In this document:
Establishing your own web site can be a daunting prospect for the uninitiated. Here are a few pointers to get you started. These steps are not in any particular order, since it is possible to build your web site 'offline', and do the other steps afterwards. Many people like to design their site first then organise domain name(s) and hosting afterwards. There are no hard and fast rules here, except to say that you must have a domain and hosting organised before anyone can find your web site, and your web site must be up and running before the search engines can find it!
We've tried to make this document as simple as possible, but...
If it all seems a little confusing, don't panic. We can organise ALL of this for you.
A 'domain' is simply an address space that allows people to find your site. Like a real address, it's important to have a good one! It's a good idea to choose a domain name that is easily typed and remembered, so that people can easily come back to your site, even if they haven't bookmarked it. If visitors can easily remember your domain name or web address they are more likely to return, or to tell others about it.
A domain can point to a number of internet services like the World Wide Web, Email addresses, FTP services etc. Typically you might set up a web address and a number of email addresses.
For example... If you registered a domain like mybusiness.com, typically you might set up the following:
There is great demand for good domain names, so the domain name of first choice may not be available for registration i.e. somebody else has already registered it.
We recommend that you select a domain registrar from the list provided by .au Domain Administration Ltd. (the Australian Government endorsed body for administering the .au domain space. Their web address is http://www.auda.com.au. They maintain a list of auDA Accredited Registrars, many of which also handle registrations for other domain spaces (like .com for example).
It is possible to set up your own server infrastructure with appropriate bandwidth if you are so inclined, and sufficiently cashed up! For most purposes, it it easier, quicker and most importantly cheaper to have your domain hosted by a hosting provider. A hosting provider provides you with the ability to give your domain, including your web site and other services a place to reside, so that visitors can get to your site at any time of the day or night. One nice byproduct of this is that if your web site goes down, or suddenly becomes inaccessible, it's not your fault!
Typically a web site design is made up of a set of text, graphic and sometimes other multimedia elements. It is important to give your site a consistent 'look and feel' through the selection of (at least) an appropriate font set and graphics, together with a common method of navigation for your site. This makes the experience of visiting your site easy, and gives your site an easily recognised 'brand'.
There are many methods for designing a web site that looks good. Broadly they fall into two categories:
Unless your web site is very small, we do not recommend that you code your web site by hand (unless you have plenty of free time on your hands and a masochistic bent!). Rather, we recommend that you select a proprietary suite of products that allows you to coordinate your graphics and other binary content with the web code easily, such as Macromedia Studio - which seems to have become the pseudo industry standard way of designing and deploying web sites. In our humble opinion, Macromedia Studio MX is the way to go. It can produce web sites that adhere to the W3 consortium standards, and produces code that really does work cross-platform and cross-browser.
Be aware that such software does not come cheap, may require negotiating a significant learning curve on your part, and may be beyond the budget of your site. We can help here by designing sites that are Macromedia Contribute compatible. Contribute allows the web novice to update their own site(s) and control their own content. For small to medium sites, and a minimal investment, it provides most of the functionality of a full 'content management system' at a fraction of the cost. Here are a few examples of sites content-managed by their owners (see the notes to see which ones are owner-managed).
This is perhaps something that is often overlooked. You need to be proactive in letting people know about your site.
Help people to find your site easily by submitting your web site to as many search engines as possible, but BEWARE of companies or bodies that guarantee to get your site into search engines for a fee. Experience indicates that this is bunkum. Most search engines have policy documents that expressly prohibit the submission of new sites through automated means, and have automated submission detection in place. This means that (by and large) you need to enter your site by hand using the tools that the search engine provides.
In short, there is no guarantee of your site getting into a search engine unless you pay them. Having said that, perseverance often pays off in the end!
A good starting point to select appropriate search engines is http://searchenginewatch.com/reports/. See which search engines are generating the most traffic by looking at the reports. At the time of writing the 'big 3' are Google, MSN Search and Yahoo, so it seems reasonable to concentrate your efforts in getting your site into these search engines.
Of course, it is no good entering your web site into a search engine if your site is not ready to provide some help for the search engine 'robots' in how to index your site. We can help here by designing your site to be readily 'indexable'.