Developing your own website — The Why and How (part 1)

Developing your own website — The Why and How (part 1)


Written by

Papa Whale


February 19, 2014



We’ve talked a lot about traffic and how you can increase it, funnel it, and monetize it, but it might seem like running before learning how to walk - especially, if you are just getting started.

In this next article series, we'll go through the different steps required to build a website and I’ll outline my personal recommendations for each step.

Why a build your own website?

Sure, Tumblr and a free hosted Wordpress can provide you with a good publishing platform, however, nothing will ever compare to owning your own website.

Your website, your rules.

Think of it as renting versus owning. Renting can be good, as you'll probably pay less and you might not even have to mow the lawn!  On the other hand, if you own, you’ll have a lawn of your very own to do whatever you want with. You can install a pool, a garden gnome, or even a marble sculpture of your naked self, if you really wanted to.  Hopefully you're getting the point by now.

It might be a little more complicated than creating a new Tumblr, but rest assured that the resulting possibilities are totally worth it.

Brainstorm before you start

Make sure you know what your website will be about. If possible, have some content ready before you start developing it. Creating a website as an empty shell can have some unpredictable results when the final content is inserted.

Plan in detail the structure of your website according to your needs and the conventions you believe would be a best fit, such as creating a contact or about page.

Keep in mind that your website should be organized in a way that your content is displayed in the best possible way for your user. Bill Gates once said:

[ictt-tweet-blockquote]Content is king[/ictt-tweet-blockquote]

Your content is the heart and spine of your website, make sure to know what it is and then build your website around it.

The website should also reflect your brand's personality. If you don't have a brand personality just yet, don't worry. We'll cover the process of developing a coherent brand in an upcoming tutorial.

Pick a name, buy the domain(s)

What's your name? Picking a relevant name related to your business and content is paramount. In fact, a good name is important because it sparks the user’s interest and helps propel your brand to new mediums, on the Internet, and beyond!

If you're not sure what domain name you should choose, check out your rival's/competitor's names.  Ask yourself:  Can you do better?  A more targeted and memorable name can even help you win some traffic over your competitor.

The .com TLD (top-level domain) is preferable as it is the most common and well-known, but it may not be the only solution depending on what you plan to do with the domain.

Some alternative TLDs might be considered because of their specific meaning such as .tv, .xxx, .io, etc.

You might also want to consider buying country specific TLDs for the countries or regions you'd like to target specifically. You can find all the available TLDs on Wikipedia.

There are a lots of registrars you can use to buy your domain. Personally, I’d recommend Namecheap for their well-designed user interface, their low prices, and their long (and still growing) list of TLD choices.

Get proper hosting

That's where it starts getting tricky. Your choice of hosting will have to take into account the type of website you will be building.

The following information assumes you will build your website using PHP and/or static HTML files. Other programming languages such as Ruby and Python are also really good but will not be covered in this tutorial.

There are basically two different types of hosting:

Shared hosting

This is the easiest and simplest type of hosting. It'll let you get started quickly by using FTP (File Transfer Protocol) as a way to modify and/or upload your files from/to the server.

You don't have an FTP client yet? Consider using Filezilla or Transmit (Mac only).

There are lots of quality hosting providers out there, just make sure you pick one that suits your budget and accepts the type of content you're looking to host. If you plan on using Wordpress, WpEngine would be a wise way to go as they solely focus on hosting Wordpress websites and have become great at it.

VPS or Cloud Hosting

This type of hosting implies that your content is saved on a virtual server connected with distributed hosting devices. This type of hosting is a little more complicated to setup as you will need to manually install some or all of the server’s software. However, it will give you a lot more control over what is going on with your server, though.

It will also give you an additional layer of security against traffic spikes as most providers will offer an easy to use interface to scale (increase/decrease the power provided to server) when needed.

I’d recommend (in increasing order of complexity):

We won't delve into too much detail on how to setup a new server as it will depend on what you need on an individual basis.

Featured below is a list of what I would suggest installing on a basic VPS to host your website.   You have the option to install Wordpress, pure PHP, Laravel, or anything else... Again, this is just a brief, opinionated, non-extensive list.  If you prefer Nginx over Apache, or PostgreSQL over MySQL, it's all good.

  • Ubuntu 13
  • Apache 2
  • PHP 5
  • MySQL
  • Git

Here’s a quick technical guide: Install Apache, MySQL PHP and phpMyAdmin on Ubuntu.

Let’s recap

In a nutshell, let’s review the initial steps on getting started with your own website:

  1. Find out if you really need your own website
  2. Brainstorm content ideas and structure it accordingly
  3. Choose the right name
  4. Select your hosting solution

By putting your shoulder to the wheel using our tips, you may be surprised just how quickly you get a performing, relevant, and well-known website that gains traffic… and money!

In the next article, we'll get down to business with the actual build of your website. We'll compare the different tools available and their respective level of complexity and extensibility.

Meanwhile, I'd be interested to know what you think about the suggestions I've made. Do you use different tools? Share your personal recommendations in the comments!

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