Okay, so I want to make a web site! Where do I start?




What do you need?

To have a web site, you need at least the following items





Choosing a domain name

When choosing your domain name, you have to consider both the name itself and the extension, i.e. should it be .com, .dk or perhaps .info

In principle the site can be named anything, you can even use special characters like the Danish æ, ø and å. If you intend to have visitors from language areas that don't have these characters, however, it is a bad idea to use these characters in the domain name.

In general, it is a good idea that the name reflects the content, e.g. company name, area of interest or brand name. There may be some people who think that it could be fun to have the domain orgasmdonor.com for a site about collecting stamps, but search engines don't have a sense of humor, and the lack of connection between name and content isn't going to attract any visitors either.

You can, inadvertently, form some rather unfortunate domain names from completely innocent words. Just take a look at these real life examples:

Who Represents: www.whorepresents.com - can be read as "Whore Presents"
Pen Island: www.penisland.net - can be read as "Penis Land"
Therapist Finder: www.therapistfinder.com - can be read as "The Rapist Finder"

So, when you want to make the site Sam Heywood's Intensive Training, and think that obviously the domain name has to be an acronym, you may want to reconsider using the first and most obvious choice in acronym.

In general, it is recommended that the domain name contain the words the site is about, e.g. FeliciasFlowerGarden, if Felicia wants to make a site about her flower garden, but in my experience the effect here is minimal at best. It should be a name which is easy to remember, and being descriptive is fine, but it isn't mandatory. If it's a brand, e.g. Nike, using nothing but the brand name is common.

Extensions on the other hand are important. Extensions like .dk or .de the search engines regard as being Danish and German, respectively, and they don't handle too well if you have a .dk domain in English. If you have a site in Danish, aimed at the Danish market, it is thus better to have a .dk domain than e.g. a .com domain. Language neutral extensions e.g. .com, .biz and .info, the search engines handles better as sites with multiple languages than the country specific extensions, as the extension inherently implies an international content. It is not a problem to have a .dk domain which is internationally oriented, I have WeirdSpace.dk myself, it is just a little more difficult to be found outside Denmark.

Therefore: Give it a little consideration what you intend to do with your site, before deciding on the domain name.





Server/web hotel

For people to be able to see the content of a web site, it has to be placed on a web server. Major companies and universities often have their own, but for small companies and ordinary people it isn't worth spending the time and money on this. We use a web hotel. A web hotel is space you rent on a web server. These come in many sizes and price ranges. Usually, what you pay for today is the service, if something isn't working properly.

Often ordering space on a web hotel is something you do at the same time you order your domain name. On a web hotel like One.com where I have my sites, you go to their web site and write the name of the site you wish to order, and following that (provided the name isn't already owned by someone else) you fill out how much space you want. After this you follow the instructions, and then you are up and running, often within a few hours.

When choosing a web hotel, there is a few things to look after:
There is quite a few sites, where you can compare the prices and services for various web hotels. These are even available for country specific comparisons, e.g. Danish or Swedish web hotels.

If you don't feel like having your own domain, there is still sites like Angelfire and 123hjemmeside, where you can have your own site for free. In general, in my opinion, it is a bad idea to have your site at a place like that, but for for something like a school project, where you just need to make some web pages for a quick demonstration, it could be a nice solution.


HTML editor

An HTML editor is basically just a program for word processing, which is specialized for making web sites. Many types are available, and quite a lot of them are free. It doesn't even have to be a specialized program. Notepad, which comes with Windows, is actually fine (Mac has an analogous program, but I don't know the name of it). HTML editors just have some functionalities which makes programming easier.

When looking for a suitable editor, you have to try them out, to find the type that suits you. HTML editors are available in other languages than English, e.g. Stone's Web Writer in Danish, which is the one I used for my own sites in many years, so you don't have to use an English HTML editor if don't want to.

One single warning: Word processing programs like Microsoft Word and OpenOffice Writer can export to HTML format, so in principle you can use these as HTML editor. Unfortunately what they do is adding an awful lot of code, which isn't doing anything, except cluttering making your code. So, if someone has the bright idea of using Word or Writer as HTML editor, there is only one thing to say to that: Don't!!


FTP program

FTP is File Transfer Protocol. It is a program that transfers your pages from your computer to the web server. Many HTML editors have a FTP module build into the program, so often you are covered in regards to FTP by the HTML editor.

If there is no FTP module, or the one on the editor sucks to work with, you can get free FTP programs e.g. FileZilla, if you want to. Windows Explorer which is an integral part of Windows can easily be used for uploading. If you write ftp:// plus the name of your FTP address in the address line (it is sent to you when getting your site at a web hotel), a pop-up menu will appear, asking for user name and access code, which came with the FTP address (Mac has an analogous system).