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Website Building Basics - Domain Names and Web Hosting

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Julie McCoy
November 05, 2007

Julie McCoy
Julie McCoy has been building websites for over 10 years.
Julie McCoy has written 1 articles for JavaScriptSearch.
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Everyone wants a website, and every day it's becoming easier and cheaper to own one. Yet it can still be a daunting process for the beginner - what do all these terms mean? What's the difference between buying a domain name and hosting space? What do you do first? This guide will get you on your feet.


What it is

A domain name is also known as a URL (Universal Resource Locator) - it is the 'address' of a website.

How it works

Your URL is simply how people connect with your website. Think of it as your website's phone number - people can't call you without first looking up your number, and people can't browse to your website unless they first look up your URL.

However, owning a URL is not the same as owning a website. By registering a domain name, you have purchased the right to use that domain to identify your site. You typically renew your registration annually for a small fee. However, you still need to have web hosting in order to actually get your site online. We'll cover that in the next part.

Selecting a domain

Your domain name, or URL, is quite possibly the most important part of your website, especially if your site is meant for a business. Here are some tips for selecting a good domain name:

Keep it concise

  • The fewer words you can use, the better - joestotallyawesomewebsite.com is much harder to remember (and type!) than joesmith.com. You want to communicate what your website is about in the fewest, easiest-to-remember words possible.

Make it descriptive

  • You don't want a lot of words, but you do want people to know what you're about. nashvillefurniture.com says a lot with two easy-to-remember words. Business websites should always try to use their name as their URL - everybody knows how to find Wal-Mart's website, and it should be that simple for your clients, too!

No funny business!

  • A good, simple domain is hard to find these days. It might take some creative thinking to find something that will work for you - but resist the temptation to use odd abbreviations or spelling, unless it's already part of your business name. After all, you still want it to be easy to remember, and most people won't think to type kustomkarz.com when your business name is Custom Cars. Try using other characteristics instead - such as atlantacustomcars.com


Once you've selected a domain name, you'll need to sign up with a web hosting service.

What it is

Your web host is the company that your website lives on. The web host has computers (called servers) that are online all day, every day so that internet users can access their content. When you purchase a hosting package, you're purchasing a certain amount of their hard drive space, which you then put your webpage on.

How it works

Once you've purchased your hosting package, it's up to you to put your website online. This is very easily achieved using FTP (File Transfer Protocol). There are many free FTP programs available for download, and what they do is transfer the files you want from your computer's hard drive onto your web host.

That's it - once your pages are online, the web host does the rest!

What you need

So you're ready to sign up with a web host - but there are so many options! What does it all mean?

Storage: This is the amount of hard drive space you're permitted. Currently, most hosting plans offer far more storage than the average person will ever need. However, if you're planning a large site, or a site that hosts lots of images or downloads, you'll want to choose a plan with adequate storage.

Bandwidth: Bandwidth is the term for the amount of data transferred when someone accesses your webpage. When a visitor downloads a 1MB video from your site, they've used 1MB of your allotted bandwidth. Bandwidth is an especially important consideration if you'll have a graphics-heavy or media-heavy website. Type, on the other hand, uses very little bandwidth.

mySQL Database: mySQL is a database management program that is becoming more and more important. Many kinds of software utilize mySQL databases, such as bulletin boards, shopping carts, blogging software, and content management systems.

Add-On Domains: This is an option that allows you to register more than one domain on your hosting account. This is particularly useful if you're running several smaller sites which don't require all the resources of your hosting package. With multiple add-on domains, you can have several different websites, but only one hosting package - which means saving money!

Fantastico: This is a script library that many hosting companies offer. It contains many free scripts that you can easily install on your website, such as blogging software, shopping carts, bulletin boards, and other useful features.

E-Mail Accounts: The number of email accounts allowed to you determine how many customized email addresses you can create. With e-mail included on your hosting program, you can have that custom email that never has to change - [email protected]

There are a multitude of other options available with different hosting programs. However, the ones listed here are the most essential. In all likelihood, if you don't know what the other options mean, you probably don't need them!

Now that you understand the basics of starting your own website, you can go out and build your own! Visit my website for a step-by-step guide to registering a domain name and purchasing web hosting

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