Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Budget WebSite

In another life I used to be a web designer.  I was decent enough at it, but the business was changing rapidly and I found that I didn't have the artistic skills to keep up with it.  That and it proved to be high maintenance and low yield.  I did learn a whole lot in my tenure though.  About what makes a good website, what they should include, how they should fit the business, and the basics.

This entry is about the basics.  You need three things to build a website on your own.

1.  Designing Skills

HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language.  It used to be back in the day you needed to know the basics of how this language worked to design a basic site.  It's still good to know but it's 2013, there are easier ways now.  There are a number of free web design programs out there to help you out.  Personally I'm a fan of WYSIWYG editors (that's What You See Is What You Get) and one that I've recommended time and again is Coffeecup HTML Editor.  It used to be totally free, but you can still get the trial (good for 28 days).

2.  A Domain Name

This part can actually be pretty fun.  I don't want to get into the complexities of what a domain name actually is, but it's simply the site address.  Like or  There are ton of sites out there where you can search for and purchase a domain name.  Another thing that might surprise you: you're not limited to .com.  You can get .net, .org, .info, .xxx (3 guess what that's for), and even ones that represent the state (in the US) or the country you live in.  You should probably stick with the basics though because when you start going into state and country domains things can get pricey. 

The trick to shopping for domain names is all about timing.  Typically you can get a .com for maybe $10 - $20 a year., one of the biggest web retailers, currently lists their .com's for $10.99.  If you're willing to wait though that price can go way down and some retailers will lower the prices if you bundle it with hosting.  That brings me to...

3.  A Web Host
Forgive me.  I'm currently watching Buffy and Angel on Netflix.  I really like this guy. :)

Ignore the pic.  That's The Host and if you never watched Angel you have no idea who he is.  I just thought I'd stick in some geek humor.  A web host is where your website is physically located.  You could be your own host with your own computer and Internet service, but trust me you don't want the hassle.  We're talking about companies that keep their computers on all day everyday while guaranteeing your website will stay up most of the time (the best offer 99.99% uptime, but lower isn't so bad for a casual site).  The good news is hosting these days is remarkably inexpensive.  You can expect around $10 a month for some pretty decent bells and whistles.  I find most people don't need to invest that much into hosting.  Fortunately for them, there are actually hosts that will charge you nothing.  One that I recommend is  1 gig of storage, unlimited traffic and even an email address; you can't go wrong with that.

But If You're Willing To Spend A Few Bucks...

Now that we've covered the 3 basics this is where I ask you if you really want to do all this on the cheap.  I'm going to go back to Godaddy on this one as an example but if you're willing to spend a little time on Google you'll find more online companies that offer this service: Website Builders.  What these guys do is basically lay out thousands of templates for you to use and you just customize.  It's really easy and it gives you a professional feel.  The only really danger is uniqueness.  Chances are you'll stumble on a page where someone is using the exact same template as you.  But he with thousands to choose from the changes are small.  I figure if you invest in a builder along with hosting and a domain name  you wouldn't spend more that $50 to get your site rolling.

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