Having a personal website is exciting, but setting it up sure is intimidating to beginners: Where and how to get a domain name? How to set up hosting server? Do I have to use WordPress (because so many people are using it)? How to put my contents online? How much SEO do I need?
I will review efforts I made to make this website, which functions as an intuitive and easy-to-read tutorial for first-time webmasters.
Get a domain name
First things first, you want to pick a unique domain name for your website. Sometimes your web host may have free sub-domains for you, but they are almost never a good idea. If the purpose of your website is personal branding, you want to choose a short domain name with your name in it. Personally, I simply picked my name as my domain name with the most cliché suffix, .com.
There are many domain name registrars out there with competitive prices: GoDaddy, 1&1, Namecheap, etc. A top-level .com domain typically cost $10 – $20 per year. Browse their offer packages and choose one suitable for you. Namecheap also offers students with a free 1-year .me domain, a nice way to kick start your online profile.
I personally use Namecheap and my domain name costs ~$13 per year.
Choose a hosting service
Compared to domain name registrar, picking a host is a bit trickier. The configuration and quota of your hosting service is actually affecting the performance of your website. You need to figure out what do you want out of your website before diving in to a seemingly perfect offer:
– What do you want on your website? If you want an online portfolio, a static website might suffice, so you don’t need PHP or SQL support, and even 100MB of storage may be enough for you. However, this is definitely not the case if you blog and/or allow user registrations.
– How much content and how many hits are you expecting? An active blogger can use up to 1GB of storage in a year, while having hundreds of thousands page views every month. That person would want a pricey but strong host, with huge storage and unlimited traffic quota. But a simple static one-pager would be happy with almost any hosting service.
-Know your budget. Hosting services are all over the internet now, varying from free to thousands per month. Generally a personal website can either go with static free hosting or pay something like $5 – $10 every month. When choosing your package, most people mainly pay attention to storage and traffic quota, PHP/SQL support, backup and migration tools, email service and customer support.
I recommend 50webs.com for small, static websites and canadianwebhosting.com for dynamic ones such as WordPress. I am currently hosting this website in Microsoft Azure, which is reputed to be more suitable for business than individuals.
How to put content online?
Now that you have a domain name, and it is hosted in server, how do you actually get your portfolio and blog online?
If you have chosen a dynamic hosting plan, it likely comes with installer tools for popular content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress. Follow the instructions and you should be able to manage your contents in your CMS portal.
If, however, you want to install your CMS manually, deploy customized CMS, or use static contents, you will use deployment slots – most web hosts use FTP, while some may provide an option to use Git.
To set up your FTP account, go to your hosting portal, find the page to configure your FTP account, and note your FTP server address, user name and password. Put those information in an FTP tool (I recommend CuteFTP), you should be able to connect to your website and upload your files!
In the next article I will discuss how to make static personal websites, and how to get started with WordPress.