We’ll get back to things like MySpace and YouTube soon, but it all starts with a Web site. Here is how you get you own little corner of the Web.

Step 1: Get a Domain Name
The name of your site (the “www.etc.com”) may really dictate how your site looks. Since your ideal name may not be available (because someone else has already bought it) make a long list of possible names to research. You can change the last part of the URL (also called the “top level domain”) from .com to .net or .biz, etc. to get closer to your ideal name.

Keep your domain names under 20 characters (letters, numbers, underscores and dashes only) then check to see which ones are available. Just type it into the URL bar: if nothing comes up, than it’s probably not taken. If it comes up but with no actual site—someone has “parked” that domain. People buy up hundreds of domain names, park them, and then look to sell them at a profit. You can also use a domain name search such as WHOIS Search (http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jsp).

Once you’ve found an available name, you have to register it. There are plenty of places to register a domain name, including the site just mentioned, and many will also host your site for you. Which company you use will just depend on what you want to do and how much you want to spend.

Step 2: Decide Who Will Host Your Site
If you’re getting a domain name/hosting package, than you don’t need this part (but, still check this out). If not, this is very important. There are many ways to have your site hosted, with pros and cons.

First, there’s self-hosting. The positive side is there are no limitations—since you are the host, you can do whatever you want with the site. You also never have to worry about unexpected downtime (if you are hosting yourself and your network connection or computer goes down you’ll always know about it… I hope). The downside to this is that you have to do all the work yourself, and you need a computer constantly connected to the Internet (I suggest a separate, dedicated computer). If you want to go this route, go to http://www.connectedhomemag.com/HomeOffice/Articles/Index.cfm?ArticleID=24756 to learn how.

If you decide to use one of the many Internet services that will host your Web presence, be sure to check out everything before committing to it. Most services have limits on what you can and can’t do, and you don’t want to end up with something you can’t work with. Be sure it allows you to use anything you think you want to use on your site (like JavaScript or Flash). Also, make sure it doesn’t have any forced advertising which can ruin the look of your site. I’d suggest going with someplace that also does email hosting, since you’ll definitely want a nice, professional-looking email where people can ask you questions and send you junk mail. If you find the perfect site for hosting but it doesn’t include email, there are other places where you can get a nice custom email address.

Step 3: Build The Site!
Now let’s design the site itself! Do you want to do it yourself or hire someone else? If you’d like to save a little cash and do it yourself, that’s just fine, just be prepared to spend quite a bit of time working on it (especially if you’re just starting out). First off, you’ll need a program to write the site in. If you’re just starting and don’t want to have to learn too much HTML (HyperText Markup Language), than get a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) program, like FrontPage. Personally, I’d suggest a nice HTML writing program, such as BBEdit. It makes it easier to write the HTML code while still allowing you all the needed flexibility. You’ll also need a good graphics program, like Photoshop, to create various things that’ll make your site unique. (There are some FREE programs that are almost as good as Photoshop, so don’t despair if you don’t have it.)

If you want a really professional looking site, you’ll also want Flash, since nearly everyone uses it now. You can download a free trial version at the Macromedia Web site. You’ll also want some good HTML guides and, for a really nice looking page, CSS guides (Cascading Style Sheets). I’d suggest the “Dummies” guides myself, as they are really straightforward and have plenty of good tips and tricks—there are also plenty of great guides online (I actually learned a lot about building Web sites by messing around with the page tools on Neopets. So it wasn’t as big a waste of time as my dad thought it was. Ha!)

If you don’t want to go through all this, you can always hire someone. There are plenty of services online that will design your site for you. If you know someone who can do it, you can probably hire them for a reduced cost. (Heck, I’d even design Web sites for you. I did the one for my dad’s band and I could use the cash…) Next issue, the stuff you really need on your site and how to get them.

Originally posted 2009-09-05 06:14:11.