I get this question all the time, usually from small business owners or friends of friends at parties. I’ve been doing it for so long now that it’s just second nature to me, but I guess to other people it’s shrouded in a cloud of uncertainty though. Anyway, here’s a very simple step by step guide to getting a website up so that when you type in www.whatever.com your site will show up.
(Keep in mind this is a very low level version, if you have any problems you will have to talk to someone who knows more about your specific situation.)
Step one; buy a domain. A domain is the web address that you want your site to use, e.g. www.kythin.com is my domain for this website. Once you’ve bought it you should get a login that enables you to set the nameservers, which you will get from the next step. Some domain registrants also sell hosting, and will automatically link your domain and your hosting so you don’t have to mess with nameservers. Nameservers, by the way, are computers that hold data about your domain and which computer holds your files by mapping your domain to an IP address (like a street address, kinda) of your hosting server. Think of it like the contact list in your phone – if you know the name (domain), it will give you the corresponding number (IP Address), and you can get to where you want to go.
Step 2; buy some hosting. Hosting is where the actual website files reside, much like files live in your My Documents folder or on your desktop. There’s no magic here, you just need to get the files onto a server that will stay on all the time so that people can access them. Usually on applying for hosting they will ask for the domain name, and then at they end either in an email or on the final “congrats you now have this” page, they’ll tell you nameservers.
Step 3; set the nameservers on your domain to match the nameservers your host tells you.
Step 4; wait between 1 and 48 hours. The process of changing anything to do with a domain is a long process and is usually not instant. In most cases with new domains this will be a very short time, but it could be a day or two for the changes to go through. If you want to know why, look up “domain propagation” on google.
When you can type your domain into your browser and see what’s called a ‘Parking page’ (a page with lots of links, and probably the logo of your host company), then you’re ready to put your site on the host’s server. In one of the emails from your host you should have a couple of sets of login details. One will be for some kind of web based control panel, and another will be for something called an FTP client. From here there’s a few different ways to procede depending on what you have so far in the way of a website.
If you have nothing at all, this is where you should probably consult with a website developer like me. They’ll be able to help you get what you want in a website, and most will either double as graphic designers or have links to people who will have the skills to get the look and feel you want in the site. If you want to have a go at making a really simple site yourself though, try logging into the web based control panel that your host gives you details for, and see if they have some kind of site builder. Most of the companies who provide domains as well as hosting will also have a site builder, but they’re all different so contact your host if you have questions about it.
If you already have a website, maybe you’ve done it in Dreamweaver or Frontpage or Word or something, you can use the FTP details and an FTP client like FileZilla to get the site onto the server.
There’s a few things that can go wrong with that process, but thats the basics and it should give you an idea of the first steps to take to get a site online. If you have any questions feel free to post a comment below.