Those of us with websites already understand how you feel. We were once there. Whatever your reasons or motivations the question remains the same: What should I do first?
Forget about all the sales hype
When starting a website your absolute first action should be to forget about every advertisement you have ever seen related to this subject. Most advertisers just want your money and your satisfaction with the product they are "hawking" is merely incidental. Indeed, advertisers today study you and apply a high degree of psychology to bend you to their will. To truly know which ones are trustworthy and which ones are not is virtually impossible for a newcomer.
The second thing you should do is to dissuade yourself of the delusion that you can design your own website.
I know, you've got ad after ad assailing you, all screaming that you can do this. And of course you can do this, no one will stop you, but the results will look like...
it will look like your very first website.
In a way I wish that I could show you my very first website from 9 years ago, but at the same time I am very glad I cannot. It wasn't good at all, but I was proud nonetheless.
Everything today has a learning curve, web design, and it's requirements are no exception. Each and every year this learning curve gets a little steeper as well. Last year the European Union made a regulation that everyone is subject to worldwide. Ignoring this regulation runs you the risk of being fined as a result, whether you have any dealings with Europe or not. Unclear of the legality of all this but pending unlikely litigation on this, it's something we all must deal with today.
Wow, Free Hosting!!!
There are several less than exemplary companies out there with goals of ensnaring newcomers to this field. Wix and WordPress.com come to mind but there are more. Free Hosting means the hosting company is going to be engaged in self promotion on your URL, and likely your site as well. When picking a domain name you search for something catchy and memorable and not too long.
Yes, my domain name is a perfect example of what not to do. It was really late one night...
However, when the Free Hosting company drops it's corporate name into the mix, all the planning was really for nothing. You can pay to have this removed, but really, why not just buy some real hosting with all the extra features? We at Raging River use MightWeb.net extensively. We love all it's features, it's low price and most of all it's reliability.
Get some help first!
At this stage of setting up your new website you are in a unique position, and are about to make decisions which you will be living with for some time. Right now your main job should be to make good decisions, rather than quick decisions you will soon regret. After all, you need to choose;
- A domain name registrar
- A hosting company
- Security measures
- An SSL certificate provider
- A CMS
- A CDN
- A GDPR compliance method
If you didn't know what all these terms meant - before Googling them - you are going to need some help.
The voice of experience
Without some experience you won't know which hosting provider will double your bill the second year, or which will save you money but at the expense of loading time, or which provider is run by lawyers who ultimately own everything you put on their server. Yes it's true. A little voice inside you tells you that free hosting sounds too good to be true. It actually is true, but your site will carry company generated ads which you must pay to have removed, or a difficult to remember URL which includes the hosting companie's name. Nice racket, huh? To be completely fair, these Free Hosting companies' target audience is indeed the newcomer who is inexperienced and excited about getting their new venture rolling.
Domain names, on the other hand, are relatively simple things but the cost can vary wildly. And after all, it's just a domain name but the few dollars you save each year can easily go towards other necessary software expenses.
SSL certificates are a very good example of experience saving you money. Simple SSL certificates can be had for free from Let's Encrypt. Yes, there are limitations on these certificates but if that's all you need it makes no sense to shell out $79 or $49 per year to Network Solutions or GoDaddy for the same exact thing. More elaborate SSL certificates can be had for very cheap as well so avoid the "scalpers".
Here's a fun fact that most people do not know. The level and layering of encryption on a cheap SSL certificate and an expensive high security version is exactly the same. If you read differently somewhere you will know that they are either lying to you, or they are uneducated in the matter. The difference between the two different levels of SSL certificates is the amount of verification of your personal data when you sign up, and the amount of "green real estate" in the address bar when people visit your site. That's it.
These things and so very much more can only be learned through time and experience. But what if you had a friend who could steer you in the right direction? Think of the money you could save each and every year. Think of the pitfalls you could avoid.
Talk to a designer, in fact talk to a couple
Most designers are happy to talk to you about your needs. If they pull the cash register out a bit too quickly, simply move on. I mean we're trying to start a viable and affordable website here, not empty the National Treasury. If possible talk to them on the phone. I believe most would be happy to have a phone conversation with you. I know I would be glad to talk to you; (662) 671-1041 When you get the designers on the phone listen to their voice, listen to the speed at which they rattle off answers to your questions. Do you hear a genuine level of excitement? Or does it sound like they are multi-tasking and fitting you in? Common sense dictates which one will do a better job for you.
Whatever you do, be sure to deal with the designer directly. If the person you are going to deal with is about to farm this out (Oh sorry, outsource it.) move on! Having a go-between means adding an unnecessary and undesirable complication to the communication processes and puts a great deal of faith in the middle-man's ability to prioritize something he obviously knows little about, communicate and find solutions for both sides, and usually causes frustration for you and the designer both. I recently dealt with this sort of thing for the first time. I'll never do it again. In fact the result was so disappointing that I will not be featuring the site on my portfolio. my hands were tied by abysmal communication skills of the mediator.
Some brands to avoid
Here are some brands that in my opinion you would do well to avoid. This is not a grudge list, think of it more as an experience list. However, do notice that we provide links to the good guys, but not the bad guys.
- Hostgator hosting
- Bluehost hosting
- GoDaddy hosting
- Network Solutions hosting (Very expensive, restrictive, and, I am told, owned by attorneys)
- ipage hosting
- WIX hosting and page builder
- WordPress.com (WordPress.org is the one you're looking for.)
- WP Bakery page builder (formerly Visual Composer page builder)
- Slider Revolution
- Sucuri Security plugin (from GoDaddy)