A Beginner’s Guide to Setting up Your Own Website

If you’re thinking of setting up your own web site, and if you keep your design simple, it’s really not hard to do. I set mine up using OpenOffice, and now use FrontPage and Notepad, when I want to touch up my sites’ pages.

The first step I took was to select a domain name that I felt aptly described what my site was about. Some people prefer to leave that step for last, but by moving quickly, I was able to lay claim to a name I was happy with.

My friend, who owns a computer consulting site, bought all the versions of his domain’s name (.com; .net and .org) for many years to come. This way, was his reasoning, anyone searching for his particular site won’t accidentally stumble onto another site. From a marketing standpoint, his reasoning is sound.

I settled for a .plain .com, of my preferred site name, when I purchased it as part of a package deal. The host, or the company that allots space on the Web, researched the availability of my name and, finding it not yet taken, leased it to me.

Now, about html…do you need to know it? Well, it helps. I went out and got a few library books on it, just to understand what was going in “behind the scenes”, but there are really only a few basic rules you need to become familiar with. A few weeks of trial-and-error usage will provide as much hands-on information as reading a book will.

If you want to see a sample of html, go on any website and click on View. Then go to Source. See that gibberish? Look at it, again. It’s really only text, with a few extras thrown in, for graphics, space and font.

The only thing I really ever write in html, now, is a “<” and a “p” and another “>”, when I want to start a new paragraph. But you can also do that by hitting Enter, as you’d do with any word processing software.

You’ll also need an FTP client. That’s like the bridge to get to your site’s host. There are a number of shareware sites that list moderately-priced FTP’s. There are also a few free ones. (See Step No. 9, below.)

In detail, here are the steps you’ll need to follow to set up your own website:

1. Stake Your Domain Name
As I mentioned, I got mine as a part of a package deal, through my host. If you don’t choose a name, your host will provide one that’s too darn long and technical sounding to be easily remembered. When you’ve registered with your ISP (Internet Service Provider), will have a page where you can check to see if your name is registered. Or, their tech support team will do it for you.

It’ll cost about $35 a year to register yours, if no-one else has taken it. (Chances are you’ll have to have a few alternative choices handy!)

2. Get a Host
Your ISP probably will offer you free, but limited, web page space. Or you can do a Google search for a free web host service, like GeoCities.

3. Open your HTML Editor
You can use the popular FrontPage as your editor. Follow the directions, if there are any. If not, enter your site’s title. Right click and choose Page Properties. Under Title, type your web site’s name. Select the Background Tab. Choose text, background, colors, and images, for your hyperlinks.

4. Enter Text and Heading
Now you’re ready to enter the text, just as you would on a Word .doc. Next, click on the Formatting toolbar. Access the Font drop-down box, to choose the style, etc. Now choose the headline. Right-click a line of text and choose Paragraph Properties. Access the type of Heading you want.

5. Add Graphics.
To add graphics, use .jpeg for photos and other large visuals. Use .gif for logos, and anything with sharply-defined edges. Point your mouse to the spot where you would like to see the images, and select Insert, and, then, Image. Using the Browser field, insert the graphic path.

To change the positioning of your graphics, just click and drag. To wrap words around the image, choose Image Properties, and Appearance. Click on the Alignment option.

Don’t be afraid to play around with this aspect of your Editor. Anything you don’t like can be undone. (Just hit the Undo arrow.)

6. Add Tables, If Needed
If you have a lot of information to organize, use Tables to create lists of useful data. Select Table, Insert and the number of rows and columns desired.

7. Add Links
To let readers access links outside of your site, highlight the link, and click the Hyperlink icon on the standard toolbar. Type the URL, including the http:// part. Click OK.

To add an e-mail link, highlight the text that includes that link and click on Hyperlink. Select Hyperlink Type, “mailto”, and enter the e-mail entry. Click OK.

8. Save Your Page
Save your Webpage using index.html as the file name. (There are a few hosts that, instead, insist you save your web page under default.html. Check with your host to see which they prefer.)

9. FTP Your Site
Load your site, using your FTP (File Transfer Protocol Utility) client. If you need an FTP client, check out the shareware choices on PCWorld, or try Wise, or CoffeeCup. Once you have a client, you’ll need the following information from your host, before uploading your site:

a) the host name;
b) your log-in name and password; and
c) the correct directory for your web pages.

Connect to your host and access the correct directory (as mentioned in c). Now upload your index.html (or default.html) file, plus any graphic images. These can be kept in their own folder, or added one-by-one.

10. Perform a final check
Close out the client, and disconnect from the site. Open a new browser and see how your site looks. If you’ve still got questions, ask your host. They usually have e-mail and phone tech support.

If everything is OK, welcome to the wonderful world of websites!