Guest ChoralTech: DIY Websites--Buy This, Get a Website
Date: February 15, 2013
Does your choir need a website? Yes! Yes, it does! This is the second in ChoralTech Guest Blogger Seth Garrepy's series on DIY Web Design. Check out his first article while you're at it, and come back next week for the thrilling conclusion.
“Buy this, Get a Website”
It’s almost too good to be true. Can you really pay money and lay your claim to the digital frontier? Yes, you can! In today’s article, we explore the what’s and how’s of staking your claim in the vast frontier of the Internet and how it is similar to the westward expansion of the 19th century.
Go West, Young Man?
What do you need to have a functioning website? You need two fundamental elements: a web host and a registrar… but not like the one at your school or college! Let’s start by looking at what a web host is.
Similarities exist between the homesteaders of the mid-19th century and the web pioneers of the 21st century. For example, homesteaders applied to the government for a plot of land, sometimes paid a fee, and then the US Government gave them the right to live on the land. Similarly, you must also apply to someone so that you can “claim” your spot. The agency that will give you the right to your new “land” is someone known as a Web Host. You pay them, monthly or yearly, for the right to occupy space on the Internet.
When a homestead was assigned to a family, they received a document that contained the location of their plot, which was often defined by section, township, and range. Imagine saying that you’re going to visit Mr. Thomas Davis at Section 26 in Township 10 of Range 28… people might look at you oddly! But if you said you were going to visit Mr. Davis’s house in Montgomery, Alabama then you might be more apt to find the right house. Nothing is wrong with the first method of identifying Mr. Davis’s land, except most people will have trouble remembering it. The Internet is comparably made up of long strings of numbers that identify websites, but you wouldn’t want to remember 18.104.22.168 just to get to Google! Hence, the second organization you need to visit with is called a Registrar, and they will give your website its recognizable domain name, like www.acda.org. They convert the web address you type into the long string of numbers transparently so you do not have to remember.
The good news is that many major web companies, like GoDaddy, actually serve both functions as both web host and registrar. As a result, it is simple to purchase what you need and begin the process of building your new website in minutes flat.
“Do I need a 2nd mortgage for this project?”
Cost is the burning question probably on your mind right now. To put things in perspective, I did a quick survey of a few big web hosts and found that for as little as $3.85/mo. you can have a website and a domain name. Surprising, isn’t it? Keep in mind, though, my general rule of thumb in technology: you always get what you pay for. Don’t go for the absolute cheapest option because they likely cut corners in other areas, like customer service. (Trust me: when you have a problem, there’s nothing like a competent, helpful human on the other end of the phone to make you feel better and make things work!) Consequently, stick with name recognition if you are unsure about a company.
I recommend that you research a web host’s customer service record by doing a quick Google search before you commit. It can reveal either heaps of praise or truckloads of disgruntled former clients, and this info is good to know in advance of paying them!
Since this is a crash course, I won’t get too far into the technical details. However, I do want to give you a few general things to look for in a host:
As a warning, your website may be suspended if you exceed your transfer limit, so err on the side of caution and buy more than you think you need.
With these simple guidelines in mind, make a decision about which web host you want to choose.
Let’s talk about how you’re going to get your content out to your audience. You have some options at this point, but costs vary dramatically depending on what you choose. You can hire a professional (the most expensive option) or you can work with any number of Content Management Systems (CMS) and design your own. Since you’re looking at this article, I am going to assume that you want to know how you can do it yourself.
Let me introduce you to the CMS I recommend, called WordPress (WP). You may have heard of WP for its blogging abilities, but it is a versatile and easy-to-use CMS. Personally, I have worked with three different CMS’s (Drupal, Joomla, and WP) and have found WP to be the most friendly to use. All three of these CMS’s are free, by the way. In fact, my website (www.sethgarrepy.com) is put together entirely with it.
If you choose WP, there is a way to get it working in minutes flat. In fact, some web hosts have “WordPress Hosting Plans”. The beauty of these plans is that the web host will provide a one-button installer in your control panel that will do all the heavy lifting for you. Just click the button and WP is installed in seconds. These plans usually provide generous amounts of space and transfer, as well as a free domain name sometimes. If I had to estimate, the total time from paying the web host to having a functioning website is somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes—for website that just works!
Congratulations! You now have a website, but now what? Next week’s article will give you some resources to help you get content on to WordPress, as well as how to change the look and feel of your website. Until then, please reply below if you have any questions or comments about today’s article and I will be glad to respond to them.
WordPress Hosting Plans