The wildly complex process of getting a website for yourself
A friend of mine visited me yesterday, and he was showing interest in having a website. Like a lot of people, he doesn't really know anything about how it works, and he really doesn't care. I can relate - I am happy to use a lot of technology while knowing nothing about it, I just flip a switch to turn on a light, I don't need to know about power grids, electrical stations, and how electricity works. I just want to light up the room. I pay the power company, and they do all of the stuff necessary for me.
I've seen websites go from "do-it-yourself" things in the '90s for computer nerds to the wildly complex things that they have become nowadays. And really, just a web page that says "hello!" requires a lot of things to happen first, before you even get into how many pictures you want, or anything like that. Here they are:
• A domain name. When I use the term "domain", I can see non-techy people's eyes start to glaze over. Sorry, but that's where you start. It's the name of your website. Mine is BradHallArt.com. Yes, it's unique and no one else can have it. That is, as long as I continue to pay for its registration, which is about twelve dollars a year these days. So the first thing you've gotta do is come up with a name. Then you have to check to see if someone else already has it. Then you have come up with a different one. This can take some time. By the way, if you're tempted to use your name, try to be born with one that's pretty simple, like mine. If you're Panchellitto Sabuquowitz, you may want to consider that even your closest friends will probably have trouble typing that in, and finding your website.
• A web host. That's where your website is be, physically. It's a server somewhere (my web host, which is Bluehost, is in California somewhere. I think). Anyway, you have to pay a company like that in order for your website to actually make it onto the internet. So, this is an additional expense (and the largest one!) beyond paying for the domain. But wait, there's more...
• HTML pages. I call them that, but really they don't have to be HTML, they just have to be files that an internet browser can read. This is where the layout happens. If you've worked with a page layout program before, like Pagemaker, Quark, or InDesign, it's similar. I use Dreamweaver to build pages like that, but there are a lot of different ways to do it. You can build them yourself on websites like GoDaddy, by the way. Or you can hire a designer to do them. This can be a very large expense, depending on the complexity of the look of your site.
• Databases. OK, now we're way beyond anything I understand. But when you go to a webpage and it accesses information, like the latest real estate prices, it's accessing a database. Databases drive everything from Amazon to Google maps. They keep everything working and up-to-date.
Speaking for myself, I'm just doing cartoon illustration nowadays. I do a little bit of web design, mostly for clients that I have supported for years, or for clients who just need a little simple HTML to get rolling in Dreamweaver. My website, which I've had since the '90s, is now just one page. It's optimized for mobile, so it can be indexed in a Google search, it has a few sample of my cartoons, my logo, some links to my social media stuff, and a way to contact me. Seems to be all I need these days.
And, unless you're interested in investing a lot of time and money, a website may not be appropriate for you. There are so many other things that you can do on the web for free, that just take time. I recommend a Google profile, which will introduce you to Google+. Start with Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and then put your best effort on Google+, which is what will be your best representation on the web. Here is my Google profile, which is connected with my Google+ pages, my blogs, Twitter, and of course my website.
Posted by Brad Hall