We've all heard the lies ... WordPress is easy to use!!!
Nope, it's complicated and complex; but we can make it simple, at least for introductory purposes.
And that's what this guide aims to do: Make WordPress accessible to budding entrepreurs and creatives, like you!
Websites have a few components we need to make sure to cover.
First we have the actual domain name we need to purchase; then we need to consider where we will be hosting our websites’ files.
About Domain Names
I recommend choosing a domain name at the same time you obtain your social media accounts. It is very advantageous for audiences to find you under a unified brand across multiple platforms.
First thing you need is a domain name. Most domain names will cost around $7-9 USD for the first year and $12-15 every year after; if you pay yearly.
Discounts apply if you purchase for multiple years at once.
I personally recommend NameCheap.
Why? Because free ICAAN anonymity. This will hide any identifying information about the domain’s owner. Nice perk.
Not all registrars provide this for free; the anonymity is a deciding factor.
If you’re looking elsewhere check out transfer fees, and support packages offered.
# Top-level Domains (.com, .blog, .xyz, etc)
These domain names tend to cost more, some cost WAY less, many are quickly becoming available; and some are considered problematic for social and political reasons.
Now you know.
# Managing your Domain
The internet is like one “autonomous” post office.
Information is sent via packets; and a packet is addressed using a series of identifying numbers.
When you host your domain, you can adjust the end point for some of those numbers!
This is another benefit of purchasing your domain through a reputable domain registrar; as some domain providers may not allow this ability. What you're looking for is the abibility to manage you DNS.
Now that you’ve got your domain name, where are you going to host the files?
Depending on the type of website you wish to build, there are a variety of options.
From hosting your own server in the cloud, to using ready-built SaaS platforms (i.e. Heroku), or building a static website.
You’re still going to need a place to store the files.
Charges can be as low as pennies per month for static storage, or as low as $3-5 for monthly hosted space (Digisal Ocean).
Prices go up from there, depending on your needs, and ability.
Amazon is notoriously dangerous to use; the billing structure is a nightmare, and ensares people easily.
I suggest avoiding until certifications can be acquired; and I don't advocate get certifications either.
I actually have none myself.
# Managed Hosting
Services such as WPEngine or Drupal Clusters will manage your website's mechanics for you! If you have a large user-base, over 5,000, and expect to have consistent traffic from the start, this may be the option for you!
Self-hosting has a variety of options as well
Services such as DigitalOcean provide the option to deploy a WordPress website onto your own server with a few button clicks.
Though BlueHost has been recommended by WordPress, providing a 1-click WordPress installation process.
This rings up to be about $4 per month for the first year and $9 per month afterwards.
Remember to read the fine print.
# CMS's vs Pre-Built vs Static Sites
Websites are built with variety of tools and methods, let’s figure out which is right for you!
First off, we let’s provide a little detail about how websites are built!
A solid metaphor is the structure of a building.
The HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) provides framing for our structure.
But what about the data?
For our use cases, the data we need to store will likely be things like blog posts, images, videos and more.
Though depending on your needs, a static website may be the best fit for you to begin. They are easy to build and require little to no maintenance.
Want to Build a Basic HTML static site?
Another option is using a managed service such as Wix, Webflow or SquareSpace. Moving on there are deployable platforms such as WordPress, Drupal and others.
And so now we’ll now cover each of these types.
# Static Websites
Static websites can be interactive, and have the potential to display dynamic data as well. Though normally static websites don’t change much.
Certain clients only need an informational website, with contact information for clients to reach them.
Mesa Pizza has been using the website I built them for well over a decade; and even duplicated the template for their other stores!
Moreover, these static websites can be hosted on an Amazon S3 bucket for pennies per month!
# Wix, SquareSpace, Webflow etc
Next up, there are quite a few platforms expanding on the NoCode web development options. And while tempting, each option has its pro’s and con’s.
If your budget allows, the premium version of these platforms are well served. Though they are quickly becoming complex enough to need specialized technicians and administators themself.
Hosting plans are included with these packages, and initial set-up is a matter of redirecting your web domain to their IP address.
I very strongly caution against purchasing one’s domain through any provider though.
It is always best to retain as much control over your digital assets as possible.
# Content Management Systems (CMS’s)
These are the power tools, meant to manage mountains of dynamic and changing content with ease; while allowing fine-tune control of aesthetics and processes.
WordPress holds the most mindshare across the net; and is a well-test, free tool that is relatively easy for beginners to use. Though there is a learning curve.
There are a multitude of CMS platforms available; WordPress is written using the PHP language ... there are a multitude of languages as well.
Though for entrepreneurial beginners I recommend WordPress.
We will use CSS to modify our web-sites, though beyond this, rarely ever need to interact with the code.
Admittely, the CSS can be fun.
# A Note about Scaling
When just beginning, one can get by with a cheap self-hosted WordPress website. Though as traffic begins to increase, this will no longer be reasonable.
A few options are available, depending how often your content changes.
Caching options via Cloudflare can help span the chasm of the cusp of success..
Allowing one to stay self-hosted until there is sufficient funding from traffic to migrate to managed service.
# Mailing Addresses
The other aspect of branding is creating an email address.
I suggest starting with an @gmail address, or similar; if you'd like to pay for a service, Zoho is a non-Google option.
Such email addresses are readily identifiable by others, and so carry their own intrinsic level of trust. “Oh this person has coordinated their efforts with a domain and associated email account, they’re taking sincere steps.”
Small, though very visible.
Google Domains, so as to have [email protected], costs monthly payments, as do most other services.
We’ll release a guide to getting around this soon. Because you have purchased your domain names, you can also adjust the MX records to redirect mail that is sent to our domain.
You could host your own mail server ..?
This is yet another advantage to having control over this digital asset.