Monday, November 12, 2007

Building a website

I have been spending my last 4 weeks conceptualizing and building this website - http://www.dsouzaweb.com/. How did I go about doing it.

Collect the content

The first thing that one needs to do is to collect a reasonable amount of content to put up on the website. I have been collecting a lot of the information on this site for the last 3 years through the yahoo group. What is a reasonable amount of content is subjective but I would say at least enough content for about 10 web pages (at least that is what I think would make the website look like something worth visiting)

Blog or Content Website

A blog is a website that typically contains views of a person or a group of people. It is more like a diary of thoughts where content is displayed by date. On the other hand a content website is a collection of content on a particular subject where a blog is only one of the components. These content websites can be driven by static content or dynamic content that come from a database or it can be a combination of both. If you have static content it would be good to go for a content management system that most hosting solutions provide. If you have a data driven site then it is good to develop custom web pages using web technologies.

Finding a Hosting Site

There are 1ooo's of hosting sites available but the important thing to look for the following

  • Ease of use
  • Duration they have been in the business
  • Look for any feedback from others that have used the service
  • Features offered - important ones being database access, languages supported, administrative options given.

Do not worry about this too much since you can always change your hosting provider if you are not happy with it as long as you do not use any custom solution to build your website. So stick with open source solutions and all the hosting providers will be more than happy to host your website for a fee of course.

I have used 1&1 and DomainG8. Personally I like DomainG8 better than 1 and 1 in terms of ease of using the services and the customer support.

Check out the packages and select one that seems to suit your needs - if you don't know which one that is select the one which is the cheapest and you can always work upwards after that.

Build the website

Once you have a hosting solution you have to start building your website. If you are using a CMS (Content Management Solution) or a blog then your options for look and feel customization are limited to what is offered by that tool or website. On the other hand if you are building a custom website then you can let your imagination explode. To drive that imagination I have found a very good site for templates and that is Open Source web Design. Once you have the content - you have to choose the tool to build your site in - there are a lot of tools available out there from Microsoft Frontpage to Adobe Dreamweaver to a lot of other tools. Some free some more expensive, some powerful some not so powerful - so try out the trail versions and see what you are comfortable with.

I prefer building my site in php rather than html since I can make templates out of all the common content and have them included in the main page. I do not use any of the fancy tools available and prefer to code my websites by hand using Notepad++ - another free editor that is just wonderful.

Uploading the website

Once you have built your website you can upload it to the hosting server using free source FTP tools that are available. I personally use Filezilla and my experience has been wonderful with it.

Tracking visitors

I use a couple of tools to track the visitors coming to my website - Google Analytics and the other is ClustrMaps. Both are free to register and use. Google Analytics provides detailed reports on the profile of your visitors so that you can target them when you post something. I just like the way ClustrMaps looks on the website to tell visitors who is visiting your website. You can see clustrmaps in action on this website on the bottom right hand corner.

Conclusion

There is a lot more you can do on a website and as and when I discover them I will try and write about it. I am investigating how I can get my website high onto the search results of search engines and will leave that as another article. If you have any questions feel free to ask and I will try and find answers for you. This is by no means an exhaustive article on website development but its more a starters guide on how to build a website cheaply.

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