So you’ve decided you need a website. Where do you get started?
The first thing you’ll need to do is find your focus. Define your target market and what feature sets you apart from those already serving your market. What is your niche?
Create some content. This will help you focus your vision. It also tests your commitment. You may find out you don’t enjoy writing and decide to skip the whole rest of the process. It’s better to find out now. This initial content will help you focus beyond fuzzy concepts and get a better picture of your focus and what design will best fit your content later on.
Server or Platform.
Do you want to build out your own site or build on an existing platform such as blogger or WordPress.com? Building off an existing platform is a bit easier, but it requires giving up a lot of control and likely closes the door on potential monetization methods.
For instance, WordPress.com prohibits hosting ads other than those from their AdWords system, using outside plug-ins, and selling products (that weren’t created by you). There’s also additional search engine optimization struggles. Generally, if you want to have a blog for fun then build on a platform, otherwise, you’re going to want to do a bit of extra work up front to host it yourself.
I purchase my domains through Google domains. They’re a little more expensive ($12 per year vs $10 at other sites), but they make up for it in their ease of use. Their e-mail forwarding in particular is very useful. You can set-up an e-mail address from your domain (such as email@example.com) to forward to another e-mail address such as (firstname.lastname@example.org). This makes your website appear more professional while saving you the nightmarish hassle of setting up your own mail server.
You can then use the “+” gmail trick to filter these emails from your main email account.
Some hosting services come with a free domain, so check out your hosts payment plans before buying a domain.
No mater what you decide, the first step will be finding hosting. Personally, I use Digital Ocean. The link there will give you $10 in credit when you sign up. Their smallest droplet (server) with one-click WordPress capability is $10 a month. I’m currently running multiple websites off a single $5 droplet, but it did require a bit of customization.
I like Digital Ocean, because they give me complete control of my server and have great customer service. I asked about a WordPress SQL issue I was having and received a speedy response with detailed descriptions of possible issues and steps to diagnose and fix the problem. My only hesitation in recommending them is that they require a small amount of technical set-up to get started. You can checkout their one-click install and see if you’re ok with that.
If not, I have heard good things about BlueHost. I know several people who use it, but I personally do not. I may try using them in the future to give a better review. In the meantime, I can say their install seems a bit simpler for the non-tech savvy.
Your chosen host will likely have easy to follow tutorials (and their importance should not be underestimated during your decision process), so I’ll stick to an overview:
Set Up Server Security
Install git, vim, and your custom vimrc if you need them.
Point your DNS to server ip address
Set up virtual hosts if you’ll use them (allow you to have multiple websites on a single server).
Set up https using Let’s Encrypt
If you have any issues with the Let’s Encrypt install, check out this article.
Now you’re all set. You’ve set up a server and you’re ready to share your content with the world! Now, let’s move on to setting up a WordPress site, so you can skip the massive amounts of coding required to generate a full website and get straight to generating content.