Coastal Media Brand

Website Design and Hosting – Simple and Inexpensive

You may be familiar with this scenario. Representatives from a Web development company visit your area and invite you to a seminar. They inundate you with information-most of it true, technically, but they put a spin on it. The message is: if you want to succeed on the Web, you need their services. And to show you how much they want to help you, they'll sell you six Websites for the price of one. But you must act now!

For one company with which I've acquainted, the cost was about $ 715 per Website (but you must buy six), plus a $ 24.95 per month hosting fee for each site that you activated. In addition, there was a $ 999 set-up fee with a company to process credit card and PayPal transactions, plus monthly fees for each site amount to about $ 30-plus a small percentage to the credit card company when a sale was made.

These companies pray on people who want to join the ranks of e-commerce entrepreneurs but have little knowledge and experience with the Web. But despite what they would have you believe, designing a website is inexpensive and fairly simple. This article will help you get started.

1. Prices for Web hosting range from free to thousands of dollars per month; however, for a simple site you can easily find hosting for fewer than $ 10. You can opt for free hosting, but the company will run advertising on your Website. This is okay for a personal site, but I do not recommend it for a commercial site because you can not control the ad content.

2. Through the host you can purchase a domain name for a modest cost. Use a name that contains some strong keywords, which will result in a higher search engine ranking. Buying the domain name for at least two years also will help your ranking. The search engines will see this as a sign that you plan to be around for a while and that your site is not a fly-by-night outfit.

3. I caution you against using a template to design your site. The main problem with a template is that you do not know how old it is. If the hosting company has been using the same template for five years, it is out of date, making it difficult for the Web crawlers (spiders) to read. This could result in a much lower search engine ranking, which would lead to fewer hits and fewer sales.

4. Two other problems with using a template: a) Your design choices are limited, and b) If you decide to switch Web hosting companies, you must build your site all over again; Since the template belongs to the hosting company, you will not be able to take your website with you when you move.

5. Design your website on your computer and upload the files to the host. This way, if you switch hosts you simply upload the files to the new host (after having your domain "pointed" at the new hosting company; your host will handle that for you). Designing a Website is easier than it sounds. You'll need an HTML editor. I used the one CoffeeCup sells for $ 49. The software allows you to design using either HTML or XHTML. Be sure to select XHTML, which is fast replacing HTML as the preferred language of the Web. Save all of your pages in a folder on your computer-inside that folder have another folder containing all of the photographs and other graphics you'll have on your site.

6. A basic knowledge of HTML and XHTML is helpful so you can understand how the code translates into visuals on a Web page and make changes in the code when necessary. Check out your local bookstore and community college.

7. Set up your pages for easy spidering by using tables, which are essentially boxes containing information. Web crawlers scan a page the same way we read, from left to right, top to bottom. Once they enter a table, they read everything in that table before going on to the next. When they find a link, they will follow it. That's why, on my Website, the links are down the right side of the page and across the bottom-I do not want the spider leaving the page until it has scanned a good chunk of it.

8. If you are selling merchandise, PayPal has a simple shopping cart which processes major credit cards and PayPal transactions. There are no set-up or monthly subscription fees; the only charge is a small percentage when you make a sale. Since payments are made on PayPal's Website you have the added advantage of PayPal's tight security; If you processed the transactions on your Website, you would be responsible for security. Call PayPal, and a customer service representative will help you get started.

9. After the pages are designed, use an FTP program like to upload your files to the host. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. There are lots of FTP programs available, some you pay for, some you do not. I use FileZilla Client, which is free. Filezilla has four windows arranged in two rows. On the left side are the two Local windows, on the right are the two Remote windows. The top left window contains paths to all of the files on your computer. Find the folder that contains your Website files, click on it, and it will open in the lower left window. Now put the host (your domain name), username and password (which you set up when you opened your hosting account) in the proper spaces at the top and click Quick Connect. When a connection is made, the root directory of your Website will appear in the top right window; the root directory is a folder followed by a /. The lower right window should contain the files, including images, in your Website folder. If any are missing, drag them from the lower left window and drop them into the lower right (I spend three days going over XHTML code, trying to figure out because some of my images were not displaying while others were; finally, out of options , I stopped looking at the XHTML and turned my attention to FileZilla-it did not take long to notice that the images that were not displaying were not in the lower right window). When everything is set up the way it should be, drag the Website files from the lower left window and drop them into the Root directory in the upper right window.

10. Go online to view your Website.

These are just the basics. There still is much to learn about building and maintaining a website but it will become easier as you continue to study and gain experience.

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