I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but there’s this thing called the internet that people these days tend to use a lot. As I’ve said before, it’s extremely important nowadays to now how to develop for the web.
So what better way to learn and practice web development skills, all while making a name for yourself on the world’s biggest platform, than to create a website?
This is the first in a series of tutorials where I’ll show you, step-by-step, how to build an awesome website from scratch.
Let’s go, yo.
Step 1: Think of a catchy name
This is, in all honesty, the hardest part, and the longest part (sorry!). Your website name, also known as your domain name, defines your website forever. No pressure.
(Technical note: when I say website name, I include the .com or whatever [technically known as the ccTLD] as well as the actual name, e.g. hathix.com).
First, make a shortlist of names. I’ll give you some tips, then you can go ahead and make your shortlist.
I’ve found that the best website names are short and made of two syllables, with the accent on the first. Don’t believe me? Ask Google, Apple, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, Tumblr, Foursquare, YouTube, or Pinterest (if you pronounce it as 2 syllables). Naturally, the names you pick need to be pronounceable and easy to spell once you hear them.
Now, if you’re making a website for an existing company or group, your job’s pretty easy. Just think of a few ways to put your name together. For instance, the Pennsylvania (PA) Elephant Lovers’ Club could use pennsylvaniaelephantloversclub.com, elephantloverspa.com, elephantloversclub.com, paelc.com, and so on. Just avoid too many acronyms (like paelc.com) since they’re harder to remember and harder to associate with your group. But, don’t make your name too long either (like the first name). Whatever you do, don’t put website or online in your name – that sounds unprofessional.
If you’re making a website for an app, a new company, or yourself, it gets a bit harder since you have to start from scratch. A good source for names is your own name (providing it’s uncommon and pronounceable enough), an uncommon word (twitter means a bird’s call), or something short and creative (hathix comes from Hindi hathi, meaning elephant, plus x for box; don’t ask about the whole elephant in a box thing). If all else fails, just say what your website will be about. If you’re Cole and you’re blogging about technology, colestechnologyblog.com is a simple and straightforward solution.
I highly recommend using .com since that’s the most professional and memorable, but if you really want to you can try .org, .net, or .[country code] – like .ca, .de, .co.uk, etc. In the US, anything besides .com or .org looks bad, but in other countries you can probably use the country code.
So, your challenge now is to make a shortlist of about 10 names. Be creative and go all around the spectrum. Just remember: short, simple, memorable. Write this list down on your phone, or paper if you’re feeling hipster. Rank these names from favorite to least favorite.
Now, we need to see if your website names are actually available. Enter each of your names in the “Enter a Domain” box at the top of this page. If your name is available, you’ll get a green check. If not, you’ll get suggestions – but ignore them because they’re awful. (Other websites you can try are FatCow and GoDaddy – you’re not buying from them, just using their tools.)
If you really like a name and it doesn’t work, try swapping out the .com with .org or the other ones I mentioned above. But be careful since these aren’t as good.
OK, so hopefully some of the names on your shortlist survived. Pick your favorite surviving name – that’s your website name. Congrats! You’ve just finished the hardest part of creating a website! Go ahead and make t-shirts, gifts, stationery, and the whole ball of wax emblazoned with your website name. Put “webmaster” on your social network profiles. Impress your friends. And so on.
Step 2: Find a host
There are 2 big parts to getting your website online: buying the domain name (it’s like getting the rights to the land) and getting hosting (it’s like getting a construction company). Every website has its own host, and every webmaster you ask will tell you that theirs is the greatest thing since sliced bread. You’re free to use whatever host you like, but I recommend WebHostingHub (my host; I love it), FatCow, and DreamHost (I’ve heard good things about these last two).
So open up those 3 websites and look around their website. You’re looking for the best plan, in terms of costs and features. I’ve checked, and these 3 hosts offer pretty much everything you need at a reasonable price ($5-$10 per month). They’re pretty similar, but here’s my analysis:
- DreamHost looks good, but their control panel (what you use to manage your website) is custom, so parts of this guide won’t work for you if you use DreamHost.
- FatCow is a bit expensive (the first year isn’t free, unlike the others) but everything else looks flawless. It probably has the most features.
- WebHostingHub offers the first year free and is pretty cheap after that. Everything else is pretty good, and their customer service especially is fantastic.
You really can’t go wrong with any of them. Just pick one host, visit their website, and click the big “order” or “sign up” button (I can’t give the links since they change a lot). Tips: In WebHostingHub, use the box that says “register a new domain”, and in FatCow push the “register a new domain” button.
Enter your credit card information, make an account, and so on. I’d recommend buying the best package possible – in the case of WebHostingHub, get Nitro – and getting a multi-year deal, since the longer contracts are cheaper. (For WebHostingHub, it’s $7.99/year at the time of writing for a 3-year deal but $9.99/year for a 1-year deal.) But this isn’t mandatory.
Soon you’ll get a big “congratulations” box and your very own website. Granted, it doesn’t show anything once you open it up in your browser, but that’s coming up in Part 2. Stay tuned!