Below are my recommendations for the basic steps to get your website up and running.
I’m working on putting together a basic glossary, but in the meantime I’d recommend good ol’ Wikipedia if you need help understanding the terminology.
1) Register a domain name
- Some web hosts will offer a free 1-year domain registration with the creation of a new account.
- If you choose a host that doesn’t offer this perk (such as the one suggested below), you’ll need to register your domain separately. There are numerous options, many of which are unfortunately not so great. At this point there are none that I would recommend without reservations, but so far I have been satisfied with Name.com and NameCheap.com.
- If you do a quick google search for any of the registration companies, you can probably come up with a discount code that will at least get you a better than average rate, at least for the first year. $8-15 per year is pretty typical for full-price registration.
2) Open a web hosting account
- Any web host is bound to cause you trouble at some point, unfortunately, but some have much better track records than others (minimal server downtime, decent tech support, &c.). My current recommendation for you would be the $35/year plan found here: http://asmallorange.com/hosting/shared/ though if your site will include a lot of large media files you may need to upgrade to an account with more storage space.
- You can read reviews of asmallorange and other hosting companies, and get discount/promo codes at http://reviewsignal.com/webhosting/
- When you open your account, you’ll receive an email confirmation that includes information about the nameservers for your account. You’ll need to update your domain registration account with this information so that your domain name points to the server where your site is hosted (see: Setting your nameservers).
3) Install WordPress
- WordPress is free, open source site-building software. You can read all about it here: http://wordpress.org. It is very well designed and programmed, and is supported by a large community of developers who constantly update and improve it. It’s been around for many years and won’t be disappearing any time soon. Not only will you avoid paying lots more dough for a site built from scratch, you’ll also avoid the problem of having to rely on an individual web developer to maintain and update your site. Believe me, this is a major advantage. Web developers cause lots of headaches.
- Most web hosts have a special quick-install tool for WordPress, so you don’t need to download or upload anything or modify configuration files.
- WP will not only help you build your site, it also has a built-in Content Management System so that you can easily update and add to your site.
- In addition to extensive default options for managing media files and so on, there are lots of free plugins for things like spiffy photo galleries and event calendars.
4) Log in to the WordPress Dashboard and have a look around
- The user interface is pretty intuitive, I think, but then again I’ve spent way too much time fiddling with UIs. Anyway you won’t cause any damage clicking around the different sections to get to know what tools and options are there. If you’re not allergic to user manuals, you will find this site very useful; http://codex.wordpress.org.
- As far as the documentation goes, this is a good place to start: http://codex.wordpress.org/First_Steps_With_WordPress. There are also plenty of tutorials and so on available online.
5) Choose and install a WordPress theme
- A theme determines the overall design of your site. There are only so many variations on basic layout when it comes to websites. You’ll generally have a header, footer, main content area, one or two sidebars. The main navigation menu is usually in the header. Your theme includes things like the color scheme, fonts, and dimensions of each part of the page layout.
- There are lots of free themes to choose from: http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/
- Many themes in the directory are out of date or poorly written, so pay attention to things like the “last updated” date and ratings.
- Once you’ve found a theme that you like pretty well, you can further customize it to look just the way you want. That is a non-trivial task, though, unless the changes you want are very minor, so if you want to get something up and running quickly, choose a good clean theme that you can live with more or less as-is.
- You can preview and install themes via the Dashboard (under Appearance > Themes)
6) Try making some pages and stuff. In most cases, you’ll want to use “Pages” for relatively static content, and “Posts” for information that accumulates over time.
For instance, if you’re a performing artist you might have your bio, resume, and so on as Pages, and use Posts to make event announcements, post recent reviews, and so on. You might want to use links to Category Archives as items in your site’s navigation menu, e.g. make a category called “Reviews,” create posts with review excerpts, and assign those posts to the Reviews category. When you visit the category page, you’ll see titles and excerpts for all relevant posts.
7) Ask questions. A good place to start with troubleshooting is to google your problem with as many key words as possible. There are also many helpful online forums (fora?), such as http://stackoverflow.com/
Hope this is helpful.