I taught a web publishing course at a local community college in which we covered websites from start to finish… almost.
Students learned the purpose of a website, how to design web pages and navigation, and how to get their design into HTML format – everything that brought them to a completed website. And then the semester was over. But… how does it go from one computer to being on the Internet?
There are four basic steps to making an HTML website visible on the Internet.
- Decide on an available domain name
- Purchase that domain
- Purchase website hosting
- Transfer files to the host computer
The purchasing aspect of making a website live is why we could not cover this in the course.
Intense Internet Language
Proceed with Caution.
Oh it’s not that bad. But here is some jargon you may see in the process of putting your website on the Internet:
- FTP—File Transfer Protocol; the way you upload files from your computer to the host server
- Domain Name—the web address
- Domain Registrar—the organization through whom you purchase your domain name
- WHOIS—pronounced who•is; a database of all domain names and their registrar information
- ICANN—Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers; organization that keeps track of domains and IP addresses world-wide
- Host—the company that will host the website on their web server
- Host Server—the actual computer specially set up to “serve” the website to the Internet
- Traffic—how many visitors come to your site
- SSL—Secure Socket Layer; provides extra layer of security
Select a Domain Name
As soon as you know you want a website, you should start thinking about what web address, or domain name, you would like to have. Come up with a few because it’s very common that one or two of your choices are already taken. You (or your web designer) can check to see if your selection is available by entering it into a WHOIS search. Pretty much any domain name registrar will provide this search option and they all search the same WHOIS database, or you can go to www.whois.com. I might as well dig into the hosting now as well because if you don’t have either, it’s easiest to purchase them from the same place.
Purchase Your Domain Name and Hosting Package
“So, what, I have to pay for my web address?” Yup. You have to pay an annual fee to get your domain and keep it. This fee gets split among ICANN (see definitions above) and the registrar, and can range from free (if you purchase some hosting plans) to $18 per year, and sometimes more. The price varies for competition and there may be catches with the cheaper prices. But it’s still easier to purchase the domain where ever you host your website to keep billing to one date and one place.
Most hosting companies offer different packages to host your website depending upon your needs. Unless you know you will have a large website with a lot of traffic, I suggest starting with a cheaper package and adjusting as your traffic and needs grow. If you are going to be requesting any private information from viewers such as personal information or credit card numbers, you will need to purchase extra security called an SSL certificate. This provides an extra layer of security for the transfer of that sensitive information. You can tell if a web page has this SSL by looking at the web address; you should see https:// at the beginning of the address (note the “s”).
It is worth shopping around a little to see what registrars/hosting companies are charging and what they offer for the price. Most will give quantity discounts for buying more than one year at a time.
If you search the terms “hosting companies” or “website hosting” you will get millions of listings – literally. You can look for reviews on the various companies to see how others experiences have been. There are many good companies out there, but the top three for me are: Godaddy.com, Bluehost.com and Hostgator.com. I have had good experiences with them and, for full disclosure, because I feel these are quality services I am an affiliate of each of them. Many times I’ll use the one the client is most comfortable with or has heard of.
If you are having a WordPress website developed for you, the hosting will need to be purchased early on, as much of the development will occur on the actual hosting server.
There are two types of host servers. If you are planning on having a WordPress website, you need to select Linux (not Windows) for the server type. However, for a basic HTML website either type will serve you well.
Transfer Files to the Host Server
You will need to spend some time playing with the FTP program you select, but usually the left side window (or top window) is the files on your local computer and the right side (or bottom) is where the files on the server will show. Learning FTP steps is probably enough for another article.
And You’re Live!
If you have gone through all these steps, your website is LIVE – out there for the world to see. Like so many things, when you explain every single step in writing it can look a bit overwhelming. However, if you go through this process even just a couple of times, you’ll see that it doesn’t take that long. Plus once you decide on a host company and FTP program, those decisions are done and you will have become familiar with them. It’s a very satisfying thing to put your website on a host server, type your own domain name into a browser and see it on the Internet!