You’ve finally decided to take that leap and jump into the online business sector. Maybe you know a lot about a particular hobby or subject and want to impart that knowledge to others, or maybe you have a great idea for a product or service that no-one else seems to be offering. Regardless of the reason, you would like to have a website, and you need to know the ins and outs of building it. Also, you want to understand the options available for website design and hosting.
Indeed, there are several ways to get your site built and hosted. But, before we start, it should be noted that the two concepts are not necessarily tied together. Yes, they are functions that are required to get a website online, but where you host is not going to have anything to do with how you get your site built.
In fact, as we have said in another article about domain purchases and hosting, it is never a good idea to have too many functions with the same company. Domain registrars sell domain names, while hosts provide you connectivity to the internet and space for your files. Likewise, website builders and hosting are two separate entities.
In terms of website design, there are several ways to create a website for your project. The final decision might depend on how big the site will be.
If it is just a static site with a couple pages about you and your service, then you might want to stick with a simple html and css build. There are many free templates out there, so you don’t even need to know coding yourself. Basically, the CSS is the style sheet which dictates how the page displays.
what fonts to use and what size,
where to position objects such as logos, pictures, and text,
the width of the content sections versus the sidebars,
and anything else that has to do with how the page looks and how things are arranged.
The next way to have a site built is through a Content Management System. The core files are there, so you don’t need to know any coding at all. You upload and install all the provided files. Further, many excellent themes or skins exist to make your site as elaborate in design or as simple as you like. And if you don’t find the right design, there are many people online that sell premium designs or will even create a customized design for your purposes. Just make sure that in the case of a custom design, that you own all the pieces, and/or the copyright, and you are not required to provide credit to the designer.
For those of you that like to get directly involved and learn new skills, many themes are open source, meaning you are permitted to change them accordingly. This can be a huge bonus because you save time and don’t have to start from scratch, but can make something perfect for your project. Plus, you can always hire someone to do one-time pieces like the logo and specialized icons.
What Are The Benefits Of A CMS?
Nowadays, there are plenty of reasons to use a CMS or out-of-the-box solution to site building. As more developers have created programs, and others help to maintain communities, it doesn’t make sense to reinvent the wheel. So before you make a decision to spend a lot of money on a custom design, think about systems such as WordPress for these reasons.
#1 PHP and MySQL Readily Available
There are very few hosts that do not have the proper programs installed to run a CMS. In fact, if you are thinking about website hosting that does not offer this as a standard option, then strike them off your list and move on. This is a specific case where your website design and hosting do go hand in hand.
#2 Pre-Made Database Tables
One of the difficulties in setting up a database type website is that you need to understand how all the underlying pieces work together. The DB is set up in tables much like columns in a spreadsheet and when data is queried or searched, the results are pulled and displayed. This is quite an intricate process and simple errors can lead to huge problems. Because the CMS already has a generic setup, anyone can use it. It is installed with the program, such as WordPress, and there is no need to learn how the tables are created, maintained or how they work.
#3 Easy To Input
One of the biggest problems with a large HTML site is the fact that you have to create unlimited pages and format each one. Yes, you can use the same coding on each page, but with hundreds of thousands or documents, it does get difficult if you want to make a simple change. Databases make this process much easier, since you can make changes to the design separately and not affect what is happening with the stored content. Likewise, you input your data and save, knowing that each page is the same each time.
#4 Categories and Tags
Another complaint about HTML is the fact that it is very difficult to go back and add more categories for your topics. Once you have your menu set, although you can quickly add another category, it is very time consuming to go back and find old articles to add to that new category, since often times, one article could apply for a couple different subjects. With the CMS, you make a category as needed, and do a quick search to find out what other posts will fit into the same category.
Additionally, you can drill down even further, by adding tags. So the category would be the main subject and would be very broad, while the tags are specific, and can be a smaller topic within the larger. It is much easier to segregate information and keep it organized using categories and tags.
#5 Free Themes
Today, there is an endless supply of themes. Developers increase their reputation and get known by providing designs for others to use. They generally ask for a linkback at the bottom of the theme, to give them credit for the files. Of course, more than one person can use the themes, but in most instances, they can modify them to match their needs. To be honest, in most circumstances, no changes are required. But with an online customizer, right in the back end of the CMS, it is easy to change colors, the number of sidebars, where the sidebars sit, the type of navigation menu, and even footers and headers for different types of information. Lastly, the more popular a CMS becomes, the more beautiful and functional the themes will be.
#6 Variety of Plugins
Plugins are scripts or little programs that do a specific function. For example, you might not want to make a Contact Us Submit Form from scratch, so you can look in the plugin depository and find the one that works for you. Simply install through the CMS back end, and then activate it and customize it accordingly. Other examples are displaying maps, tracking traffic, setting up customized formatting for columns or recipe inputting. There are probably thousands of plugins or addons available to do almost anything you need. Before paying for expensive coding, be sure to check what is readily available.
One caution here, though. Don’t load up your site with lots of unnecessary junk. Pick and choose wisely, so that you don’t have compatibility issues, and so that your site and page speed stays super fast.
#7 Stores Unlimited Information
In addition to being able to fill up as much information as your site requires, the type of information stored can be quite varied. This might include video and sound recordings, all types of graphics including PNG, GIF, JPEG, BITMAP and TIFF, spreadsheets, text documents, as well as charts and graphs. The CMS will have a Media Library and a folder to keep everything in tact and ready to display.
If you use a popular CMS to build your website, your costs can be very little and even zero. As long as you do everything yourself, you will find all the pieces that you need with no cost. But if there are small pieces that would be better outsourced, there are plenty of forums and online marketplaces to get projects done inexpensively.
A custom logo or header might be one of the things you want to make your site look more professional. And if you have a lot of data to input, a helper might be an idea to get everything done quickly. Lastly, you may want the theme customized to expand the sidebar so that it is wider and can better fit videos or ads. An experienced person could manage that task without a lot of effort or money involved.
If we have forgotten anything, this detailed video should provide more benefits to using a CMS.
You could buy a computer and contact a data center to see if they would charge you a fee to connect your system to their internet line. In this case, you would either need to manage the server yourself, or you could hire a management company. Possibly, the data center technicians might do the job for a set amount monthly.
#2 Dedicated Server
Another option to host your own site is with a dedicated server that you rent or own. One of the drawbacks of this method of hosting is that it can be expensive if your site doesn’t really need a full computer for itself.
#3 Shared Hosting
Single accounts, reseller accounts, VPS are all fine as long as the site is small enough and doesn’t use many resources.
#4 Your Home
But if you decide that you want to host yourself in your home, is that even possible?
The short answer to this is yes, it is technically possible. The smarter answer is it does have its problems and can be cumbersome.
Pros and Cons of Hosting In Your Home
#1 Pro – Technical Instructions
Whether you host on Linux or Windows, the instructions to do so are readily available. Although we have not attempted to host this way ourselves, the step by step guides appear to be clear enough that others have successfully set up a system within their own environment.
#2 Pro – Self Managed
For those of you that have the technical skills to keep the computer active and your site online, home hosting could be an option.
#1 Con – Expensive
Depending on where you live, electricity costs could be overwhelming, and really don’t make much sense when you can get the best hosting services for a few dollars per month.
#2 Con – Weather Issues
Since you can’t control Mother Nature, the computer’s uptime is going to be greatly affected. Both the power and the internet could have outages, which ultimately is going to cost you sales and credibility.
#3 Con – ISP Speed
Th speed that you are going to display your site will be much slower with a local internet service provider than a real T1 or T5 line like they use in data centers.
To be honest, in our opinion, the cons outweigh the pros by a long shot and we would never trust our business to our own home or office hosting.
Building a website can be a lot of fun and very rewarding. With all the progress of the internet, it is certainly easier to get online today than it was fifteen years ago. Many places advertise that you can have a site created and ready for the public in a few minutes. This is a bit of an exaggeration, because there is a small learning curve, but still, things can move very quickly and you can have a live site up and running in a short amount of time.
By using the tools that already exist and watching videos or reading tutorials, everything is at your fingertips, and the best part is you can really begin your hobby or business on a shoestring!
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