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What do I need to build a website?

Hi and welcome to step #1 of building a website: Learning about the most basic requirements of a website; it’s infrastructure and where its code lives.

Just as a building has its foundation, a website too has its base of operations. In that base of operations sits a web server that busily serves your website pages to the world.  But how does that happen and how can it happen for your business too?

First, we register an account in your name and using your credit card at your favorite Registrar. I recommend GoDaddy for domain name registration and website hosting but can work with any provider. Many webmasters follow the model of putting everything in their name, but there are dangers to this.  Be sure to ask your webmaster how you would gain access and ownership of your website should he/she become suddenly and permanently unavailable. I avoid any such dilemmas from the start by putting everything in your preferred name (personal or business).

Domain name

A domain name is the text a user types into the browser window to reach a particular website.  For example, https://www.example.com is a domain name, as is https://letststalkgraphics.com..  You’ll pay your Registrar for the privilege of owning a domain name, but it is Icann that owns the task of keeping the names sorted. As such, when it comes time to renew the domain name, expect to see an email from Icann (and not your Registrar) asking you to update your physical address.

Hosting plan: Oftentimes the first time that you sign up with a registrar/hosting provider, they provide introductory freebies. For example, GoDaddy gives you a .com domain name for free for the first year. Free things are great, especially when first starting out, but be mindful of freebies because they must eventually renew at full price. When a domain name renews, you’ll pay the standard renewal rate (usually $19.99/year).

Hosting

The web server (web host) is where the code, database, and all of the digital assets of your website live.

Hosting is the most expensive piece of your website’s infrastructure, and I recommend purchasing as many years of it upfront as possible. Again I’m going to use GoDaddy as they example: The reason for purchasing many years of hosting upfront is that you lock in GoDaddy’s introductory rate for those years. In the long run, it is substantially less money to purchase multiple years of hosting upfront. When those years run out, then you can start to renew on a yearly basis. And you will need to plan for it as hosting renewal rates can be upwards of $300/year. A different way of looking at it is like this: Pay 12.99/mo in 2022 for 3 years of hosting OR, pay 12.99/mo in 2022 for one year of it, and then renew at 16.99/mo in 2023. If you plan on keeping the site going for more than one year, their intro rate is totally worth it. Buying multiple years upfront is essentially a savings of $60.00/yr at their current 2022 rates. Meaning if they increase web hosting rates in the future, you’ll save even more! For hosting,

I recommend a hosting plan comparable to GoDaddy’s ‘Ultimate Plan’ as a minimum. It is about $155.88* for every year that you purchase Why? A computer that serves up the pages of your website is called a web hosting server. You rent that computer by purchasing a hosting plan. The host and level of the hosting plan often dictate how fast your website responds & how fast it serves up pages. There is a variety of hosting plans ranging from bare minimum to corporate-level-serve-1000-visitors-at-once. I generally recommend a plan that includes the first year’s SSL certificate.

SSL Certificate

What is an SSL certificate? An SSL certificate, or just SSL, is software that creates a secure connection between a browser and the web server. When a person visits your website, the SSL creates said secure connection and displays to the user a green lock in their browser address bar. The lock gives visitors a warm-fuzzy feeling that the site they are about to visit is legitimate. Search engines will refuse to index your website with an SSL, and warn people that are about to visit your website that ‘this site is not secure’. So while not absolutely required for your website to function properly, having an SSL in place is strongly recommended. An SSL certificate renews separate from your hosting plan and at the standard rate (currently around $90-100/year). Again, SSL comes with the hosting plan for the first year so you don’t have to concern yourself over it this year, but is good to keep in mind when it comes time for renewal. For even more detail, see: https://www.godaddy.com/pro/hosting/web-hosting – 3rd column.

*less the SSL that, as explained in the above inset text, renews separately from hosting.

Web Developer

While it is possible for a layman to create their own website, why not hire a professional?

TLDR

That’s a lot of numbers, so to summarize, setting up the infrastructure for your custom website requires the following pieces:

  • I take care of the GoDaddy account creation and purchasing of the products. So that you 100% own your website, the account is in your name and uses your credit card. The ownership piece is very important.
  • Domain name: $19.99/year regardless of how many years you purchase
  • Hosting: $155.88/year intro rate for GoDaddy’s Ultimate Hosting plan. Renews at $203.88/yr, so purchase as many years upfront as possible
  • SSL – free for the first year with your hosting plan. Renews at $99/year

Variations – Wix, and etc.

There are companies such as Wix that offer turnkey solutions. The basic infrastructure requirements are the same, however. With Wix, etc., you basically forego some of the technical challenges that advanced web developers use in exchange for the convenience and ease of developing a templated website.  It isn’t a bad way of doing things, it’s just a different way of doing web development. For more information on Wix and other free website builders, see: Free websites!