So, you want to join the millions of people on the web who have built and maintained websites, correct? Well, what’s your interest – cooking? A blog? Your family photos? There are all sorts of places on the internet that will allow you to have your own, personal, space. Do you want to create a page for your business? That’s easy enough to do, too! First, there are some things you should know – things that you should look for, if you’re going to build your own website, and need space on the web to do it.
- What is a web host exactly?
A web host is a company that provides space on the internet for your files. A web host may charge for their services, or they may allow you to host on their website, for free. I prefer ‘free’ web hosts, because often projects that seem so good in your mind, turn out to be big flops. You may not want to maintain them – and if you pay for the service, you may be at a loss. If you’re serious, however, paying for web space may be a sound investment.
Web hosts are much like contractors appearing after natural disasters. “Fly-by-night.” They pop in and out of existence. One day, you have a fully developed, beautiful web design, and the next, your web host and your website have disappeared into thin air. The best way to check for reliability, in my opinion, is to scroll to the bottom of the page. How long is the copyright for? If the page says, “Copyright 2000 to (current year)”, chances are the site will be sticking around for a while. Be wary if the copyright is only for this year, or extends to a previous year – such as 2004. These sites may be up, but inactive.
- Ad-free hosting
Now, if you don’t mind pop-up and banner ads being placed on your website, then you can ignore this. Personally, I prefer sites that do not force me to place their advertisements on my own place on the web. And, when I browse, I enjoy not having five or six pop-ups interfering with my viewing of the website. It is not always possible to get free hosting that is also ad-free. But, at the very least, it is an ideal to strive for.
These are all acronyms which, hopefully, you will never need to know the meaning of. PHP is a ‘server-side’ scripting language. That means, it executes before the viewer sees the page. PHP allows for dynamic sites – such as forums, contact forms, etc. MySQL goes hand in hand with PHP and is a database language that allows PHP to store information for retrieval. SMTP is not related to these two, but SMTP access is essential if you want your website to have the ability to send emails to your customers. SMTP is not usually free anymore, but you can often find contact forms from other sources if you want to keep at the ‘free’ level of website building.
- Quick Installers
Quick Installers, script installers, etc. – may be the way to go if all you want to do is create a photo gallery, a shop, a forum, a Wiki, or something similar. These scripts self-install, and then you format them yourself, without any need for technical knowledge. Popular scripts include phpBB, Drupal, Moodle, WikiTiki, phpNuke, etc.
- Domain Names
Domain names are the primary name holders of the internet. Ex: google.com. Often, when you get a free account, you will get a subdomain – mywebsite.mywebhost.com . If you wanted something such as mywebhost.com, you would have to pay for it. Asking prices usually range from $2.95 (with web hosting package, too) to $19.95. Be wary of price increases if you choose a domain name – your best bet would be to buy it for longer than a year. One of my domain names, I purchased for seven years at $7.95 a year. With prices soaring to $19.95, I have been thankful that I bought that domain name close to four years ago.
- Templates and Tutorials
In the end, it may come to you building your website from scratch. Don’t be afraid! There are plenty of tutorials on the internet to help you. If you don’t want to learn the language, you can also get away with minimal HTML knowledge by finding yourself a free template to work off of. HTML, however, is beyond the scope of this article.
Hopefully, the tips above will help you come to an informed decision about your web host. Building websites is an excellent experience, and I hope to see yours out there! If you are serious, you may want to browse the world wide web for some beginner HTML forums or something similar. There, experts will be able to point you in the right direction regarding any questions you may have.