Website Beginner’s Guide

I am a web designer in Napa, California. Do you need a website, but have no idea where to begin or what is needed?  Here are a few basics to get you started.

nutshellIn a Nutshell

In a nutshell, this is what you need:

  1. A registered domain name;
  2. A website – either created by you or by a web designer / web developer;
  3. Hosting for you website so it is available when someone types your web address in their browser.

tips on choosing a domain nameTips on Choosing a Domain Name

A domain name is the technical term for a website address, like “”, or “” or “”.  Your domain name is your street address on-line. It is also a statement about what someone will find at your street address, so consider the following when choosing a domain name.

  • You will likely have your domain name on your business card, so you want it to be easy to read, say something about you and your business, and say so in a way that relates to the type of business you have.
  • You will likely communicate your website address in conversation, verbally. It is simply a natural extension of telling people how they can learn more about you and your business. Consider how easy it is for your domain name to be communicated in this way. Try it out on a friend or relative.
  • Your domain name affects your potential search engine results. Many other factors do as well, but if you are considering options, consider the search engine keyword phrase relevance. If you are not sure how to make such a choice, consider discussing your choices with someone who could help you make a good long-term decision.
  • Your domain name is comprised of a main part, the “apple” in,  plus the domain name extension, which is the .com part.  When you are thinking of a name, you are mostly thinking of the first part.  There are limitations on what you can use for the extension, and they have specific meanings to them.
  • There are lots of different domain name extensions such as .com, .net, .biz, and so on. Some are specific for certain industries, some are general. .com stands for commercial, and is the most valuable as it is the first extension people think of when going to a website. .net is for internet based businesses. .org is specifically designated for non-profits, but there is no regulation that restricts anyone from using it.

Registering your Domain Name

There are many places to register your domain name. Some cost more than others, but in general you are looking at under $15/year. One that I like is Hover – you can read more about why here.

Registering a domain name means finding one that is not already registered/owned, and “registering” it with an agency that has the legal rights to do so. Once you register it, you own that name, as long as you continue to keep up payment on it, renewed on an annual basis. Some names that have value are purchased by people who will want to resell it to you for a profit. Be sure you know what you are buying if you choose to do this, which again, means someone is asking more than $15/year for it.

Building a Website

Building a WebsiteA website is composed of website code, which tells your internet browser what your website looks like and how it should function, maybe some applications that perform specific functions on your website, and the various media elements such as images, video, audio, etc.

You can either choose to design and develop your website on your own, or hire a professional to do the work. If you choose to do it on your own, you can either read some web design books, buy special software for your computer, and learn to program; or you can use one of the website builder tools offered via by vendors on-line that provide a more user-friendly environment to build your website. Either way, as a web designer by trade, I recommend you spend some time on-line looking at websites and considering the details that make one website pleasant and effective, and others less so – so you have an idea what you are getting yourself into, when you might just be better off hiring someone who does it for a living.

Web Designers and Developers

Web designers and developers vary as in any profession. Their skills vary, their design sense varies, their ability to communicate varies, their ability to get the job done varies, what they charge varies, and so on. They vary because people vary, just like they do in your profession. Finding a good match means looking at what they have done, communicating your needs and asking if they can do that, and trusting your instinct with regard to how professional, honest, open, knowledgeable, helpful, friendly, etc. they are when you do communicate with them.

Designers are creative people. Developers are more logical. Those who design and develop websites need to combine both.

Although you may be able to find a niece or nephew who can create a website for you, don’t confuse this with having your website designed and developed by a professional. I myself have been hired by many clients who originally had a well intentioned cousin or nephew willing to put up a website for them, only to find time drifting by with no results, or poor results, and a family relationship strained.

A good web design is usable, aesthetically pleasing, reflects your purpose, and is effective at serving your needs. There is a lot that can go into an effective design to serve your needs, and finding someone who can do this, and at the same time work within your budget is worth the effort to locate. Look at the design portfolios of the designers you are considering. Do you like their designs? Do they seem effective? Are they easy to navigate? Consider reading about the benefits of a good website design.


Website HostingOnce you have your domain name and you website, you will need to have it hosted. This means, the final product of creation will need to have a home on a computer somewhere that is outfitted to present your website to the world 24/7, in a secure fashion. This is not something you will want to do yourself, for many reasons, one of which is because the cost of doing so on your own is far more than it cost to have a professional do it.

There are many options for hosting. They vary in cost and service. I recommend choosing by recommendation from a satisfied customer or a professional who can make a recommendation. I personally recommend HostGator which is the company I use, {although for my own clients I often manage their hosting for them at a slightly higher cost with extra personal service added – concierge style}.

I hope this has been helpful. Please share your thoughts below in the comments area.

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