Biz Idea to Launch
There is a LOT of information out there about how to get started with a website. I'm going to try to help eliminate the mess and confusion for you.
Now, let's dive in!
First and foremost, we need to jump ahead briefly because how you answer step #2 will affect step #1.
Step #2 Choose a CMS
Most of you will be choosing a web-based CMS and it basically allows YOU to DIY your website including adding, modifying, removing content (text, graphics, imagery) without requiring using/hiring an official website developer. E.g. you might still hire a developer just for your sanity, but technically you can DIY it even with limited experience.
Examples of popular web-based CMS includes:
Based on your choice in a content management system (CMS) will determine if you need an additional hosting service.
For instance, if you are going to use WordPress.org (self-hosted WordPress) for your CMS, then you 100% need a name registrar AND a hosting service/package.
Whereas Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly won't need you to go find an additional name registrar and hosting service/package.
Step #1 Choose a name registrar to buy and host your domain name
Name registrars are going to be GoDaddy, BlueHost, HostGator, NameCheap, SiteGround, etc. Your domain name is your URL. E.g., yourcompanyname.com. What happens is that you purchase your domain name through the name register they will (you guessed it) register it with ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) for you.
I have personally been using GoDaddy since March 2005 (registering and hosting dozes of sites -- both my own and for clients). I have never had a single issue with them (*knock on wood*). They have been awesome with 24/7 customer support and because they are so big I know they are in it for the longhair. BlueHost and NameCheap I hear are excellent as well and are ranked very highly in consumer satisfaction, but I don't have any experience with them myself.
In addition to buying your domain name, you can buy a hosting package for instance in order to get access to WordPress.org, Joomla, Drupal. Or you can just stop there at the domain name purchase and sync your domain name to your CMS. This is what I recommend. Though you can buy a domain name and everything you need from Squarespace, Wix, and Weekly, I don't recommend that because getting your domain name from them might not be as easy down the road if you want to switch CMS systems (e.g. move from Blogger to WordPress, Wix to Squarespace). If you purchase it through an official name registrar then you are just always dealing with the name registrar and can move around as needed.
For many of you it, that doesn't matter so much and it might be incredibly nice to just have it all in one location from one company, and you often get a free domain name if you pay for one year upfront with a hosting package through Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly. You can also get your email from them as well in addition to your name registrar. They really are one in the same in all those aspects so it won't hurt my feelings if you want to make things easy for yourself now and maybe deal with a little bit of an inconvenience down the road.
Step #3 Buy. That. Domain.
I know, that sounds super easy right? Well if you've decided on where you are buying your domain name, now you just need to actually go and do it!
BUT it's not so easy. There are over one billion websites on the Internet. I guarantee 99% of you will not get your #1 favorite domain name and will have to start playing a little tug-of-war with your name registrar to find something you're willing to settle on.
Since that's the case, I'm referring you out to some great articles and websites to help you with your domain buying dilemma:
You can't always get the .com. Check out this two-part series about the dot com dilemma:
4 must-haves/considerations for your domain that are more important than having a dot com URL
What to do when you can't get the dot com + case studies
Check out this post by Moz on what's most important when choosing a domain name.
Lastly, Name.com is a great website for all topics on domain names.
Step #4 Buy the Extras
You just snatched a domain name and are on the way to check out your shopping cart. You are most likely going to get prompted to spend money on a few extras. There are so many options, including increased bandwidth and adding an email address. Here are the only two you need to buy.
Regardless of your name registrar or CMS, you will want to pay for WHOIS Privacy. The WHOIS is a directory of all websites on the Internet-- and who owns them. Paying for WHOIS Privacy means that you (including your full name, email address, phone number, and physical mailing address) are not listed as the owner of the website you are buying. You are paying for anonymity.
An SSL Certificate is the next item you should buy. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) as a Internet protocol that encrypts data that is stored or transferred on your site. This is important on any website that plans on storing sensitive information: a password, personality identifiable information such as an email address or telephone number, and especially financial data like credit card information.
Otherwise, you are free to pass on the rest of the extras.
**Remember**: if you are using WordPress, you need to buy a hosting package with access to WordPress.org. The major name registrars and hosting companies will have this package for you. Go ahead and start that process after you have completed your purchase because it can take a day or so. If you need help with WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly, you can get troubleshooting and setup advice and tutorials in the Skill Space Training Portal or hire a designer/developer from our database. (you could also just hit reply and I will help you directly!)
If you are using Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly, you just need to decide on which package you need based on how many webpages your website might have, if you are having an e-commerce website (e.g. if you are planning on selling physical or digital products/services, etc).
If you're considering buying an email account before you checkout, I'd go ahead and checkout and add that on later after you continue reading.
Step #5 The Scoop on Buying a Branded Email Account
I recommend everyone go ahead and get their own branded email address! Here's why...
It's roughly $5 per month regardless of where you go. You might get a few cents to a dollar off if you buy one year up front and a lot of packages will offer between one month and your first year for free anyways. So take advantage. Nothing screams "I'm a professional!" like a custom branded email address.
Here's why I said yesterday that you should wait and buy an email account as an add-on...
I recommend getting your email through G Suite.
At $5/month for an email account you will also get the whole G Suite in addition (Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, etc). I will add that there might be an extra step to verify your domain in order to purchase a branded Gmail account and G Suite, but some CMS's automatically outsource to G Suite when you buy your email account through them -- if you buy your email through Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly it will be G Suite so you're already good to go. Whereas if you buy your email through GoDaddy it is Microsoft Office 365. It's definitely worth it to get G Suite. Office 365 is great, but not as an alternative to G Suite which is basically a gold standard for webpreneurs.
Not sure what beginning (username) to use for your email address?
If you want to stay more personal (always a great idea), stick with your first name. Easy peasy. If you are a personal brand, solo creative freelancer, or blogger, this is the way to go.
If you're trying to be a more medium-to-larger-scale website versus a personal brand, there's nothing wrong with still using your name but you might want to have an additional mailbox/email account with the username admin@, info@, sales@, inquiries@, etc. Otherwise, I am a big fan of the hello@ myself! For Skill Space, I didn't want to be defined as Amy Smith, I want Skill Space to be a community effort, for everyone, by everyone. I'm just the chief curator. So I went with hello@skill- space.com and I am proud of it. I do also have firstname.lastname@example.org just to filter through since there are so many emails that Skill Space receives daily. So direct communication with website users and visitors are going to hello@, and accounts and administrative emails go to admin@.
Step #6 Design and Develop that Big Beautiful Website of Yours
You've purchased everything you need, right? Now... here's the pitch...
Earlier, I mentioned about how you now needed to either buy hosting and access to WordPress or you needed to pick a package (tier) from Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly.
...and it's a foul ball...
Because there is zero way I could possibly run you through designing and developing your website right here between any of the 4-6 CMS platforms that you might have chosen.
BUT know I'm here for you! There is so many resources for you and I'm going to list just a few to get you started:
Training modules in the Skill Space Training Portal
Website developers located in our database
WPBeginner website with hundreds of tutorials on WordPress
Training modules in the Skill Space Training Portal
Website developers located in our database
Getting started with Squarespace video tutorials from Squarespace
Lastly: Wix getting started help center and Weebly getting started help center
[Bonus] Before You Hit "Go": Putting Legal Contracts In Place
Now, let's talk about a few quick last minute important legal contracts you need for your website before you go live with it to the world.
SSL certificates and WHOIS Privacy is 100% important. But that's not the be-all- end-all when it comes to legally protecting yourself, your website, and your website's visitors.
I'm pulling this straight out of my course and workshop, Build Your Business in 7 Days:
1. Terms & Conditions
2. Website Disclaimer
Having a website disclaimer on your website protects your liability and responsibility.
It's best to invest in a lawyer that is familiar with website commerce and the Internet in order to draw up specific contracts unique to your website. Skill Space has a dedicated lawyer.