This is perhaps the most asked question I hear from potential clients. How do you build a web site (when you do not know how)? Essentially there are three components to every site. First you must register a domain name, second you must have a web server to serve your web site, and lastly are the web pages themselves.

In Choosing Your Domain Name, I kind of covered some basic ideas on how to come up with a domain name for your site, so I will not cover that subject, but instead talk about what registering your domain name really means.

Domain names are not really owned as much as they are leased on a yearly basis, or for whatever amount of years you pay to register the domain name. Once you register your domain, your personal information is kept on file for that domain and is available to any one who does a WhoIs search on your domain. Some people find this disturbing and the industry has come up with privacy protection, where individuals who register domains can purchase privacy protection for an extra yearly fee. This privacy protection is still not officially recognized, so the registrars are doing this on their own to help customers have a service they want.

Besides letting know everyone, that you own the domain for a certain amount of time, your registrar also provides options to change your DNS record, the most important part of this being the official nameservers for your domain. Nameservers are the servers that tell the rest of the internet, where your actual website pages are located, on what actual machine. Your DNS record points any requests for your web site to these nameservers, who in turn point the request to the appropiate server, once it gets there, the web server knows which directory your web pages are and then serves them to who ever requested them. When you first purchase a domain name the nameservers will be defaulted to the registrar that you registered the domain with. You must change them if the registrar is not providing you with a hosting account from which to host your pages on.

This brings us to step 2, the web server. This is the physical server that will actually serve or deliver your web pages to any computer or device that requests them. This is what is meant by a web host or web hosting account.

Now as far as the web host account, there are certain requirements that all web sites will have. Unfortunately when you build your first web site you do not have any sort of experience to fall back on as to what you will need. However, most web host accounts are pretty standard, and even if you choose a package that you might outgrow, it is easily upgradeable to the next package. By far, space is pretty abundant nowadays, but bandwidth (the amount of data that the web server sends out) is dependant on limited resources of the network connection to the Internet. Serving out large files like image or mpeg files takes quite a lot bandwidth but if your site is mostly oriented to text like most sites, bandwidth should not be much of a concern. For a personal site, I recommend a 150 to 300MB account with at least a gigabyte of bandwith per month.

Once you have the web hosting account, you have a web server for your web pages. Now comes the content, your site’s pages themselves. This is usually what most people really want to know. They want to learn how to write their own pages.

When it comes to the content there are two types of content: static and dynamic. Static refers to html pages that are coded by a person and then uploaded to the server. They do not change unless the author edits them somehow. Dynamic content are pages that are created by the web server automatically depending on what requests it receives. Scripting languages like PHP, Perl, and ASP generate these pages on the web server. You either have to code a program in these languages to create your site, or use a script (or program) that someone else already wrote, of which there are many. WordPress, Mambo, TextPattern, Drupal, PHPNuke, are such free scripts that you can install and use to create content. Although these programs are very different, they all allow a user to enter text into a web page, that can later be published automatically within the web site. Once the programs are installed and setup, most web site owners do not even need to know very much about html, css stylesheets, or even PHP to publish content, although some knowledge is always helpful. Eventually many users end up learning html and css the more they learn to use an automated weblog program like WordPress or TextPattern. WordPress is in fact such an easy installation that the programmers who wrote it brag about their 5 minutes or less install.

At this point, you should have your web site and though the possibilities are endless, getting to this point is pretty easy. However if you get frustrated or simply have a question, do not hesitate to drop us an email.