Website – Initial Considerations
When building a website, there are a number of considerations that need to be taken into account. The order in which tasks are done is also important. This document will review these considerations, in the proper order and advise you on which vendors and tools to use.
There are a few main ingredients that need to be acquired before you can begin building a website. First you will need a domain name which you already own or one that is available and it will reside with or be purchase through a registrar. Then you will need authoritative DNS servers that will help point to resources. You will then need a web hosting provider that will host your website on the internet. Lastly you will need an email server or service where you can create your email account(s). For the sake of simplicity it is possible to have a single vendor that provides you with all of these services, though not necessarily recommended.
The first question you need to ask is, “Does the website you wish to build have an existing domain name or do you need to acquire a new domain name?
When working with a client, ask your client if they have already purchased a domain. Have the client provide you with the domain name and ask if there are any associated domains. For example a client may have purchase a domain like domain.com along with associated domains like domain.biz and domain.net.
Next you will need to ask the client who their domain is registered with? Note down the answer, but it is important to verify this information as clients over time use different website creators who may have changed things around. Perform a look-up of the domain name using the following website: ICANN. Note down the name of the registrar, DNS servers and registrant (owner).
Selecting a Domain Name
It is important to find a domain name that best reflects the business name or what the business does. A common hurdle is that the domain you are looking for may have already been taken. In such cases creativity and promotional appeal is key to choosing a domain name. Here are a few recommendations to follow:
- Keep the name short so it is easy to type (even initials may be enough)
- If the domain name is taken in the top-level-domain of .com try .biz, .org, .net, .info or .us (you can find a complete list of top-level-domains at IANA.)
- You can also begin the domain name with words like get, try, my, best or pro (i.e. mydomain.com)
Selecting a Registrar
Although there are many registrars to choose from, I’ve narrowed the list down to two which I highly recommend. These registrars have domain name search tools which you can use by clicking on their respective link:
- Namecheap – They typically have the best price for domain names, but support is only available via chat
- GoDaddy – They are moderately priced, but provide excellent phone support
If your client is technically savvy then Namecheap is an excellent way to save money. In most cases you will be better off using GoDaddy to help your client take advantage of excellent support. If the domain exists with registrar other than GoDaddy you may want to consider migrating the domain over to GoDaddy which may also entail a DNS migration.
The Domain Name System (DNS) connects URLs with their corresponding IP address. Authoritative DNS servers are the point of origin of the DNS records for a particular domain and provide recursive DNS servers with that data; an action that is known as propagation. DNS servers respond to requests know as forward and reverse lookups which matching the domain name with an IP address so that data can be transmitted to that location. These servers use different record types to provide such requests with the proper information to a specific location.
Existing Authoritative DNS Server
After performing the domain name search as indicated above, you have found and notated the authoritative DNS servers. In most cases these servers are managed through either the registrar or the hosting provider. Only in larger companies are DNS servers completely separate. Ensure that you have complete access to these DNS servers so that you can view all of the records and make changes as needed.
Log in to the service provider and make a copy of DNS records by exporting them to a .csv file or note them down if they cannot be exported. It is advisable to keep backup of these records.
It is also advisable that the DNS records be kept with the registrar on their DNS servers to provide you with the flexibility of changing web hosting providers at will with minor impact. However, when working with multiple hosted websites on the same web hosting provider, it can be advantageous to use the DNS servers of that web hosting provider. You may need to perform a DNS migration to take advantage of either of these scenarios.
New Authoritative DNS Server
It is advisable that the DNS records be kept with the registrar on their DNS servers to provide you with the flexibility of changing web hosting providers at will with minor impact. However, when working with multiple hosted websites on the same web hosting provider, it can be advantageous to use the DNS servers of that web hosting provider. Follow whichever of these two scenarios provides you with the best advantage.
Web Hosting Provider
Web hosting providers allow you to post a website or webpage on the internet making it available to anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time as long as they have internet access. Web hosting providers will also give you the following tools:
- A shared or dedicated server
- A static IP
- A web hosting control panel like cPanel or Plesk
- Storage for the files that make up your website
- A database and content management system like WordPress
When choosing a web hosting provider it is important that they can deliver on the following criteria:
- Server uptime and reliability
- Competitive Pricing
Then choose the plan and pricing the best suites your needs and budget.
Existing Web Hosting Provider
After performing the domain name search as indicated above, you have found and notated the registrar and authoritative DNS servers. Accessing your account on these sites should have led you to know who is hosting the website. However if it is still unclear you can use Hosting Checker to help you find this provider.
Selecting a Web Hosting Provider
There are a plethora of web hosting providers to choose from. This is an attempt to provide a succinct list of the ones we would recommend for small to medium size business and why.
- GoDaddy – Defacto standard for simple websites
- Hostinger – Very inexpensive, basic features, but no phone support
- Hostgator – Good features, support and multitiered plans
- SiteGround – Good site speed, support and pricing
- Pressable – Good support and competitive pricing
- Divi Space Hosting – Good support and hosting plans with the Divi page builder
- Flywheel – Faster loading, great support, but a little pricey
- Cloudways – Speed, dedicated resources, IP and e-commerce
- WPEngine – Fast loading, top tier, excellent support and e-commerce
Of these various web hosting providers, the one I choose to use is Cloudways because of speed, management and price. However you do need to be techie to understand the options and use the various tools.