Blog: So you just bought a domain... Now what?

In this post, I explain all about creating and deploying a new website. It's a long read, but afterwards you'll have the knowledge you need to build and deploy your own website (or hire a developer to do it for you)!

Introduction

In this post, I explain all about creating and deploying a new website. This will be a long read, but afterwards you'll have the knowledge you need to build and deploy your own website (or hire a developer to do it for you)!

Person writing on paper Green Chameleon - Unsplash

Let's get started.

Website Definitions

Before anything else, there are a few terms which you need to know. These will allow you to choose and configure the services you'll require.

Hosting Providers

After you create a website (or have one developed), you'll need somewhere to host it. For most websites, files are static, which means the content served to your visitors simply consists of regular files (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files) stored on a hard drive somewhere. These websites are easily hosted - in fact, you can host these for free on Netlify.

For more complex websites - such as web applications, Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), and Single-Page Applications (SPAs) - you may require a hosting provider which offers on-the-fly building of your website, especially if your website uses PHP or another form of Server-Side Rendering (SSR). However, don't worry about this for now - this topic will be discussed in another article.

Domains

Firstly, avoid Godaddy. They are known for scamming customers - squatting domain names and selling them at a huge markup is just one way they do this.

A domain registrar is a company which provides registration of domain names (the addresses you use to navigate to websites on the internet). In many ways, the only difference between registrars is price. However, each registrar will have different customer service (this is an important one) and maintenance interfaces. Do some research before you make your decision, and use a service like Instant Domain Search to search for domains.

IP - Internet Protocol

IP is the foundation of the internet. It provides a standardized protocol which allows computers to communicate with each other. It does this by providing systems with individual IP Addresses - long strings of numbers and dots (periods, for you American folk), ranging from 7-15 characters in length. If you've ever connected to a multiplayer game server, a Skype or Zoom call, or even just visited a website, your computer has used an IP address. You might not have known about this - and that's where DNS comes into play.

DNS - Domain Name System

DNS is a system which converts human-readable domain names into IP addresses. When you visit a website, such as Google, your computer contacts a DNS server to get the IP address of the website server. It may sound complex, but the overall process is quite simple.

  1. You navigate to https://google.com in your browser
  2. Your computer contacts a DNS server, normally provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP)
  3. The DNS server locates (resolves) the IP address of the server hosting the website and sends it in response
  4. Your browser navigates to the IP address it receives from the DNS server

This process is repeated for each web request. However, sometimes DNS resolutions are cached - meaning changes to the servers a website is hosted on aren't always immediately reflected. ISP-provisioned DNS servers are notorious for having lengthy cache periods; however, Google DNS and Cloudflare 1.1.1.1 usually update much faster.

Your Options for Building Your Website

Screenshot from the Squarespace template picker

There are a few options for building a website. Some are better than others, for reasons I'll explain below, but here are your main three options:

  • Create a website with Squarespace/Wix/Weebly
  • Create a WordPress website
  • Hire a web designer

Each option has its own pros and cons.

Website Builders (Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, etc.)

Website builders, such as Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and (many) others, allow you to quickly and, in most cases, easily spin up a website. They're great for small businesses, testing-the-waters, and simple online stores. But these builders sometimes come with costs - not only monetary costs, but maintenance and User Experience (UX) costs.

Builder Bloat

Website builders often come with a lot of unnecessary features, which not only slows down your customers' browsing experience, but can make it more difficult to maintain your site if you have a large number of pages or products.

Bloat in providers is common: unnecessary JavaScript scripts can slow down your visitors' browsing experience; unwanted analytics scripts can make your users feel like they're being spied on; and exhaustive lists of network requests can cause a simple page to take over 20 seconds to fully load. For smaller websites, this might not be very noticible, but as your website grows, it could become a problem.

Theming and Design

Your website should be an extension of your brand - it's the first thing your online customers will see. Therefore, it needs to represent your existing brand. Website builders often have a range of different themes to choose from, but none of their provided themes will truly represent your brand.

That said, there are a lot of great ones out there, so you'll probably find something close if you look around.

Vendor Lock-In

Once you've created a website with one of these platforms, it's unlikely they'll let you switch easily - after all, you're using their template for your website. You'll be stuck with the same provider even if their prices rise, their service changes, or they discontinue your current theme.

It's always best to keep a backup copy of all your content somewhere that's accessible to you (and only you). Though that could be said for any method of building a website.

WordPress

WordPress is a blogging platform with an extensive selection of plugins. In fact, this collection is so extensive, that many WP websites use way too many. And that causes sluggish performance and a clunky feeling for your website - something which will turn away a lot of potential customers. However, this collection also makes WordPress a great solution for small e-commerce stores and service providers.

Security

If misconfigured, you could create security issues with your WordPress website. It's quite easy to do, and it's something you should be careful of when creating your WordPress site.

Plugins and Ecosystem

WordPress is hugely supported, and it's probably used by a good proportion of websites on the internet. This is partly thanks to its plugin ecosystem.

WP plugins allow users to create fully-fledged websites, and even e-commerce stores, through the platform. However, just because you can, doesn't mean you should. As discussed above, there are performance and security issues which you'll need to be careful of.

Theming and Design

Like website builders, WordPress provides a huge range of themes and designs for your website. There are also marketplaces full of WordPress themes for your taking. However, also like website builders, these themes likely won't truly represent your brand.

Your website is the first thing potential customers will see, so make sure you spend some time researching themes to find the best one.

Hiring a Web Designer

Before anything else, I'll say this: web designers are expensive. We charge a lot of money for our work - but it's for good reason.

Web designers will often take the hassle out of hosting too - I provide domains and hosting with my web design services, and a lot of other web designers do the same thing. This means all you need to worry about is your business.

Built with Your Brand in Mind

Hiring a web designer means your website will be created to perfectly represent your brand. Your customers will get a unique online experience, which they'll relate directly to your brand.

Responsive Design

Many website builders and WordPress themes consider mobile views an afterthought. However, more and more web designers don't see it this way. A lot of designers create websites optimised for mobile (mobile-first), which means your visitors will have a consistent experience on your website, no matter which device they're using.

Web Design Prices

The biggest hurdle for a small business launching a website is the cost. Web designers charge a lot of money. However, the websites we create aren't designed to be edited on-the-fly through an online editor. We design websites which suit your business, with one sole purpose - to sell your products in the most efficient, best-looking ways possible.

I've Built My Website - What Next?

Directional sign

You've just finished building your website, or received the files from the developer you hired - what's next?

There are some options depending on how you built your website.

Website Builders

Usually, website builders provide their own hosting options. All you'll need to do is provide a domain.

If your provider sells domains, don't buy from them, they're almost always cheaper elsewhere.

Guides about setting up your DNS records (to get your domain working with your hosting provider) are in a section below.

WordPress

You need to find a hosting provider which supports WordPress websites. Namecheap and Gandi both offer WordPress support out-of-the-box when selecting the correct hosting plan, and they have guides to help you through. Make sure that the PHP and WordPress versions match those provided by the hosting provider.

Web Designer

If you hired somebody to develop your website, they'll usually offer to host it for you, and guide you through the process of setting up your domain. However, if they just provide you with the static files for your website, you'll need to find somewhere to host them.

Netlify is a great option for hosting a static website - I use it for mine! It's free, too, even if you use your own domain. See my Netlify article if you'd like to see just how easy it is.

Setting Up a Domain

After you've bought a domain, you'll need to point its DNS records to your hosting provider - if you used a website builder, they usually act as your hosting provider. Each service is different, so here are instructions for some most popular domain registrars:

Once you've linked your domain to your hosting provider, the changes might take a few hours to update. However, you can often speed this up by using a different DNS provider like Google DNS or Cloudflare 1.1.1.1.


Thank you for reading - please tweet me with your feedback and criticisms.

I'm a web designer and developer in Bromley, United Kingdom, but I accept projects from anywhere. If you're interested in hiring me, please send me an email. My rates are competitive and I offer discounts for some businesses.