A guide to getting your own website

Whether you are looking to create a homepage for your old boys association, a professional profile, a personal blog, an e-commerce site for your business or just a website for your cat, getting your own website is now easier than ever. But left alone, it can still be confusing where and how exactly to get started, so lets help you.

First, before you finally decide on getting your own website, first look at the alternatives. Facebook groups and page have made online publishing and marketing extremely easy. If you are a business establishing an online presence, a Facebook page might be an easy way to get started; it’s free, easy to update content and reach new clients. You can also look to other channels such as Whatsapp, Twitter, Telegram, Instagram, Youtube depending on your product and the audience you are targeting. But if these are not the best fit, or if you have chosen to upgrade to a fully fledged website, then here’s what you need to know;

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Domain name

It all starts with a great domain. A domain name is your unique address on the internet. It’s also your brand and your identity. How to choose a domain is totally up to you, but if you already have a business which obviously has a name, then your business name could potentially and ideally be your domain name. Lets say Jane as a unisex salon called “look great” salon, it’s natural for her to obtain a domain name called “lookgreatsalon.com” for her website.

The problem though is that domains are highly competitive and speculative assets served on first-come, first-serve basis. It’s a bit like the real estate market. So even though “lookgreatsalon.com” is the ideal domain name for Jane’s salon, it could have already been taken by a similar business the other side of the globe or worse a domain squatter. To the uninitiated, according to Wikipedia domain squatting is the act of registering, trafficking in, or using an Internet domain name with bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else.

How to get a domain

Assuming Jane wants to book or register lookgreat.com, she has to purchase it from a domain registrar. If you are looking at .com domain like Jane, the list is long and it includes Domain.com, Bluehost, Hostgate, Namecheap, Hover among the top dogs. You simply need to register for an account, search for your domain and then pay using credit/debit card. Domains are priced per year and start from as low as $10/year.

But if you are looking to find country-level domains — that is domains with your home country extension such as .ug for Uganda, .ke for Kenya or .ng for Nigeria, then you have to look to country-specific registrars. Those looking to get .ug domains can visit registry.co.ug and it costs about $30/year.

Website design and development

Once you’ve booked your domain name, the next thing is to design and then develop your website. This might require a professional software developer or designer who understands Content Management Systems(CMS) like WordPress, Joomla, and web technologies HTML, CSS, Javascript. They could also have a good understanding of design tools like Adobe photoshop, dreamweaver. The website designer will give you their quotation based on your requirements and scope of project. Even though there are agencies who take on this kind of work, most designers are freelancers and you can find plenty from online freelancing platforms like Fiverr and Upwork. If you need one offline, but you have to rely on referrals. Ask your techy friends for someone who can design websites.

Now designing a website isn’t cheap, but it’s not expensive either. It really depends on your budget, your website and how much you negotiate with the designer. I don’t want to add cost ranges here because I’ll be accused of screwing up business for freelancers. But I can offer some pointers;

When negotiating for the cost of building your website, ask the designer for cost breakdown of the following items;

  • Domain purchase(fixed)
  • Design and development
  • Content creation
  • Training to use
  • Maintenance
  • Yearly Hosting (Fixed)

Some items have fixed costs like domain name and yearly hosting while the other are fairly variable. At the end of the day, it’s really up to your negotiation skills. If you don’t hire a designer, then you can tryout a number of do-it-yourself platforms like wix.com, Squarespace, wordpress.com, Weebly etc. These are good if you are looking to zip up a good-enough website, but I recommend you leave it to the pros to do a good job afterwards.

Website hosting

Once you have purchased a domain, got a website developer to create the website, the last and final thing is hosting your website on the internet. Your site has to live somewhere on connected computers or servers online operated and maintained by hosting company. They usually charge a fixed annual fee based on how much computing resources your website needs. This cost ranges from $50 to $500 or more and it all depends on how much traffic or resources your website consumes.

Related post: A complete beginner’s guide to website hosting and design in Uganda

Some of the international hosting companies include; Dreamhost, Hostgator, Bluehost, WP Engine, InMotion, iPages. But if you are looking for something tailored for Ugandan market, then you can read more on this guide. 

The key things to look out for when choosing a website hosting company are;

  • DDoS protection
  • Unmetered Bandwidth, storage and database options
  • Offer SSL Certificates
  • Basic backups
  • ‘spam-safe’ email
  • Website Builders.

It’s good to do your research, but usually your website developer will recommend a hosting provider for you. He’ll also upload the finished website to the hosting provider on your behalf. Remember, this cost is on you, not the designer.

So there you have it; a complete guide to owning your own website in 2019. Did we overlook something? Let us know in the comments below.

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