Pleading Guilty: What You Should Know
We’ve rounded up the four key steps at the heart of making any website so you can know what to expect when it’s time to take a crack at making your own.
Before any of the tech jargon, design chops, or programming skills related to making a website come into play, your site has to take shape as a solid idea. Having a clear understanding of your site’s mission will help inform your design, content, and structural choices later on, so step one is to get that mission nailed down.
So, is the website for a business hoping to connect with customers online and alert them to upcoming events and sales? Is it a fansite for a TV show looking to provide a forum for members of a fan community? Is it a website for a non-profit or charitable organization trying to attract donations or volunteers? Understanding who you’re trying to attract is key to determining what your site will look like and how it will work.
Designing Your Website
After you have a clear idea of your website’s function and target audience, the design phase involves planning out how the site will be arranged and what it will look like. Web design is the art of creating the aesthetics and usability of a website—making sure that a site is not only pleasing to the eye, but that the layout also makes sense and is easy for people to use when visiting from their computers, tablets, or smartphones. Web design can be its own specific career path, but—when you’re taking a stab at your first website—you’ll probably be designing it AND developing it yourself (more on developing a website below).
Making Your Website
This is the part where your ideas and mockups get turned into the real, digital product—the step where you actually “make” (or develop) your website. Web development is the process that takes place following web design, and—like design—can be its own dedicated tech career path.
In order to develop a website you’ll need to use a programming language (or languages) to code the site’s pages—meaning you’ll need to create instructions that a computer can follow to display your website on your users’ screens. There are two main ways this can be done—one is through hand-coding a site from scratch. The other is to use a content management system
Hosting Your Website
Whether you’ve hand-coded the pages of your website or put the whole thing together, you’ll need to get your content on the internet in order for your website to be live, searchable through search engines like Google, and viewable through web browsers. This is done through a process called web hosting.
The public is more familiar with bad design than good design. The new becomes threatening, the old reassuring.
As far as domain names go, first you’ll need to pick one that is appropriate for your site. Of course, many names will already be taken, so use a domain name registry to look for names that are still available. Once you’ve found one you can use, you’ll have to register the name, which you can pay to do for a small fee through a domain registrar (which is often included as a service from your web hosting company).
Hosting companies—as mentioned above—store your site’s pages, images, and other assets, and assist with your website setup process for a fee. Finally, your developed site pages—whether files that you’ve hand-coded or pages you’ve developed through a CMS—are uploaded to the hosting company through a program called a file transfer protocol (FTP) client.