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Thinking About Starting A Website (Advice Needed)

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Thinking About Starting A Website (Advice Needed)

Old 04-23-08, 03:01 PM
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Thinking About Starting A Website (Advice Needed)

I'm thinking about starting a website. I'm pretty net-savvy, know a liiiiiiittle bit of HTML, don't want something too simple and advertising based (Geocities), don't want something too complex either. Format is mostly essays and articles (perhaps comedic?) from various people... but not a blog in the sense of livejournal or anything like that.

Other concerns include maintaining the rights to the things on the site (thus I'd like to avoid sites that host people's writing and claim to be places where you can share your stuff and get discovered). And cost is an issue. I'd like to not pay much/anything unless it became somewhat popular.

Anyways, if anyone can point me in the right direction, I'd appreciate it. Perhaps a specific service or program coupled with a purchased web address with domain forwarding? What service? Any advice would be much appreciated.
Old 04-25-08, 01:31 AM
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Here are your basic options:

1) Get an account with a web host, and install some blogging software, like WordPress. This usually costs around $7.95/month or less (usually paid a year in advance). You have complete control over most aspects of your server. Most hosting accounts come with a "Control Panel" that has some time of script installer (Fantasico, for example). You can use Fantastico to install (or remove) any software as easily as you can install software in Windows. I know you said that you didn't want "blog in the livejournal sense", but there are millions of sites running WordPress or Movable Type these days. Either one is "themeable", and the right theme came make a blog look a lot like a "traditional" website.

2) Get a hosted version of the same. Wordpress.com has a free blogging service that allows you to run WordPress on their servers (you can use your own domain name if you want, or you can use the free username.wordpress.com name).

3) Get an account with a web host, and use DreamWeaver \ Komposer \ FrontPage-Expression \ Notepad to create HTML files yourself.

4) Get a paid hosting account from GoDaddy, Geocities Pro, or some other provider that provides "page builder" software.

Option #1 is by far the choice for "serious amateurs". Web hosting is dirt cheap these days (I pay $97.34 a year for "unlimited" disk space (starts at 50GB, increases automatically), 250GB worth of bandwidth per month, unlimited email accounts, unlimited MySQL server instances).

Option #2 is for people that just want to "write stuff". A WordPress hosted account, for example, works almost exactly like the "full version" of WordPress... but with a few advanced options removed. This choice if for the kind of people that buy Macs because "it just turns on and works".

Option #3 is for crazy people and professionals. I used to have a site that was run with FrontPage (I know, "booooo!"). It was fun to write and organize pages and having control over every last little thing on the site. So if you're adventurous, you can certainly go this route. Having said that, keeping up with HTML manually is a pain in the ass. It gets old after a while. The reason so many people go with option #1 these days is that all anyone really wants to do is put out content, not deal with arcane HTML\PHP issues. Remember that option #1 and option #3 don't necessarily preclude each other. You could get a hosting account and try out Option #3 for a while, and then install WordPress or Movable Type later if you want.

Option #4 is the lamest of all. Many web hosts have "page builder" software (an online WYSIWYG HTML editor) that can build pages. There's nothing wrong with these accounts, I guess, but it's just so... bleh, in the "Ha! Ha! I'm Using the Internet!" kind of way.

The first thing you need is a domain name. There are lots of registrars out there; GoDaddy.com is one of the most popular. For $9.95 (or less) a year, you register the name under your own account. If you decide to host it elsewhere, your web host can give you all the info you need to put into the DNS records at GoDaddy.com. Some hosts offer to "do all this for you" (sometimes for free!) with a new account; you have to be careful with those, because sometimes the host ends up owning your domain, not you. Losing a domain name is an ugly pain-in-the-ass you want to avoid at all costs, so keep all domains on your own account at an independent registrar.

Option #1 is also the best option if you want to maintain as much "control" over your stuff as possible. I've never heard of a professional web hosting company claiming the work of one on their customers as their own. It sounds, bizarre, even. Options 2 and 4 offer the least "control" over your work. A hosted blog could shut down, leaving you with no way to get your site back.

If you don't want to spend any money at all (or as little as possible), you could look into Google Apps. It's free, and has an HTML editor (I think) and way to publish pages. It also comes with Gmail accounts. You'd have to register for a domain name ($9.95/yr) but that's as expensive as it gets. I don't know anyone that uses Google Apps, so I don't really know much about it, honestly. It's probably worth a look.

You could always host the server locally. Got an old computer lying around? Got a brand-new computer that can run a virtual machine effortlessly? You can install IIS or Apache (or download a web-hosting "package" like WAMP) and run the whole shebang at home for free. This is usually a terrible idea - aside from your Internet going down, leaving the site unreachable, you've got power outages, maintaining your own server, security holes, electricity to power the whole thing... It's usually just a bad idea. But it's certainly do-able, and fun to tinker with.

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