Ever looked at a website and thought "Gee, I'd like to have my own spot on the web. I wish I knew how to get it all up and running."? Today is your lucky day!
I've outlined five pieces you'll need to get started. The do-it-yourself cost is $87. For 12 months.
I'm including some example companies you can use to get up and running. You might be able to get better rates and you might not need all these pieces, but I figured it's a good place to start.
This is the "www.DOMAIN.com", and is the trickiest of the pieces we'll explore. Why? It's hard to change once we put it into place, and it really affects everything we do on the web. Do we use our name? Or should we think of a company name? Perhaps we have a funky word or phrase in mind - should we use that?
Since the domain will really be the central piece of all online communications (it's part of our email address and will likely be part of our other web properties), think carefully about it.
Ok, got the name? Great - we'll need to make sure it's available. There are a number of different domain registrars but here's one that seems to have a good following: Hover.
Once we've found an available domain name, grab it. Pricing on Hover is around $15 / yr. We can certainly use other registrars and will probably find the pricing similar.
Cost: $15 / yr Time: 1 day (think of name, register name)
The next big piece, although there's much more flexibility here. This is where our content will live, more or less. The keys here are to make sure we have enough storage space (for our content, images, etc.) and bandwidth (the numer of visitors we expect to visit our site).
If we're just starting out, a simple plan is the best. Unless we know our site will have heaps of traffic right from the get-go, the minimal option will do just fine. This will also provide us an opportunity to do a few things:
- Evaluate their support. It's a good time to ask questions and see what their response is like. If it's slow, it might be worth it to look at another provider.
- Test the site's speed. If we find the pages or the site is loading slowly, it might be due to the hosting provider's configuration. Better to find this out early than later when we receive thousands of visits.
- Wet our feet. If we haven't played with consoles or FTP clients, this is a good time to learn. No need to drop a pretty penny on a pricey monthly plan at this point.
Cost: $6 / mo Time: 2 hours (find the plan, sign up)
Remember we talked about the importance of the domain name earlier? Here's partly where it comes into play. We'll want to set up our social media accounts with the same or similar name as our domain name.
We don't have to. But, for integrated marketing campaigns, cross-site branding, etc., it's probably good that we do.
For me, I'm sold on Twitter for communicating with the community and Tumblr for rich media pieces like video and pictures. Both of these pieces (as well as many others) can be integrated into our website (which we'll get into shortly).
When we are setting up our social media accounts, keep in mind where we will be using them. If we are sitting in front of the computer most of the time, we'll just use the web interface or a client for our activities. But, if we are on the road and want to keep the communication / outreach going, we'll want to see what types of mobile apps are available. Just something to keep in mind.
Cost: $0 Time: 2 hours (find the accounts, sign up)
Yes, this could fit into a number of other pieces here, but Google is a special tool that we should treat, um, special.
There are many Google services you are aware of and probably some you are not aware of. Let's not get into all of them now, but we'll touch on a handful that are important for our initial setup:
- Google Apps: This should be the first thing we sign up for. There's a free version available. Since we already have our domain, we can add that in the opening box then fill out the rest of the information. Easy. (There's even an option to register a domain through Google for $10/yr.)
- Google Analytics: Once we've signed up for Google Apps, create a profile in Google Analytics. We'll want to have this done as early as possible so we can start tracking stats from our website from day one.
- Google Voice / Google Docs / Google+ / Google Mail / Google Calendar: There are a ton of services that are turned on and others that we should turn on in the Google Apps domain manager. I'm listing five here as we'll use them frequently as we move forward with the website.
Cost: $0 Time: 1 day (sign up for Google Apps, turn on other accounts)
Ok, now that we have all the plumbing and infrastructure in place, it's time to get the website up. First, we'll download the latest version of WordPress. This will likely be the most challenging and time-consuming piece, but it's really worth it. If we need some pointers, we can head over to our hosting provider and look through their documentation to help us set up the website.
This part can get a bit technical and it's difficult to outline each step since every hosting provider has a slightly different way of installing WordPress. We can either recruit a friend to help us get WordPress up or take the time ourselves and learn a lot about how our site is setup (and use the support from the hosting provider).
Once we have the site up, we can log in to the admin panel and start playing around with the look and feel. To start off, we can stick with the default theme (Twenty Eleven) as it's really strong and can be tweaked a bit to our liking. Once we're comfortable in playing with the settings, we can grab another theme or add some plugins to make the site look more like our site (including a Google Analytics plugin to make sure we're tracking users right from the start and a Twitter plugin to display our latest tweets).
Cost: $0 Time: 2 days (there's a lot to do here)
Awesome. We have our website up and we're on the web! All within a week and for less than $100 / yr. There are many, many other things we can start doing now depending on what our goal is for the website. The fun is just starting!
A few notes:
- Hover: I don't use Hover.
- Laughing Squid: I don't use Laughing Squid.
- Facebook: I didn't include Facebook in the Social Media section. I'm not a huge Facebook user.
- WordPress: I'm a big fan of using WordPress as it's easy to maintain, it's very flexible, and it's mobile-friendly (both to the admin and to the visitor).
- Google: You can set up everything through Google - Your mail, calendar, etc. Why? Mainly because it's easy to access and there's little maintenance needed. Plus, having email via IMAP is nice.
- Start: Not sure where to start? I can help.
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