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Take a Deep Breath

The first reaction I get when I try to explain how the Internet works to people is confusion.  You’re probably in the same place, and that’s fine.  All we need to do is explain enough to get you publishing on the Internet, and we can do that here.
 
Just follow along and you’ll be up and online in no time.

Start with a Domain Name

How will people find you?  You probably want a name for your site like AmazingOrchids.com, or BubbaTellsAll.com, or something comparable.  That thing people type in their web browser to visit your site is a domain name, and to get one you need to:

  • Find one that is not in use.  This is harder than you might think – you’re probably not the only amazing orchid seller on the Internet, and there may be other Bubbas that want to tell all.
  • Associate your contact information with the domain you want to use.
  • Pay for your new domain.
  • Make it point to the server that is actually going to host your web site.

 

The easiest way to start if you don’t have a domain already is to pick one when you register with us.  Every package we sell comes with a free domain name when you register.  We buy it for you, do all the technical stuff to make you easy to find on the Internet, renew it every year you’re with us, and if you decide to go somewhere else we transfer it to whatever domain registrar you want to use.  We manage it, but you own it.

It’s pretty straightforward.

This is how things look if the domain you request isn’t available while you’re signing up – you can choose one of the recommended alternatives, or keep trying until you find something that suits you.

If you already have your domain name with another hosting company you can transfer it to us in the field at the bottom of the screenshot if you want us to manage it for you – the transfer is included in your monthly fee, as are future renewals. 

If you want to continue to manage your domain yourself that will work fine too – the last field on the page titled Manage a Domain Yourself is the field where you can enter your domain name (not shown in this screenshot).  You will need to configure some settings with your domain registrar later to make DNS work (and the SSL certificate for your site won’t work until you do) but it’s not too hard, and we can help if you need.

Now, how will you build and manage your web site?

This is where people get really confused because there are so many options.  If you’ve hired a designer to build your site then follow their advice.  If it’s up to you, then the first question to ask is this:

  1. Do you want a simple site that you can build without having to learn about databases, and php, and all that?  Something WYSIWYG, like a word processor running in your browser that builds the site?  If so, you want to start with a site builder of some kind.
  2. Would you rather have something more full-featured?  Something that interacts with the users, that you can extend easily to do lots more than a static site can?  In this case, you want a CMS (short for content management system) of some kind.
  3. Do you want both?  Then consider WordPress (covered a little later) with a plugin called Elementor.  It’s not perfect, but we used it to build this site and it really makes page-building simple.  At least, it’s simple once you figure out how Elementor wants you to do things.

So: Choices

Option One: Use our Site Builder to create your site.  Start with a theme (this is one of many shown here), and use the tools on screen to make it yours.

All of our plans include access to SitePad, which is the simplest way to build your web site.  You log into your control panel and edit.  It’s WYSIWYG, and comes with:

  •  620 themes right now, but the number keeps increasing.  Choose one that’s close to what you’re looking for, and edit from there.
  • 40 widgets are available to drag, drop, and edit.  Text, photos, video, galleries, buttons, Google Maps, formatting elements, pages, menus, calendars, contact forms, blog posts, etc.
  • Uploads are done in the browser rather than some more complex file transfer protocol.
 
Once done you will have a mostly static site with dynamic elements.  Fast, secure, and simple to build.  It’s not very extensible, but if your needs don’t require more complexity then why add it?

Option Two: Use WordPress.  Or another CMS, but probably WordPress.

I illustrated this section with a photo of the White House web site not to promote the current president, but to point out that WordPress is a stable and secure platform even for someone who has been as divisive as President Trump has been.  If WordPress wasn’t secure the Whitehouse web site would have been defaced constantly, making international news.  It wasn’t though, which should tell you something about how secure WordPress can be (more on that in a bit).

WordPress runs somewhere between thirty and forty percent of the web sites on the Internet, depending on what metric you use.  It is free, extensible, well understood, performs well, and there are guides on using it in every book store, and all over the Internet.  If you learn best from videos you can choose from thousands of hours of tutorials on Youtube, or buy WordPress for Dummies, or find another way to learn.

WordPress is ubiquitous enough that we built our hosting platform for it.  We understand it, we can troubleshoot it if bad things happen, and this would be our default recommendation if you don’t have a solid reason to choose another platform.

  • With WordPress, you will install your site from your hosting control panel, and from there you will log directly into the web site to make your changes.
  • It is extensible.  At the time this article is being written there are 57,925 plugins available, with over 8,000 themes that can be installed in a few seconds.  Want to collect recipes?  Sell video lessons on your site?  Turn your site into a virtual store?  Handle galleries with thousands of photos?  Build a community?  There seem to be plugins for everything, and extending in a new direction can be done by having a programmer design a plug-in just for you.
  •  It can scale.  Click here to view the WordPress showcase, but as this is is being written WordPress is the back end for Sony Music, the Tribune Media Group, Rolling Stone, Vogue, the Walt Disney Company, Clorox, etc.  Choosing WordPress doesn’t mean limiting your future growth.
  • We can help.  You can install WordPress from our control panel in about a minute, and we will automatically update your core WordPress install for you.  If you want us to handle plugin updates we can do that as well, at no charge as long as you host with us – just submit a support ticket and we will have you install a plugin so we can handle things for you.  We will also happily migrate your existing WordPress site for free – just open a support ticket.  We have been hosting WordPress for a dozen years, and we will be happy to help with your site too.  Best of all: we can answer questions that have you stumped – just create a ticket.
  • You will be impressed with the speed of WordPress on our platform.  Install the Lightspeed Cache plugin (or have us do it for you) and you’re done – no tweaking needed.  Fast sites lead to happy viewers and better search rankings.
  • You must update your plugins if you don’t ask us to handle this for you.  Securi (an Internet security company) issued an interesting report on web site hacks in 2018, but the summary is that WordPress is the most popular hosting platform, it gets the most attention from hackers (think malware for Windows vs Mac or Linux – the biggest player is the juiciest target, so it gets the most effort), and if you fail to update your plugins you increase the chance of getting hacked significantly.  WordPress is more than secure enough – see the White House web site listed above – but you must update your plugins.  Or enter a support ticket and we will do it for you, automatically, as long as you host with us.
  • It can be confusing.  Users who only edit their web pages once or twice per year may find it frustrating to remember how to do things.  There is definitely a way WordPress wants you to do things, and many don’t find it very intuitive.  WordPress is great with sites that don’t change much, and for simple sites SitePad may be the best choice.
 
For everyone else, or for those who want to start small but might get more ambitious in the future, WordPress is a solid choice.  There is a reason it runs so much of the web, but the more capable you make a tool the more complex that tool needs to be.  Overall, we believe it is worth the investment in time to learn it.  Like QuickBooks.

Option Three: Choose Another CMS (or just use WordPress)

WordPress is good enough for a significant chunk of the hosting market.  It’s easy to get started with, extensible, and powerful.  It’s not the only option though.  Other options worth considering include:

Joomla: this is written in PHP like WordPress, and will benefit from our platform about as much as WordPress does – it can also be installed automatically from your control panel, and performance tweaking is just like WordPress: install the Lightspeed Cache plugin and go. 

This is probably the easiest CMS to use after WordPress.  It is extensible, well supported, and most things you want to do can be done without coding.  There are adequate learning resources available.

It’s a solid choice.  But again – if you don’t have a solid reason for choosing this over WordPress then WordPress is still our recommendation.

Drupal: Drupal may be the most secure option by default.  It’s also the most extensible, and if we were building a huge site with lots of customization this would receive a very thorough evaluation.

We have the same basic tools to support Drupal as we do for the other options – you can install it automatically from your control panel, and the tweaks we made for WordPress will work great on Drupal as well.  It may be the most extensible option out there – it can do a lot – but it isn’t as lean as WordPress (and therefore won’t be quite as fast), and WordPress (and to a smaller extent Drupal) can be extended and reshaped by installing plugins and configuring them.  Drupal will need someone comfortable with programming to get the most from it.

We don’t have enough in-house experience with Drupal to offer the same level of support we can with WordPress, but as Drupal is also PHP-Based it will be very fast on our platform.  The speed improvement we offer over most other hosts is comparable to what we can do for WordPress:

Performance is built in: install Litespeed Cache and enjoy the performance boost.

If you want to build something impressive in Drupal, and you are looking for a host that respects your right to free speech, you’ve found us.  Welcome aboard.

Option Four: Let’s do something custom

Most of our clients are well served by shared hosting.  If you have ambitious goals, reach out and let’s talk.  We are happy to partner with you and provide and maintain your infrastructure, and you know up front we won’t turn you off because we don’t like your beliefs or politics.

Let us know what you’re thinking and we tan talk about anything from a virtual private machine, to a dedicated server, to a cluster dedicated to your use, all the way up to managed racks of servers in a tier four datacenter.

You have something important to say.  We want to be your voice.  Just know up-front that while we do not require contracts for shared hosting or virtual private servers, we will require one for more ambitious build-outs.

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