We get lots of questions about getting ready to build a website. That makes a lot of sense, because if you’re talking to me about building a website, you’re (most likely) not the expert. I picture myself at the auto mechanic. I Google things say things like, “This would just take too much time for me to do myself, plus I don’t have a lift.”
But the reality is, I’m no auto-mechanical expert. However, I think of myself as somewhat of an expert at driving. So I like to pretend and hope for the best.
Analogies aside, there are some basics to help you gain some understanding of how website work, and what you can do yourself to prepare or get started in teh right direction, before you ever talk to a company like mine.
A domain name is the dot com address (or .biz, or .media. or dot whatever these days) part of your website. You can purchase any available domain names through a domain host for roughly $10/year. Now, that’s not to say they don’t vary in price. Try to buy something short and simple like hope.com and you’ll pay a hundred thousand dollars – assuming it’s even for sale. We buy all our domain names from GoDaddy because they tend to offer the lowest rates, so that’s where we host and manage our domain names. Some people like to buy their domain names and their hosting from the same provider because it’s convenient to have everything in one place, but GoDaddy’s hosting is shit. They try to upsell you on everything that should just be included, and they’re simply not cost effective.
There are lots of things to consider when choosing a domain name, such as search-ability & branding, but I’ll address that in another article.
If a domain name is the address of your website, then hosting is the plot of land the house (website) is built on. This type of hosting only needs to be purchased if you’re planning on building using a self-hosted CMS, such as WordPress, Joomla, Magento, Drupal or some proprietary code. Website builders don’t require you to purchase hosting, so if you’re looking to do Shopify, SquareSpace, or (sigh) Wix site, then don’t worry about this section.
Hosting can cost a lot or a little, but that should depend mostly on how much traffic your website is getting. If you’re a small business, you can expect to pay $12/month, and that cost usually can be lowered if you buy in bulk. There are a few other things to consider when purchasing hosting, so I’ll go through them here:
Does your hosting provider include free SSL?
These days, they should. There’s a company called letsencrypt.org and they have made adding an SSL certificate as easy and one click (and free). So if you are looking at a provider that doesn’t allow Let’s Encrypt, they’re also likely going to charge you annually for that SSL anywhere from $40-$100. Unless you like paying for things that should be free, find a different hosting provider. (Note: The aforementioned GoDaddy charges $100/year for SSL). Another hosting provider, Site5, that I’ve been loyal to for the past 15 years charges for SSL, so I’ve moved off their hosting platform (at great cost) to Site Ground (siteground.com) who is fantastic and has wonderful customer support.
How much traffic are you planning on getting?
Everyone hopes to have hundreds of thousands of eager beavers frequenting their website for one reason or another, but at the start your traffic is usually zero – so pick a hosting plan accordingly – and pick a provider that allows scalability. This way, if you grow, they’ll help, rather than seize the opportunity to try to take advantage.
How many website does your hosting provider allow?
A lot of hosting providers limit this. It’s an upsell thing, but for shared hosting servers, the case can be made that allowing too many sites per customer is a security risk. So I get it. If you’re an expert, and want full autonomy to do as you wish (like me) you’ll want a hosting provider (like SiteGround) who allows unlimited sites per hosting plan. Another thing to consider here is site speed. You only have so much bandwidth allotted to your account, so the more traffic you’re getting (usually correlates with more websites) the slower your sites will perform. So plan accordingly.
Is your website going to be ecommerce based?
If you’re building on Magento, or WooCommerce or anything ecommerce related, then it’s best that you seek out hosting specifically for self-hosted ecommerce websites. There’s lots of database maintenance that a company should be doing for ecommerce that they don’t need to do for standard websites, so it’s always better to ask potential providers if this is a specialty of theirs.
There’s a few of these out there today, and they are all pretty solid. They run anywhere from $10/mo to $500+/mo based on what your needs are. It’s going to be a little more expensive that a self-hosted website, but that is a trade off for having very little maintenance and virtually no security worries.
My only beef with them is that in their marketing to customers, they tend to make people think their website will be amazingly professional looking no matter what. This is usually a false hope, since that dream relies heavily on stunning photography, deep understanding of color theory, user experience knowledge, and a masters degree (or honorary) in typography.
In their defense, they offer a great service to the people who use it, and for experts like me they’re great to work with as well. They offer lots of code access to build custom features, offer free/paid custom apps to achieve feature goals off-the-shelf, and are generally maintenance free. They’re not as customizable as a self-hosted website, but they’ll usually get you to where you want to be. Shopify is the leader in the clubhouse for e-commerce, and I’d say SquareSpace is the leader for display websites. And while SquareSpace offers ecommerce, they’re not there yet in terms of what Shopify can offer.
That about does it for this brief. I hope you found the information helpful and informative.
No doubt it raised more questions than answered, so use the Contact Form to get in touch!