has only grown.

If you are not able to cope with WordPress yourself, or need help on its advance features then I’d strongly recommend her.

Theme

Now that you have a name, real estate, and office as well – the next step is to do some design work, and make it all pretty.

The thing to do this with in the online world is to get a theme for your website. There are several free and paid WordPress themes, and these are fairly easy to install. You can download one that you like, and give your site the look of that Theme. You can also customize the theme and make your site look unique.

I use Thesis, which is a popular paid theme, but if you’re just starting out then you should just get a free theme, and play with it first.

After these steps you should have a running website which is branded as well, and as far as the basics are concerned you’re done. However, there are two more tools that are free, and are a must for any website.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a program from Google that gives you traffic information about your website. It shows you how many visits you are getting, from where, who is referring people to your site, what keywords are working, and amazing stuff like that. It’s an amazing tool, and it’s free to use. You should definitely install and use Google Analytics on your website.

Feedburner

Feedburner is another Google product that lets you send daily emails to your subscribers. This is the program that I use, and it’s great to connect with your subscribers as it gives them a way to get your content whenever it is published.

These are the key building blocks of a website – this is not the only way to do it, but is one that I have used, and several others are using around the world. It is inexpensive, and robust, and will work for most of your needs.

The list of things you can add here is endless, but for anyone starting out this should be enough. As always – questions, comments and observations welcome!

 

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Kiran March 13, 2011 at 4:56 pm

I think this post might help as well, for the technically challenged who have no idea between a HTML and say Java. Slightly dated, but the basics don’t change, do they?

http://kirandhanwada.com/2009/01/21/welcome-to-kirandhanwadacom/

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Manshu March 14, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Thanks Kiran – though I’d advise people to see if they can do without messing HTML or Javascript or stuff like that at the start.

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Manish Karwa March 13, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Very Useful & interesting info. Thanks

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Manshu March 14, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Thanks for your comment Manish.

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Rohit Chaudhari March 14, 2011 at 9:54 am

Hi Friends,
Do check my website here —> http://www.RohitChaudhari.in
also reply hows it…

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Manshu March 14, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Hi Rohit – The color scheme is great, and your header is very striking as well – congrats on the good work, and maybe you could write a series on how someone can start up on a website since you have recently got one yourself.

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Shilpa Gupta March 14, 2011 at 11:28 am

Great post again and extremely useful. Your ability to write in simple and elegant manner, easy to follow and easy to understand is appreciable. Good job and thanks for the post.

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Manshu March 14, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Thanks for your comment Shilpa – I hope this post gets you started now!

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Kim Woodbridge March 14, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Thanks Manshu! I really appreciate it.

Since I save almost every email, I scanned through them and discovered that we first “met” almost 2.5 years ago. Time really does go by fast.

Great article too.

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Manshu March 14, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Really – 2.5 years? Wow time really does fly by – thank you for all your help on the site Kim!

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Shinoj Jose March 15, 2011 at 5:00 am

Hi,
The post was really useful. I have some queries. When I searched regarding hosting space, I came across things like bandwidth, SQL DB counts, Linux/windows hosting etc. Can you please explain how much / which one should we opt for and how it matters.
Thanks in Advance,
Shinoj Jose

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Manshu March 15, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Usually you should be able to go by with the lowest bandwidth and shared service that a host offers. LAMP – Linux, Apache MySQL and PHP is an open source stack on which most is most commonly used so I guess for an individual it makes sense to see if the host will support that.

An easy way of doing that is to see if the host supports WordPress (if that’s the CMS you’re going to use), or whatever else you plan to use.

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Shinoj Jose March 16, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Thanks Manshu.

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Chirag March 16, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Great tips for starters Manshu.
Well for theme I suggest that people should use Thesis which is one of the best theme available in the markets currently.
Hows the service of Hostgator ?

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Manshu March 17, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Excellent.

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Shilpa Gupta April 4, 2011 at 6:47 pm

If I buy hosting through hostgator and content management through wordpress, can I put ads to earn revenue? Will I need to split revenue with anyone?

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Manshu April 5, 2011 at 5:09 pm

No, you won’t have to split money with anyone. Wordpress is free so you won’t have to buy that either.

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Shilpa Gupta April 15, 2011 at 4:09 pm

My website shows comments wierdly – The label “Name” appears above input field name, label “E-mail” appears on right of name field and label “Website” appears on right of E-mail field. See the comments on following post for instance:
http://www.shilpagupta4.com/2011/04/11/how-marketing-has-changed-over-years-2/
This is confusing my readers and readers are not able to leave comments. Also, how did you set “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail”?

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Shilpa Gupta April 15, 2011 at 4:11 pm

By the way, this behavior happens for only Internet Explorer. On Safari and Google Chrome, Name, E-mail and Website are well placed.

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Manshu April 16, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I see similar behavior with OneMint too. When you look at the right sidebar things from the forum – it is aligned in a certain way in IE and another way in other browsers. I guess there is an easy fix or something for this, but I don’t know what that is and won’t be able to help you.

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Amar January 11, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Is private registration required for a self hosted blog? Godaddy offers private registrations but I am not able to understand the significance. If I do not go for a private registration, what kind of details will be publicly displayed and from where can it be accessed?
Would really appreciate any inputs that you have to provide on this. Thanks 🙂

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Manshu January 12, 2012 at 2:43 am

No it’s not required, it’s optional, and only needed if you want to blog anonymously. They just point out your name, address of the registrar and some other details like that.

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Amar January 12, 2012 at 8:53 am

Thanks. Appreciate your help.

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bemoneyaware January 12, 2012 at 11:53 am

Last Sunday attended a bloggers meet. These kind of questions keep cropping up : irrespective of how many years one has been blogging.
The other thing which came up was: how much effort goes in daily basis for having a successful blog?
People start with great enthusiasm, build a great blog and wait for readers to come..and then give up..
What would you recommend a to a person who is starting a blog?

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Manshu January 12, 2012 at 10:22 pm

I think you have to set yourself up to say that these are the three or four things I will do every day for a year and then see how much time you have to allocate for that. For instance, you could say a) I will write a post Mon, Wed, Fri b) I will answer all questions / comments and c) I will leave 5 comments on other blogs.

Now how much time can you realistically spare to do these things? That’s how much you need. Can you spare enough time on the weekend so you can schedule posts for the week – if you can do that then that’s great.

Also keep in mind that by and large for most people building a blog will take time. You will see some bloggers making it big in a short period of time of say a year or so but most of them drag around for at least a couple of years before getting any traction. So, you should be realistic in your expectations and be in it for the long run.

Those are my thoughts anyway!

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