Website Setup for Beginners
When you’re getting your business started, you probably can’t afford to pay a website designer thousands of dollars for a custom website. Since we recommend not using Facebook or other social media pages as your main website, here are some steps for quick, easy and cheap solutions to you started with your web presence:
1) Register your domain
Register your custom domain for $10-ish per year. Do NOT use Godaddy!!! I recommend Hover or DreamHost for registering your domain. Choose a domain that is easy to verbally tell people, along with being easy to remember. “.Com” is always best to go for as a default extension since it is typically what users will type in. But since the one you want might not be available, try adding your craft to the name such as "yournamebooks.com" or "yournamemusic.com". You can also use common alternate top-level domain extensions like “.net”, ".me" or “.us” (or whatever your country domain is). And obviously it would help to have your domain registered with the hosting service you might use down the road, but you don’t have to.
2) Set up your site
Use a freemium service like Flavors.me to create a page with your info and links to social media, your blog, etc. Use photos, bio, videos, and your various social media accounts to provide some content - even if you just have a single landing page starting out. If you want a more advanced and customized website, which will cost you a bit more, please see the section below about more advanced options.
3) Connect your domain to your site
Forward your domain to your Flavors.me or follow instructions on how to set up your domain on that particular service. Having "yourcustomdomain.com" show up in the address bar instead of "flavors.me/yourname" will cost you just $20 per year, which is well worth the money since it also comes with added service features. Here are instructions for Flavors.me.
4) Register your site with search engines
Go to http://www.google.com/submityourcontent/website-owner/ for Google, and to http://www.bing.com/toolbox/submit-site-url for Bing to tell them your site exists so it will start to show up search results. Web searches are typically the number one way that people will find you online after hearing about you from a friend or other websites. IMPORTANT: If you are forwarding your domain to Flavors.me, make sure you also submit http://flavors.me/yourname URL since yourname.com is not actually hosting any website files.
5) Use social media to spread the word
Once the site is set up, use Facebook and Twitter to spread the word, linking to it and asking your friends and family to share it so you can get some traffic. Make sure that the social sharing tools are set up on your site as well. Top search results for your name/band will only happen if your site has traffic along with other sites linking to it. You obviously want your website to be at the top of the search results.
More Advanced Options
A couple other more advanced options that are still relatively easy compared to building your own website from scratch are Squarespace and Wix. Both offer great user interfaces which are easy to use, templates which are customizable, great web tools like image galleries, and affordable tiered plans for all levels of need from basic information sites to eCommerce web stores. Cost ranges from $5 for a basic site on Wix with ads, to $30 a month for an advanced business site on Squarespace. They even allow more advanced customization down the line if you end up wanting to pay a web designer to custom code your site for you. You can start off building your site yourself and then hand it off to a professional later on, so your website can grow with your business on these two services. Most of their plan options also come with a free domain registration. Neither services offer email hosting with their plans, but you can use services Google Apps (at $50 per year per address) to be able to have an email address that goes with your website domain.
Finally, I'd like to mention WordPress, which is one of the most popular CMS systems being use to create all sorts of websites nowadays. In fact, it's what we use for our blog. If blogging is going to be a huge part of your website (which it should be), WordPress is the top player among the blogging framework options (although Squarespace and Wix both offer very good blogging tools). If you do want to use WordPress, you'll either have to get your hands dirty or pay someone to install it for you. If you're relatively web savvy, you can probably handle setting up your own WordPress site since there is tons of helpful documentation available online.
You can host a basic blog at WordPress.com, but I don't recommend using that for your custom website since options are very limited and you don't get much for your money when paying for their premium options compared to Squarespace and Wix. That means if you're determined to use WordPress, you need to install it on a paid hosting service like Dreamhost or Bluehost, whose plans end up costing about the same as the middle Squarespace and Wix plans.
The positives of choosing this option over the others is that the possibilities are pretty endless with all of the theme and plugin options available for WordPress (many free, but the good ones cost something). You also get email hosting with your website hosting accounts, and you can usually set up more than one domain for no extra cost (besides registration).
The negatives of going this route with WordPress is that, since it is the most popular website software system being used, it is a huge target for hackers. That means you MUST stay up on all framework and plugin updates yourself to prevent your site from being hacked. Also, generally the more affordable "shared hosting" plans tend to not perform as well as Squarespace or Wix, meaning that your WordPress site will probably load a bit slower than sites on those two fine-tuned systems. You can get a hot-rodded super-secure WordPress site, but it will cost you! There are always tradeoffs for the flexibility and in having full control of your website's code.
Finally, if you have a friend who wants to build you a website from scratch using software like Adobe Dreamweaver, DON'T DO IT! Especially if they offer to do it for free. Custom coded sites place complete control and reliance on that individual who built it for you, and will be very expensive down the line to try and update or change. The systems I've listed above make it easy for you to update yourself using any web browser, once set up properly, giving you full control of updating your content while also being easy for someone else to pick up and maintain for you down the line if needed.
There are many other services out there that offer similar results to the ones we recommend above. These are just options that we have used ourselves and that we know work well for what you pay.
QUESTION: What are some other website services that you've come across or used? Please share them in the comments below.
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