3. Headfirst into site technology, hosting and uploading your site

3. Headfirst into site technology, hosting and uploading your site

Site technology (tools to build your site and tools to run your site)

No matter what technology you use to build your site, make sure that you check how long sites have been up on average on your prospective internet host (or at least how long your prospective host's site has been around). This will help in your assessment of both the prospective operating system(s) for your site and the hardware on the server for your site. The longer it is hassle free, the better (see tools from Netcraft to help in this assessment).

There are essentially 5 choices for website building, using:

  1. hyper text mark-up language (html), the main language for the web (which requires time to learn), see the w3schools html tutorial, html code tutorial.com, html guide from davesite.com and/or Sizzling Jalfrezi's html guide,
  2. software applications that produce html for you such as the following applications, NVU is probably the best for beginners and Arachnophilia which is a multi-platform text editor and requires some knowledge of html,
  3. content management systems - such as the the following open source options,  Wordpress.org may be best for small beginner sites, drupal which is likely to be better for bigger sites (see How to install drupal CMS in 3 simple steps) and zope /plone which requires serious knowledge to use effectively but seems to be very flexible,
  4. a hosted software service such as wordpress.com, blogger, typepad, or movable type for blogs, or  yahoo or google for other types of sites, photos and services (if they fit your needs - note that many of these services allow the software to be used in your own web space), or
  5. paying someone to build a site for you and/or an element of it and/or maintenance of it (any of which can be very expensive).

The fourth option arguably gives you the least control over the technology, but you can spend your time to focus on the site content. The fifth option may, or may not, give you control over the site technology (depending on how it is set up).

The decision regarding site technology and what to include in a website needs to be yours but you may wish to look at these factors at least when deciding:

  • check out other sites made with the technology you are considering (to see what it looks like in operation),
  • features (does it do what you want, rather than having a big list of features),
  • check out similar sites (what features are common to those sites and are they what you want?),
  • value,
  • ease of use (for both your prospective users and you),
  • does it support common features that are on sites generally (e.g. creation of pages 'about us',' contact us', etc.),
  • stability and compatibility (e.g. are you happy with the operating system?) of the technology including the security of the technology (which can affect the availability of the site),
  • licensing (are you tied to one vendor?),
  • future development (if you want to upgrade your site later do you have to start from scratch?),
  • use of standards (standards may make it easier to make modifications with other software, services and support a wider audience reach), and
  • the level and type of support for that software/product/service.

If you want to have e-commerce (also called eCommerce or ecommerce) on your site, then there are a whole range of other considerations.

Space to put your site (hosting)

You have 5 main alternatives for web space for your site:

  1. The free space that you probably get from your internet access provider for opening up an account with them (there may be issues about having your own domain name),
  2. the free web space from some sites which often comes with advertising and may not be as reliable as some space (see sites such as Google Sites or this guide at freewebspace.net),
  3. hosting your own space from your own computer (where you have to factor in - what else the computer is used for, do you have enough bandwidth, can you monitor and fix security issues, is your connection and computer speed sufficient and how long and efficient is other people's access to the site?) - see page 5 of this guide for more resources on this,
  4. a hosted software service (see 4 above), or
  5. purchasing some space from a commercial provider (purchasing space from a provider that just hosts websites is usually for the a site that requires high reliability). It's usually on a faster server than other options, often has better features and can be much more reliable than the others, but of course you pay for this. The option that we have not given much detail on is buying a server at a web host. This is generally for really big sites or sites with very specific requirements and is beyond the scope of this guide.

Tips on choosing a web host are:

  1. does the host sufficiently support the technology you need?,
  2. don't buy a domain name from the same place as you get web hosting, so you can easily move for any reason,
  3. check out the history, reputation, support expertise and pricing of the web host, (is the host likely to be there next year?). Use resources such as the prospective hosts web hosting forums and other forums, reviews and sites that focus on web hosting. Be a bit wary of sponsorships. Also, search google groups and other websites for information on the prospective host. Useful places to look are Web Hosting Talk and whirlpool (Australian based),
  4. don't pay for hosting for more than a year. A (currently) good web host may not maintain equipment, may grow too fast and overburden servers, or may be bought and managed by another company with different conditions. A maximum of 12 months outlay of fees reduces your risk,
  5. check example sites and speeds from the host using web host speed check tools (such as speedtest.net ); and
  6. make sure that the conditions of use/ terms of use are compatible with what you want.

You may wish to also factor in where your audience is in your choice of server (nearer can be faster), but the above factors may be more important.

Getting your site onto your space on the web (uploading your site)

Once you have site files that are in a fit condition to become live, you have to get them from your computer to your space on the Internet (this can be ignored for hosted solutions). This can be done using FTP clients.

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and it's software that allows you to get the site files from your computer to the hosts computer on the web.

Note that you should back up your files before transfer so that you can recover them later if you need too.

Many web editors have FTP clients incorporated. Good standalone FTP clients include filezilla. Secure file transport protocol is available using something like WinSCP.

Your provider of web space will have (usually pretty good) directions on how to upload your site. So print them out and follow them.

Once you transfer the files, test the site to see that it all works as intended.