If your business or organization does not have a website and you want to get one, here is some information that you need to know to get started. This article doesn't describe how to author a website. It does describe what services you need to arrange to get started.
To put a website on the web, you need 3 things:
- A website name (domain name) registered to you (i.e., mybusinessname.com)
- A website hosting account
- Computer files that constitute your website
Expanding upon these ideas...
Website name (domain name) registered to you (i.e., mybusinessname.com)
You register an Internet domain name through a domain name registrar. The domain name is that part that usually comes after "www" in the web site address. The domain name is usually used for e-mail addresses as well. Because of good competition among registrars, you can get a good price right now registering a name. An economical registrar might be GoDaddy.com who have been known to offer domain name registrations for as low as $8/year. Verio.com is another example of a registrar. At the time of this writing Verio's best deal is $9.95 per year if you buy for 10 years ($99.50). Verio charges $19.50 per year if you only renew the domain name one or two years at a time. You should check with these vendors' websites for their present rates.
There are more registrars out there with prices in between these. Shop around and find one that you trust. So far, Cosmic Consulting has only done business with Verio.com and they have provided good service in this area.
Be sure that when you register your domain name, that you do it with a real registrar and not just a third-party web hosting company who will register your chosen domain name under their own name. When they do that, they own the domain name and can lock you into their service. You are at their mercy if you decide to take your business elsewhere. They may or may not let you take the domain name with you. The same caveat applies when you hire someone to "do" your website for you. Make sure that the domain name registration and any associated administrative password is in your control. The simplest way to ensure that is to register the domain name yourself by visiting a website of a registrar, filling out the online form, and paying for the name yourself with a credit card.
To find a domain name, go to a registrar's webpage (e.g., godaddy.com) and click on the appropriate "Domain Name Registration" link. Type in your choice of name into their form to let them search to see if the name is already taken. If the name is taken, choose a different name. You can use letters, numbers, and a hyphen. The name should start with a letter.
If you are a normal for-profit business, you should choose ".com" for the end of your domain name if possible. The ending ".net" is conventionally used for Internet Service providers. Similarly, ".org" is for non-profit organizations. There are a variety of other choices, e.g., .biz, .info, .cc, etc). These are gaining popularity but they don't have the name recognition of ".com".
Note that a name might be taken but not used for a website. For example, you might discover that "mygreatbusiness.com" is listed as being taken but when you surf over to
http://www.mygreatbusiness.com/in your web browser, the site may not exist. Many large companies register a lot of similar names and use only a few of them for their active website services. If a name is already taken, you cannot use it. You must select another name to register as your own.
A website hosting account
This is a "web server" account with a company to rent space on their computers for your website to reside. The computers at the hosting company have a full-time high speed connection to the Internet. It is on these computers where the files for www.mybusinessname.com would reside and be found by the world.
Usually when you get this account you also get an e-mail service along with the website service. Therefore you would be provided with the opportunity to define "firstname.lastname@example.org" as an email address from which you can send and receive mail.
There are thousands of website hosting companies. They vary in their prices and the quality of their service. Monthly rates for website hosting usually range from $10/month for simple website services up to more than $100 a month for more comprehensive services such as online commerce and special website management/creation software. More expensive plans generally provide more storage space for your website content, allow more visitors per month to your site in the form of monthly "bandwidth", more e-mail accounts, and a range of popular web technologies that allow more advanced websites to be made (e.g. CGI, database, and server-side scripting options like PHP or ASP).
Website hosting services can also vary in their reliability. This affects how frequently your website is unavailable for people to visit. Poor service can also show up as your website being very slow to display even for people browsing from fast Internet connections because the webserver is having trouble keeping up with the workload. Since website hosting is usually a long-term arrangement, it is a good idea to chose your website hosting company wisely. Presently Cosmic Consulting is hosted with Verio.com and they have provided good service. At the time of this writing, Verio.com rates start about $25/month. Other web hosting services are significantly less expensive. At the time of this writing, GoDaddy.com is charging $4/month for their least expensive plan.
Many domain name registrars also provide website hosting services. GoDaddy.com and Verio.com provide website hosting services in addition to being real domain name registrars. You do not have to have your website hosted by the same company who provides your registrar service. It is often more convenient to have the same company take care of both services for you. Make sure that they are good at both services and are providing competitive pricing when you choose to do this.
Computer files that constitute your website
In order for your website to say what you want it to say and look the way you want it to look, you have to place the appropriate document files on the website. These are usually written in HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and have accompanying graphics/image files. These files are usually prepared and maintained by someone skilled in the technologies of the web. This person is called the webmaster. A business or organization may hire a webmaster as a full-time employee or cross-train an existing employee for the task. Frequently a third-party company is hired to act in the webmaster role. In those cases webmasters can charge by the hour, by the page, or by the job.
Cosmic Consulting charges by the hour ($40/hour) to act as the webmaster and can also provide estimates for a particular job spec. Site maintenance/update monthly fees can also be arranged if desired.
The cost for creating a website varies quite a bit because websites vary considerably in complexity and size. A simple, small website can be relatively inexpensive and may only take 2 to 3 hours for the webmaster to create if it is clear what needs to be presented. If the webmaster spends lots of time helping you develop the content of your website, then this would necessarily add to development time and therefore the cost. Complex websites consisting of many pages and with great interactivity such as online purchasing can cost many thousands of dollars to develop and maintain.