March 12, 2007
Getting Started with Websites
Website Creation Tips and Tricks for Publishing
Alexandra Andrews and Lydia Idem
Websites are the publishing media of today. More and more businesses, schools, government agencies, non-profit organizations, hospitals, courts, religious centers, grocery stores, pharmacies, magazines, video, movies, etc, are on-line. There are tremendous advantages. The Internet is not bound by office hours. A web site is available 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.
Do you want to make a website? Here are some pointers from Alexandra Andrews and Lydia Idem. We represent two distinct wings and viewpoints of website creation. Alexandra specializes in information websites; Lydia specializes in media websites. In our articles, we will at times have very differing approaches.
Our first article is Getting Started with Websites These are the questions you should ask yourself before even creating the website.
Choosing a domain name
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Domain names are very important. You should choose one that reflects your website project. It is best to choose a domain name that is clear to all. Hope that it is not taken by someone else.
Buy these three top extensions of your domain name - com, org, net. If you don't, poachers will buy one of the extensions and you can do nothing about it. For example, whitehouse.com is a porn site. whitehouse.gov is where the US President lives, The White House.
- Choose a company that registers domain names. Again it is best to shop around. Beware of the following:
- Hosting companies who register domain names, listing themselves as the domain name owner. You should be listed as the owner of your domain name.
Companies that charge extra money for domain registration. They charge a yearly fee plus a registration service fee.
Domain registration slammers. These send out notices that your domain name needs to be renewed wanting to make themselves the registrar.
- One safety procedure is to have a different person listed as either administrative or technical contact. Doing this will help to protect you from the unscrupulous.
Lydia: If you have the budget and monthly cash flow, consider buying your domain name with all three top domain extensions. You can then create an alias from 2 of the domain names that will direct users to the actual website. This helps prevent poachers from using your company, organization, or personal name as an entry to explicit sites. This especially happens as your website gains popularity and visitors. It also increases your website hits by providing multiple entry points into your website.
In the early days of the Internet, some companies even went as far as buying domain names that were variations of their actual website name, particularly misspellings. For example, www.blacktree.com and www.blacktre.com. This proved not to be worth the expense in the end. Users get to know a website and its associated brand and trust it enough to get the domain name right.
Choices in Hosting
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You will need to find a host for your website. This is similar to a house needing a lot. What is the purpose of your website? Is it a family website? Do you want an e-commerce website? Is it a mainly text informational website? Is it a media website?
There are many hosting companies. Remember you get what you pay for. If it is a cheap deal you are probably getting a cheap hosting.
- Read the plans available.
- Can you upgrade?
What is the size of the disc space?
What is the data transfer? When a viewer looks at your web page all of the text, pictures, and other files are transferred to your visitor's computer. For example, a web page containing 10 spacer gifs, 8 graphics, 1 audio clip, 1 web page equals 10 + 8 + 1 + 1 files.
Be aware of bandwidth (data transfer) thieves. This is where you have an exciting picture on your website. Instead of putting the graphic or media clip on the poacher's site, a link is placed on their website to your media. Every time someone clicks on that web page your media file is called and you pay for the data transfer.
What is the bandwidth? This is very important. There is a difference between a flood light and a 10 watt bulb. How can you shine on the Internet, if your bandwidth is the equivalent of a night light?
What is the tech support? Email? Real people? People who speak English or people who speak with heavy accents? Are the techs supportive or dismissive about your questions? This is especially important if you are a woman. Alas, in the computer world sexism reigns and it doesn't matter what your race, education, or age is.
Alexandra: What are the security arrangements? I would never waste my money on an ISP using Windows.
What does this hosting company provide in web statistics? Of course, you will want to know how many have visited your site. Make sure you know the difference between a hit, page and vistor. See www.cancerlynx.com/hits.html
When the hosting company sets up your website, ask if your website will pop up if, for example, either one of these urls (universal resource locator) cancersupportivecare.com or www.cancersupportivecare.com is typed into the navigation bar.
How do they want you to pay? True story: Cancerlinks.com used AT&T hosting on the @home servers. We had to pay using our credit card. Then this hosting service went belly up. AT&T made arrangements for our site to be hosted by another company (interland.com). Even though we switched to lmi.net and never used the new hosting company, our credit card was charged. The company would agree that this was their mistake, refund our money, and then a few months later our card would be charged for hundreds of dollars, over and over again. The only way we were able to end this looting was by destroying this credit card.
Having a only a contact email address is scary. If they provide a phone number, call it. Check how long it takes for your phone call to be answered. Let us say you have a hosting company and suddenly it is not answering phone calls or emails. These are ominous signs of a company going belly up. Prepare to find another hosting company.
The company demands you pay in advance. There is no guarantee, if you have paid for 12 months you will get 12 months of service. Hosting companies can be here today and gone tomorrow.
Do you need to report the downtime of your website? You are paying the hosting company for your site to be available. If this company is oblivious to server uptime, you do not want to use them.
Does the hosting company promise to provide you with statistics showing your visitors? Is this report a small graphic? Dump this hosting company! Good web statistics should be several pages each month.
Alexandra: Both Lydia and I use the program, Webalizer for web statistics.
Does the hosting company have a disaster policy? What happens if their servers are destroyed or compromised? Above all make sure you have backups of your website.
Alexandra: I believe in using a local hosting company, lmi.net I like face to face technical help for my co-located server.
Lydia: You need to be sure that the hosting company supports the technology that you want to implement your website. Do they support PHP, JSP, ASP or ColdFusion? If they do, are there extra costs? How much disk space will I get and at what cost? Remember! Websites are never finished and never complete. A good website is a living online organism that is ever evolving, and your host company should support this evolution. Will the disk space you pay for now be sufficient tomorrow as you add more pages and other files (i.e., photos, graphics, video) to the website? You must always consider maintenance, updates, and changes to the website when begin to contemplate creating a website. Website maintenance is an expensive endeavor because it takes time and resources. Choose your domain name and web hosting company with this in mind.
I must agree with Alexandra about Windows-based servers. I have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with hackers and file corruption on Windows servers. I champion open source technology for all of your web infrastructure needs which may include multiple servers, databases, firewalls, and application servers. My recent experience with Windows servers only deepens these feelings.
- Have you read the other Website Creation Tips and Tricks for Publishing articles to prepare for your website?
Accessibility, Usability, and Navigation
- ASCII, Colors, Fonts, Graphics
Alexandra Andrews is a Linux Webmaster for many websites including CancerSupportiveCare.com, CancerLynx.com, and CancerLinks.com
Lydia Idem is currently a professor at California Design College and Webmaster for BlackTree Media (www.blacktreemedia.com and www.blacktree.tv).