I’d like to answer a few common questions I hear often before a client decides to have a website built. These questions are related more to the actual set up procedures before building a website or having one built.

Firstly as the title of this piece, what do I need for a website? Which then often leads to the following questions.

What is a domain name?

What is hosting?

Where/How do I buy a domain or hosting?

1. What do I need for a website?

I will assume that anyone who is considering a website has access to a computer or smart mobile device, the Internet and generally knows how to open a browser (i.e. Internet Explorer, Safari) and access web pages.

The easiest way to have all your website needs set up is leaving it to the company or person you choose to build your website, but if you wanted to get started on your own, then this guide will hopefully help.

Before you decide to have a website built, you will need to choose a domain name this on most cases will be something that reflects your business name. For example if your company is called Smokey Mirrors then you may want www.smokeymirrors.co.uk or www.smokeymirrors.com.

If you do business in the UK, then you would most likely go for .co.uk, if your aiming for a wider market then maybe .eu or .com.

Sometimes you may find that the domain name you want is already taken, in which case you can either try buying something similar for examples instead of www.smokemirrors.co.uk you may go for www.smokey-mirrors.co.uk, your web designer can also help you find the perfect domain name.

What I always do is actually enter the domain name onto a browser to check what website if any is being hosted on the domain name I want, I’ve found in the past that some domain names are still active but there are no actual websites. The best thing to do then is go to www.who.is and type in the domain name you want and it will tell you when it’s schedules to expire or if it’s still active you can get the details of who owns it, so you can contact them directly to see if they would like to sell the domain name.

The second thing you need in order to have a website online is web hosting, which can also be referred to as hosting or online hosting. I will go into more detail regarding hosting after I’ve explained what a domain name is.

2. What is a domain name?

A domain name is also referred to as web address and I find the best way to describe what a domain name is that it’s exactly what it is when referred to as a web address. Your domain name is the address to your website, so just as your business is located in a shop or office, you need an address to get people to find you.

As I’ve already explained a domain name will usually be made up of your company name plus .co.uk or .com etc. But in some cases you may choose a domain name that includes the city your business is located in or it could be made up of key words that people may search on search engine such as Google or Yahoo. For example instead of www.smokeymirrors.co.uk you may got for www.smokeymirrors-london.co.uk or www.mirrors-london.co.uk .

3. What is hosting?

Hosting, web hosting, web space and online hosting are pretty much the same thing. If you want a website then you need hosting. Sometimes you may build your own website on an online website builder, who also host your website for you. In this case you can buy just a domain name and have it forwarded to your website you’ve built. But for ultimate control, it’s wise to purchase your hosting when you buy your domain name, from the same place. This creates less confusion and is easier for if and when you decide to upgrade your website and have a web designer do the new website.

Just as I explained the domain name is the address of your website like the an address is to your business premises. Then think of the hosting as the premises, the place that holds your website.

4. Where/How do I buy a domain or hosting?

I think this question is very important. As a web designer I often find people rush and buy their domain name from the first place that pops up when they search online, or they go for the cheapest place.

This is often not wise, as the cheapest place may sell you your domain name for cheap and then when you go to purchase hosting you will find its more expensive than most and there are limitations, such as how many emails you can have or databases (most websites need a database now a days) etc.

I’ve also found that some domain providers stall you from transferring the domain name once you’ve bought it. When trying to move your domain name to another provider you may find that they won’t let you until it’s been at least a certain number of months. So it’s best to check domain, hosting and package details before buying.

For the best domain and hosting packages, it’s always best to ask your web designer or as I always recommend to my clients, use 1&1.co.uk.

So once I again, I would recommend buying your domain name and hosting from the same provider. Always check the combined deal is better than just buying them individually, also check the package gives you as many perks as possible, check things like unlimited emails, unlimited bandwidth, security and databases are included.

Many service providers will offer you’re a free domain name when you take on one of their hosting packages. Hosting packages are usually advertised at a monthly cost, but I’ve found that you usually have to pay for 6 or 12 months hosting cost up front, rather than paying it on a monthly basis. Most companies will have your domain name ready for you within 24 hours and you should have access to your hosting or web space straight away.

I’d also like to give a word of advice to anyone who does wish to let a web design company or freelance web designer do the set up parts of their website build, always make sure when they register your domain name it is registered either under your name or your business name, this way if you ever need to change your website and the web designer is no where to be found, then at least you can access your domain name. Also always get them to give you some sort of access to your web host, ask them for either a control panel login or ftp login. This will give you access to the raw website files that you may need to give to a different web designer in the future.

I find a high percentage of people ask me these questions along with many others. If anyone would like similar questions answered, feel free to contact me direct or leave a message below.