Websites represent people, companies, and institutions online. They’re a web presence for all sorts of things, and they’re not very hard to put together. There are several different methods of building websites, everything from an expensive purchase of software (like Dreamweaver) to free “site builders” provided by web hosting services. This how-to will focus on the software found at those sites, site-builders and Content Management Systems (CMS) like Joomla.
Shopping for and Choosing a Web Host
There are hundreds of web-hosting services online, and choosing a good one is as simple as spending a half-hour comparing prices. There is usually a monthly hosting charge, another to buy a domain, and sometimes an extra fee for SQL databases, which can be useful if the site is for a business. Read reviews and check for those fees before paying. There are sites that offer free domains, but then the hosting site often appends any new domain name with a bit of its own, and often adds mandatory ads. Other sites offer free one-month service, but then up the price to buy your new domain. It’s often a trade-off.
If, two weeks after paying setup and domain fees, the hosting site charges (surprise) extra fees, switching hosting services is really easy. Most people switch once or twice until they find a web host they’re completely satisfied with.
Starters for Building a New Site
After choosing domain name and paying for hosting, the Control Panel is the place where the actual “building” begins. Every user or domain has its own personal control panel, often called the Cpanel. This is where users can build pages, manage email (yes, anyone can be “email@example.com”) and do all sorts of other behind-the-scenes things for their own website(s).
Most hosting services provide users with two or three easy web-building programs. One is actually called “Sitebuilder”; others are Dolphin, SiteDeluxe, Web Site Creator, and Weebly Drag and Drop Builder. There are others. They tend to be step-by-step, simple web site creation utilities for those just starting out. Using these tools is a great way to make a home page or simple web site, but for those who will be frequently updating the content on their pages, CMS software makes a little more sense.
Using Extra CMS or Content Management System Software
CMS software gives most web designers the ability to more easily manage the information that appears on the website. Instead of having to constantly redesign the “frontpage,” they can add “modules” or “blocks” to update the site. They can add new “articles” which automatically rotate on the frontpage, usually by date. Under “Add Software” or after clicking on “Fantastico” in the control panel, users can add CMS software such as Joomla, Xoops, or Mambo. These web-based programs require no download, so users log in to what’s called the “Back end” to manage and build the web page online, and every time they save new work, it uploads to the site live.
Each of these programs uses templates and extensions that offer the ability to immediately add functionality (like log-in modules) or pizazz (like flash galleries). There are whole libraries of extensions to add any sort of functionality to a website. Many are free, but for business sites looking for an especially professional look, there are commercial extensions available as well.
Web Design Tips for Novices, and Extra Sections in the CPanel
The CPanel has many other sections.
- The file manager allows upload of html files, pictures, and other files for use by the website.
- The email section allows new email for any new “webmaster.”
- Fantastico offers lots of extras. Try them out in new subdirectories before moving them to yourdomain.com.
- WordPress is an extra application (often loaded through fantastico) that quickly creates a professional-looking blog.
- Web Design can be a hobby or a career, but it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. $10/mo. is probably more than enough.
- Before trying the built in site builder on the hosting site, give Joomla or Mambo a try. They’re very popular, very easy to learn (lots of tutorials online) and very extendable. Even amateurs may find them easier than the built in software.
- Knowing HTML used to be mandatory to build web pages. Now, it’s not. HTML, CSS, XML, or any of the other design languages are no longer necessary to build a basic site. Web programming has become more easier now.
The best part of web design today is the ease with which anyone can build. No longer do professional websites have to be contracted out; and no longer does it cost hundreds of dollars per month (and more) to keep your business’ website up-to-date. It’s hard not to notice how many CEO’s keep daily blogs lately. With the simplicity that many of today’s software offers, even a CEO can log in to update one without his network administrator to help him.