Overs the years, I have gotten a ton of questions about the UrbanSurvival and Peoplenomics.com websites. One of the most common is “How does one go about building a good quality website?”
It is not particularly difficult, but before we delve into it, let’s make sure it’s the right move for you. Website ownership is a time-sink and there’s a ton to learn.
If you have a small business, build or sell products, then absolutely, read on. If you have a lot to write about and opinions on everything, then by all means, follow along. But, if you have no interest in spending 100-hours of building a quality website (and often longer) the process is not for you. A simple post at WordPress.com may suffice. It’s just you loose the kind of total control you can have rolling your own.
I will run through this in steps. Remember, though, as you read these steps that building a website is a lot like dancing. There are lots of styles, many custom moves, and there are a lot of potential partners.
Roll Up Your Sleeves
In keeping with the principles for learning (in recipe- fashion), I am keeping this at the high-level, steps view. Under each of the following steps, there are multiple smaller steps.
- Get a Domain Name
Make it simple and easy to recall. Always opt for a short, easy to remember website name. People are lazy. If it’s hard to spell, you may not get much traffic. Single words are good. Short words are best.
Cost for an annual domain name is anywhere from $5 bucks to $20, or so. You get what you pay for, generally. Levels of support if you run into issues and so on.
Before you run to a discount website name (domain registrar) like GoDaddy.com, read step #2. Which is?
2. You need website Hosting in addition to a Name
There are lots of choices here. For my situation, a U.S.-based company was important, a number of hosting choices, and basic management under one roof.
That’s because an internet website’s name (like UrbanSurvival) is not attached to the physical hosting unless the accounts are “configured to work.”
Addresses on the Internet are numeric. When you type in UrbanSurvival.com, a DNS (domain name system) server somewhere looks up the corresponding numeric address and makes the connections happen for a browser.
When you sign up for Hosting, you will get what we call a “shiny new” that will give you an IP address (the numbers that DNS will need to point to in order to direct traffic to your site).
SSL Hosting is the only way to go. That stands for “secure sockey layer” and search engines will penalize your site if you don’t have SSL for everything.
Short-Cut: Because I have a long-time customer relationship with a high quality web services provider, https://emwd.com, I’ll mention that they have a simple starter plan and a sign-up process that will walk you through the sign-up and get you well on your way to a quality website.
3. Get Your Basic Configuration Right
As you begin the process of actually signing up for the domain and hosting, there are a few key points to remember:
- If you are using a full-service provider (like EMWD) they will take care of both the DNS management as well as hosting.
- If you have a big site, like UrbanSurvival, and have a fair bit of traffic, you can consider a Virtual Private Server (VPS), but for most sites, shared hoisting is cheap, reliable and is a good starting point.
- If you are NOT using a full service provider, the steps are:
- Get a website name from a domain name seller like GoDaddy.
- Get hosting from whoever (like EMWD)
- Log in to the domain name company and fill in the Name Server blanks. For example, it might say “Name Server #1” [ ]. If you’re using EMWD, then this box might be ns1.emwd.com. Make sure to put in two nameservers at your hosting provider.
Three Key Concepts
First – and this is probably the thing people aren’t told by web developers and “consultants.” There are two faces to the web.
- The public facing website: This is what the public sees.
- The admin facing site: This is what site administrators, content writers, and moderators see and use.
Generally, except for subscriber or limited access sites like Peoplenomics.com, there’s usually not a log-on for the public to come by and visit your new site.
Logging-on to your administrative access will require a user name and password. Grown up strength because sites get attacked every minutes of the day. That’s why we are very particular about using long, complicated site-specific encoded passwords. In the event there’s ever a data breach (hack) you can instantly see by the password where your exposures are.
Second – You will need to make a decision as to whether you are going to write in an HTML-5 compatible tool like DreamWeaver OR whether you plan to use a Content Management System (CMS).
A CMS is recommended because they are robust, somewhat easy to configure, and you can have a site up, start to finish in 15-minutes, or less following this simple guide.
Third – A CMS is only a solid basic framework. It will need to be customized and augmented as follows:
- Install: You will need to install your CMS. As you do this, remember you will need a username and password for accessing your CMS. And be sure to use https:// to ensure you are building a secure site from the ground up.
When you get the CMS in, it may look something like this:
There are menus left and right. The left menu is where to find the tabs you will be using next. The first of these is the Themes Tab. From this area, you will be able to select a free theme like TwentyNineteen or install a commercial theme.
- Theme: There are lots of choices in theme selection. A lot of free choices like the twentynineteen theme come with Word Press, which is the most widely-used CMS. On one of our sites, we use a theme called Divi while on another we use Genesis. Both are commercial-quality and are frequently updated for security purposes. Big themes like Genesis and Divi have child themes. Some free, some not.
- Site Identity: With the theme of your choice installed, you can now upload a logo or site identifying piece of artwork. JPG or PNG are common. Also, a Fav.ico (favorites icon) can be added now, as well.
- Best Graphics: Website speed is everything. Problem with graphics is they can be slow. Most themes want a large logo for a full-width header; 940 pixels is common. What you’re after is highest speed (meaning smallest file) that looks good. The coming direction in graphics is .SVG scalable vector graphics, but for most, a selection of .PNG (portable network graphics) files for different uses will be sufficient. Discussion of the JPG – PNG choice here is good.
- Widgets: WordPress allows “code snips” that can do things like put up a Google Search tool on your site, or can display an ad. Your theme may have several “widget areas” where these can be placed. Make sure all web addresses on your home page begin https:// or you risk being flagged as an insecure site and that will cost traffic.
- Plug-ins – This is the next area you will visit once your theme is installed. I would recommend several basis plug-ins, each of which will have a bit of learning curve to them. Askimet or Antispam Bee will reduce the number of spam reader comments received. GDPR cookie consent is a good idea since some ad-serving outfits require it. Google Analytics Dashboard for Windows will let you see traffic growth and patterns. And Yoast SEO will take care of search engine optimization, along with scoring your writing style and providing a comprehensive RSS (*real simply syndication) feed.
Where to Next?
Eventually, you will get a good, operating website. There are lots of e-commerce plug-ins for WordPress, so if you’re selling something on your site, it’s not too hard.
One thing to keep an eye on, in terms of down the road, is to visit https://securityheaders.com. This site will give you insights as to how secure your site is. While you can “lock down” security so far that your site won’t function,, the main things to ensure are that cross-site scripting isn’t allowed, or that if it is, it’s limited to an ad providers or someone you need to do business with.
Over time, you will want to use Google Webmaster Tools, and you’ll want to use various site tresting srervices to ensure your site is fast-loading. There are many ways to approach this:
One is a virtual private server. These can be smoking fast. Another is to use Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages plug-in – because it is totally optimized to deliver fast pages to mobile users which is about 55 percent of the market.
You can also add caching of content to your site which may increase speed, and, as your site grows, you may wish to go with CloudFlare.com to ensure fast global delivery.
This isn’t a complete course on how to build and set up a website, but it’s a start…and that’s what we wanted to cover…
Write when you get rich,