Forget about all the BS
Your first action should be to forget about every advertisement you have ever seen related to this subject. Most advertisers just want your money and your satisfaction with the product they are “hawking” is merely incidental. Indeed, advertisers today study you and apply a high degree of psychology to bend you to their will. In fact we’ve all been reading about this a lot lately in news. To truly know which ones are trustworthy and which ones are not is virtually impossible for a newcomer.
The second thing you should do is to dissuade yourself of the delusion that you can design your own website. I know, you’ve got ad after ad assailing you, all screaming that you can do this. And of course you can do this, no one will stop you, but the results will look like… well… it will look like your very first website. Compare this against what’s contained in the previous paragraph and you will see what you are up against, and how you’ll be stacking the deck against yourself. In a way I wish that I could show you my very first website from 9 years ago, but at the same time I am very glad I cannot. It wasn’t good at all, but I was proud nonetheless.
Everything today has a learning curve, Web Design, and it’s requirements are no exception. Each and every year this learning curve gets a little steeper too. Last year the European Union made a regulation that everyone is subject to worldwide. Ignoring this regulation runs you the risk of being fined, whether you have any dealings with Europe or not. Still unclear of the legality of all this, but pending unlikely litigation on this, it’s something we all must deal with today.
Similarly, Google seems to periodically throw out a new rule to see if we are all awake. SSL was not a concern at all when I started creating websites, but now Google will penalize your search engine rating if you are not mobile “friendly”, or responsive.
Add to this the
Get some help first
At this stage of setting up your new website you are in a unique position, and are about to make decisions which you will be living with for some time. Right now your main job should be to make good choices, rather than quick or uninformed decisions you will soon regret. After all, you need to choose;
- A domain name registrar
- A hosting company
- Security measures
- An SSL certificate provider
- A CMS
- A good caching solution
- A CDN
- A GDPR compliance method
- A solution for backups
- A quality Contact Form plugin
- Enough knowledge of code so your site’s code doesn’t look like alien caligraphy
Piece of cake, right?
The voice of experience
Without some experience you just can’t know which hosting provider will double your bill the second year, or which will save you money but at the expense of loading time, or which provider is run by lawyers who ultimately own everything you put on their server. Yes it’s true. A little voice inside you tells you free hosting just sounds too good to be true. It actually is true, but your site will carry company generated ads which you must pay to have removed, or a difficult to remember URL which includes the hosting company’s name. Nice racket, huh? To be completely fair, these Free Hosting company’s target audience is indeed the newcomer who is inexperienced and excited about getting their new venture rolling right away.
Domain names, on the other hand, are relatively simple things but the cost can vary wildly. And after all, it’s just a domain name but the few dollars you save each year can easily go towards other necessary software expenses.
SSL certificates are a very good example of experience saving you money. Simple SSL certificates can be had for free from Let’s Encrypt. Yes, there are limitations on these certificates but if that’s all you need it makes no sense to shell out $79 or $49 per year to Network Solutions or GoDaddy for the same exact thing. More elaborate SSL certificates can be had for very cheap as well so avoid the “scalpers” and shop around.
Here’s a fun fact that most people do not know.
The level and layering of encryption on a cheap SSL certificate and an expensive high security version is exactly the same. If you read differently somewhere you will know that they are either lying to you, or they are uneducated in the matter. The difference between the two different levels of SSL certificates is the amount of verification of your personal data when you sign up, and the amount of “green real estate” in the address bar when people visit your site. That’s it.
These things and so very much more can only be learned through time and experience. But what if you had a friend who could steer you in the right direction? Think of the money you could save each and every year. Think of the pitfalls you could avoid.
Talk to a designer, in fact talk to several
Most designers are happy to talk to you about your needs. If they pull the cash register out a bit too quickly, simply move on. I mean we’re trying to start a new relationship and create a functional and affordable website here, not empty the National Treasury. If possible talk to them on the phone. I believe most would be happy to have a phone conversation with you. I know I would be glad to chat with you. When you get the designers on the phone listen to their voice, listen to the speed at which they rattle off answers to your questions. Do you hear a genuine level of excitement? Or does it sound like they are multi-tasking and fitting you in? Common sense dictates which one will do a better job for you.
Whatever you do, be sure to deal with the designer directly. If the person you are going to deal with is about to farm this out (Oh sorry, outsource it.) move on! You might even ask him if he plans on outsourcing. Having a go-between means adding an unnecessary and undesirable complication to the communication processes and puts a great deal of faith in the middle-man’s ability to prioritize something he obviously knows little about, communicate and find solutions for both sides, and usually causes frustration for you and the designer both. I recently dealt with this sort of thing for the first time. The result was so disappointing that I w0n’t be featuring the site on my portfolio. My hands were effectively tied.
Some brands to avoid
Here are some brands that in my opinion you would do well to avoid. This is not a grudge list, think of it more as an experience list. However, do notice that I provide links to the good guys but not the bad guys.
- Hostgator hosting
- Bluehost hosting
- GoDaddy hosting
- Network Solutions hosting (Very expensive, restrictive, and, I am told, owned by attorneys)
- ipage hosting
- WIX hosting and page builder
- WordPress.com (WordPress.org is the one you’re looking for.)
- WP Bakery page builder (formerly Visual Composer page builder)
- Slider Revolution (Wonderful program but your website will load slowly)
- Sucuri Security plugin (from GoDaddy)
Some brands we like
- WordPress.org (Again not WordPress.com)
- Wordfence Security (This plugin has never let us down, and that includes all clients’ sites)
- Might Web hosting (Very affordable pricing, lots and lots of great features)
- Elementor page builder
- OceanWP Theme
Hope this helps.