Building your own Website – You have a Domain and Host – now what?
Now that you have a domain and a host you will probably be excited to get going building your website. But there are some things you must check to make sure they are correct before you get things started wrong. I will list them in what I think is the most important order.
SSL and security
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It’s what causes the little padlock to show on the left of the address in most browsers, and site addresses will begin with https if SSL is in effect. Why does this matter? Well, it’s simply that most consumers expect it. If it’s a shopping site it must be present on a signup and checkout page at a minimum, but I suggest you have it covering your whole site. It’s the current standard. In fact some browsers will warn (and optionally block) you from going to a non-secure site depending on the browser settings. The public is now generally distrustful of sites that aren’t SLL protected. It encrypts traffic from the individual device to the server so that this traffic can’t be hijacked (or more precisely even if highjacked can’t be understood). SSL is very technical but that’s where your host service will come in. If they don’t automatically include SSL then ask their support staff to set it up. I would be shocked if any reputable host didn’t provide SSL
While I will go into more issues related to overall security later I will mention now my personal approach. When I am building a website I protect against general hacks and phishing and other attacks – even well coordinated ones – and I think that’s enough. But I am also aware that a group of true experts and/or professional (including governmental) groups would have no problems finding out anything they want to know. So I don’t overthink it nor do I ignore it. I just make sure no sensitive personal information appears on my site. That way it doesn’t really matter who sees what. If you want to have banking level security you will need to consult an expert when building your Website.
Now onto something about Addressing
Since https is important, you want to make sure that users reach that page regardless of how they type the address. People may or may not enter the complete address, so you need to account for all the possibilities. For our site, you end up at https://asindera.com if you type:
This little piece of magic is done with http redirects. Some data exists on the host server to force all addresses to https. This data is in a little file and you can manipulate it yourself, but I wouldn’t do that unless you are very familiar with http addressing – you can mess things up pretty good if it isn’t done correctly. Again this is where your host support comes in. If you contact them and explain what you want to achieve they should be able to set it up easily. With the hosts we’ve used this took all of 10 minutes once I got the support chat session started. It’s well worth the time.
WordPress is a structure that starts with a Theme and then lets you customize that theme as you see fit. Both the hosting services I have used (HostGator and WPMUDEV) let you use WordPress (in face WPMUDEV only has WordPress structure, on HostGator you need to invoke it). Why I am staying with WordPress includes:
- Support. If something isn’t working I can contact the WordPress experts for an explanation.
- Updates. They update the structure with new features and to correct bugs on an ongoing basis.
- Plugins. Plugins are little sub-programs that you can include on your Website that will add new features. You can add additional security layers, eCommerce support, PayPal gateway, additional fonts and typography, pre-built forms for contact pages, literally thousands of things.
The downside is that you have very little control over certain details. In some cases you just have to accept what WordPress and the theme want to do. Typically these are small things, and with WPMUDEV there is a great community and support and they may have answers for you, but the trade off is that if you want something else to do the work you have surrendered an element of control. I consider that a fine compromise given the easy with which I can change our site and the speed with which I can do it.
Depending on the region in the world there may be assorted legal requirements for your Website. It’s best to set your site to cover the basics for all of them and to have the details ready when you are building your Website.
With all these elements prepared you should be ready to start building your Website!
Next, some information about customization and other tweaking.