What Do I Need to Start a Website?So you’re considering building a website, but you’re new to this whole thing. You don’t even really know where to start. It can be easy to find yourself frozen before you get started if you don’t have a clear list of steps to guide you. To help you out, here’s a step-by-step guide to what you need to start a website.
1. A GoalIf you’re at the stage of thinking about starting a website, you may already have a good start on this one (most people don’t start out wanting a website without having an idea of what it would be for). Nonetheless, before you go any further, really clarify for yourself what you want your website to accomplish. If you’re starting a service-based business, the website should accurately communicate what you offer and why people should hire you. If you’re starting a product-based business, your goal is to get people to add those items to their shopping cart and check out. If you’re starting a blog to share your deep abiding love of spaghetti westerns, the goal could be as simple as finding a few like minds who enjoy reading your posts. Whatever your particular goal, all the other steps laid out here can play a role in helping you achieve it, which makes it important that you figure this step out before going any further.
2. A NameThis deceptively simple step can be one of the hardest parts for many people. It doesn’t require a lot of tedious work, but it does require making a hard creative decision and it’s easy to get stuck at this step and have a hard time moving forward. When choosing a name for your website, you have to think about more than just what sounds good. Part of your brainstorming process should be to look up available domain names as you go. You don’t necessarily have to register the exact domain as the name you want your website to have, but it will make it much easier for repeat visitors to find you again if the names match, so it’s worth trying to come up with something original that you can grab the .com domain for without having to use weird spellings. You will almost certainly find this step difficult, but don’t let it take you forever. Give yourself a deadline and get it done. Having a name that’s not 100% perfect is better than not having a name or website at all.
3. Web HostingYou can usually register your domain name and buy web hosting in one fell swoop, since most hosting plans include at least one domain name as part of the package (and sometimes more). Picking the right hosting plan can be a bit overwhelming, but a little basic information on how types of web hosting differ should give you a pretty clear idea of what to go with. If you’re just starting out and your website will be on the smaller side without a devoted following, an affordable shared plan will probably work just fine and you can get one for just a few bucks a month.
4. A DesignEvery website you see on the web has a basic web design that someone had to create. When a website’s design is intuitive and doing its job, you don’t necessarily think much about it, but that’s because someone else did the thinking for you during the design process to make sure the site easily meets visitor needs. You’ve got a few options to design your website. You can hire someone that’s experienced in web design to build you something unique that suits your needs. You can use a website builder to build it yourself using templates and an intuitive design interface. Or you can try to learn web design yourself and build a website from scratch. Be warned that the latter option won’t be easy if you don’t have prior experience (and really isn’t necessary in this era of easy-to-use website builders), but if web design is a skillset you’d like to have, building your first website is good practice.
5. ContentAs with web design, you probably never put much thought into the work that goes into crafting all the words on the pages of websites you visit. But someone put that time and work in and it’s a step you have to take as well. This is another step where it may be worth hiring a professional to help you out, especially if your website’s goal is to sell something. Professional website copywriters know how to develop positioning for businesses and figure out the language most likely to drive visitors to action. And if writing’s not your forte, you’ll probably spend lots of time and mental energy on worse results than if you hired someone who really knows what they’re doing. If you decide to write the content yourself, take some time to read up on online copywriting best practices. Websites like Copyblogger and Copyhackers can provide some tips to help you learn the ropes.
6. Digital Marketing PlanYou may have thought creating your website was the hard part (and it’s not easy), but once your website launches you’ll quickly realize how hard it can be to get people to check it out. For that, you need online marketing. Consider the types of online marketing tactics that make the most sense for your website and work up a plan to help raise awareness of your website and drive traffic your way. No one will buy your products or read your content without being able to find your website first. To achieve the goal you established in step one, you’ll need to commit to ongoing marketing efforts that bring your audience to you.
7. Google AnalyticsOne of the most valuable tools every website owner needs is conveniently entirely free. Setting up Google Analytics is easy and one of the first things you should do once your website is ready to launch. The tool provides rich insights into how many people are coming to your website, how they found you, whether they came back again, and who they are (demographically speaking). The information you get from Google Analytics will tell you if your marketing is working and which tactics are working best. It will let you know which types of visitors are most likely to take action like a purchase or email signup, and which are most likely to leave the site within a few seconds without ever coming back. It will guide you in the types of changes you should make to your website and marketing efforts over time to better achieve your overarching goal. Building a website comes with its challenges, but once you know the basic steps you need to take it’s easier to work out a plan to move forward. Once it’s up and running you’ll face a whole new set of challenges, of course, but it’s rewarding to see your traffic grow and your website take off. If you’ve been waiting to get started because you don’t know what to do, just take it one step at a time and get it done. Good luck!
Monday, September 25, 2017 by Laura Stamey
How to Choose the Right Dedicated Server — 6 Tips to Maximize Performance Without Maxing Out Your BudgetYour baby is all grown up—just like a newborn starts sleeping in a bassinet before moving to the crib and finally graduates to his or her own bed, your website will experience growing pains as it’s ready to move to larger and more powerful servers. Now that you’ve successfully raised your website to become a full-fledged traffic magnet, it’s time to see how far it can fly. Dedicated servers provide the most power of all the hosting options, with all the processors, memory, and bandwidth concentrated solely on serving up your content. Because you are the sole tenant of a dedicated server, you have the opportunity to find a hosting provider and infrastructure perfectly tailored to your needs—especially your budget. Naturally, the pinnacle of web hosting is also the most expensive. Here are some of the things to look for to avoid the sticker shock and make your transition from VPS hosting as smooth as possible.
1. Find Cost-Effective Technology Configurations That Meet Your NeedsWhen you shop for a new car, you don’t automatically start looking at Ferraris and Lamborghinis, do you? The same applies to looking for dedicated servers. Don’t get wrapped up in finding the newest, latest, and greatest. Take a look at your current hosting configuration and estimate how much reasonable growth you can expect over the next year or two. Use those specifications and projections when comparing servers. Some of the factors you’ll want to consider:
- Operating system
- CPU cores and processors
- Disk space
- Type of storage (HDD or SSD)
2. Save Money by Taking More Responsibility Over Your ServerAs you’ve probably experienced with VPS hosting, many hosts pride themselves on giving customers a hands-free hosting experience. Managed services can mean different things to different hosting providers, but can include some combination or all of the following:
- System monitoring
- Software and operating system updates
- Security patching
- Automated backups
- Load balancing
- Automatic scaling configuration
- Disaster recovery
- Compliance with regulations
- Performance optimizations
- Antivirus and malware scans
- Dedicated SysAdmin time
3. Reliable Hosts and Strong SLAs Help You Avoid Costly DowntimeThe cost of downtime is prohibitive—companies lose upward of $26 billion in revenue each year because of unplanned IT downtime, and a datacenter outage alone can cost $5,600 per minute. When the Amazon Web Services storage platform was offline for three hours earlier in 2017, major enterprises lost $150 million. Just as moving to a dedicated server can unlock new levels of speed and performance, many hosts reserve their best uptime guarantees and service level agreements for their highest-tier customers. Some hosts will go as far as guaranteeing 100% reliability, but we’ve honestly found that HostGator's uptime guarantee of 99.9% represents the standard worth searching for. Customers can expect to see fewer than 45 minutes of downtime each month, which is quite miniscule.
4. Protect Your Brand by Not Scrimping on SecurityUltimate control over your dedicated hosting can be a double-edged sword: You can optimize and configure your server in a way that supports your business, but the added responsibility can expose organizations to risk if the server isn’t sufficiently protected. Companies lose an estimated $400 billion each year from hacks, with a significant portion of cybercrime going undetected or unreported. Criminals can steal data or hold sensitive information hostage until a ransom is paid. Beyond money, data breaches can cost a company customer confidence. When trying to save money with dedicated servers, don’t cut corners on security. Look for hosting providers that include DDoS protection, firewalls, and SSL certificates. Robust monitoring and backup tools will help you identify an attack and restore your data quickly.
5. Methodical Scalability Ensures Predictable PricingAlthough cloud hosting holds the edge for flexibility and scalability, costs can quickly skyrocket. The threshold for provisioning new computing resources is much smaller in the cloud, meaning modest traffic increases can bring about a higher invoice. We actually prefer scaling dedicated environments. By carefully selecting your server from the start, you can allow your site a comfortable space to grow. You can more predictably prepare to add more resources or servers as your traffic grows to specific thresholds. Each element comes with fixed costs, allowing administrators to keep total control over their environment.
6. 24/7 Support is Usually Free—And Can Make All the DifferenceAny host worth your business will offer 24/7/365 support through phone, chat, and email tickets, with some giving premium attention to their highest-paying customers. Especially if you opt out of managed services, you’ll want the peace of mind in knowing that experts will always be available to help you in times of crisis. When consulting with prospective hosts, ask for their average support response times or how long it typically takes to resolve an issue. Also, keep an eye out for resources beyond the typical technical support: A knowledgebase, video tutorials, and community forums can show a host’s dedication to customer success.
Control Your Server Customizations to Leave Room for UpgradesBy only paying for what you actually need, you can invest some money in features that improve your performance and security:
- Supercharged DNS
- DDoS protection and mitigation
- Load balancing
- Caching tools
- Content delivery network
- Dedicated IP addresses
- Firewalls and VPN access
- High availability and disaster recovery
Monday, September 18, 2017 by Casey Kelly-Barton
3 Ways You Can Make Your Own WebsiteYou made it! You're officially the proud owner of a shiny new domain name and web hosting package. Now you've reached the part of building a website that most of us get most excited about: setting up your header and homepage, designing your online portfolio, formatting your blog, setting up your online shop. It's time to furnish your online home – your domain – with things you want your visitors to see, explore, and maybe buy. Sounds great, right? But how do you actually put together a website? There are 3 ways you can do this.
1. Build Your Website from ScratchWith this option, you start with your domain and a bunch of ideas and code them into reality. This is the website equivalent of hiring an interior designer, a decorator and a bunch of subcontractors to fill in the empty shell of your new home – or doing it all yourself. How do you know if you should build your site this way? Answer these two questions:
- Do you have great technical and coding skills?
- Do you have a big budget for hiring a web designer?
2. Use WordPressWith this option, you install the world's most popular content management tool to put together your website with ready-made tools, themes, and a dashboard that make it easy to update or change your site. Using WordPress is like making a big IKEA run to get everything you need to set up your new place. You only have to make one stop. Because the furniture you get is modular and easy to build, you can change or add pieces when you need to, using only the online equivalent of an allen wrench. Should you build your site this way? Yes, if you're comfortable using these tools to build and maintain your site:
- Themes: In technical terms, WordPress themes are “files that work together to produce a graphical interface with an underlying unifying design for a weblog.” Whoa! That’s a whole lotta jargon. In allen-wrench terms, themes are file packages you can buy or get for free that give your site a particular look, just like you might decide to furnish your whole living room in Ektorp seating. You can find thousands of free and paid themes on WordPress.com, MOJO Marketplace, and HostGator.
- Templates: Templates are “the building blocks of WordPress themes.” Your theme will have templates for your site's header, sidebars, blog posts, links and more. You can use the templates as is or customize them to look exactly the way you want them to. (Think IKEA hacks.)
- Plugins: Plugins are the extras you can easily add on, but only if you need them. In IKEA terms, they're the glass doors for your Billy bookcases. There are plugins for everything from contact forms to search engine optimization to site security.
- Page tools: You can use these to create new pages for your site, like a homepage, portfolio, about you, contact, and an online store.
- Post tools: Use these to write, edit, and add images to blog posts and publish them on your site's blog page.
- Updates: Because theme and plugin developers are always making improvements, fixing bugs and boosting security, sometimes you'll need to update your theme, plugins, and version of WordPress. This is a click-and-go task that takes just seconds, but it's important to keep your site running smoothly and securely.
3. Use a Web BuilderSite builders, like the one HostGator includes for free with all of its hosting plans, have been winning fans over the past few years because they're fast and easy to use, don't require manual updates, and integrate seamlessly with your hosting service and domain name. If you're the type of shopper who buys flat-pack furniture to save money and has it delivered and assembled for you to save time, you'll like the site builder approach. Should you build your site this way? Yes, if you want:
- Templates that give your site a design without the expense of hiring a web designer
- A no-code-required drag-and-drop way to customize your site template
- Set-it-and-forget-it site functions that update without you having to lift a finger
- Built-in tools for sharing your site content on social media
- Easy SEO tools for getting your site found in online searches
- Quick PayPal integration to get your shop up and selling
- Round-the-clock professional support for your site-building questions.
Whichever path you choose, HostGator is here to help you along the way. Enjoy 24/7 award-winning US-based expert support and web hosting that grows with you as your traffic grows.
Monday, September 18, 2017 by Kevin Wood
How Do I Create a Website For My Church?If you run a church, then you need a website to both attract new members, and give your current members any information they require. But, what if you have a small budget? Most churches don’t have a ton of money to invest into a website. Luckily, with tools like WordPress, you can quickly build a high-quality site that will become your virtual home on the Internet. Below we’ll walk you through the process of creating a website for your church using WordPress. There are other options out there, but WordPress will give you the most freedom and customization abilities.
1. Choose a Host and DomainThe first thing you’ll need to do is purchase hosting and a domain name. There are a ton of beginner friendly hosts out there like HostGator. Plus, all of the hosts mentioned have a one-click install of WordPress, so all it takes is a few minutes to get WordPress installed on your site. You’ll also need a domain name to go along with your hosting package. The domain you choose will be part of your overall branding, so make sure you choose wisely. You may be able to get your church’s name, or if it’s common, then you might have to add your location to the end of it.
2. Install Your CMSIf you choose a beginner friendly host, then this will make installing WordPress on your site much easier. All you have to do is go to your cPanel and find an application that is named something like one-click install. Then, follow the directions on the screen and it will automatically install WordPress on your site. If you’re having trouble finding your cPanel or figuring out how to install WordPress, then make sure you look through your host’s documentation and tutorials.
3. Pick a ThemeLuckily there are dozens of existing WordPress themes that are designed specifically for the functionality that churches require. Below we highlight some of the most popular church themes. Any of the following would be a great choice for your organization. Most of the themes below are premium themes, which means they’ll cost a little money, but we also highlight one free theme that could work for your church as well.
- Outreach Pro Theme
- Any theme from Church Themes
- Forgiven Theme
- WP for Church
- Charitas Lite, a solid free WordPress theme
- Risen Theme
4. Choose Your PluginsYou don’t technically need any plugins for your WordPress site to function, but they can offer additional features you might enjoy. Two plugins almost every site should install are Yoast SEO for search engine optimization and Akismet for spam blocking. Below we offer a few church-specific plugins you might want to try out:
5. Customize Your SitePlanning out your website is an important step of the website building process. This will help you determine what content needs to be written, how users will navigate your site, and the overall functionality you require. For your church site, you’ll need to cater to your current congregation, new members, as well as any groups like youth groups or Bible study. With your site planned out, you can begin customizing the visual appearance of your site. Depending on the theme you chose, you might be able to upload the theme’s demo content, which will mirror the demo theme. Then, all you have to do is swap out your own content and images and you’re all set. You may also have a separate customization panel, or you can use the built-in theme customizer by navigating to Appearance>Customize.
6. Launch Your SiteWith your site built-out and your content uploaded it’s time to launch your site. You may not need to do a big launch, but if you have any existing social media profiles you can share the link there. Also, make sure current members of your congregation are aware that your site exists, and you’ll be posting events and sermons there on a regular basis. Building your church website doesn’t have to be a difficult task. By using WordPress to build out your church website you’ll simplify the building process and end up with an attractive and functional website. Any questions related to building out your church website? Please ask away in the comments below or contact our support team.