Have you listed a few items on eBay? If you have, chances are you developed a basic page layout using their simple editor. This creates what's known as HTML code, a layout language which is used on 90% of pages viewed on the internet. And once you've created a few HTML pages, you might feel tempted to set up your own website or two.
Just as you use the eBay editor to create an HTML page, so you can find utilities offline that work in the same way. Do a simple search for "HTML editors" to see what's available.
Alas, I don't have the space in this article to deal with how you use HTML to lay out the page, create hyperlinks and such like. This is something you will have to learn by reading books dedicated to the topic. Once you've created a few sample pages, you'll want to upload them to a website.
Since this is your first foray into this fascinating World, you would probably use some free web hosting space. They will tell you how to upload your pages to their site, and like eBay, it will usually involve clicking a few buttons.
As you grow in confidence and ability, you'll may eventually decide you want to move "up market" and get your own web space, together with your own web domain name. This is where some people get a little confused - hence this article.
First, you'll need somewhere to upload your pages. There are thousands of web hosts online, some good, some poor. Some will charge $7 a month for a lot of space, some will charge $20 for very little space. I've tried a few, and I now use what I believe to be the best webhosting company around.
Another important aspect is called "bandwidth". Everytime a web page is "delivered" to a web browser, it consumes 'bandwidth'. For example, if a page is 10,000 bytes in size, and it's downloaded 100 times a day, that's 1,000,000 bytes (one megabyte) of bandwidth being used. If you have several pages on your site, this can soon escalate. The host we use offers a huge bandwidth of 2500 GIGABYTES (2500,000,000,000 bytes) a month.
A few vendors will also proclaim they offer "unlimited bandwidth". Sorry, there's no such thing; everything has an upper limit. The reason these vendors make such claims is they know that 90% of people will use less than ten gigabytes of bandwidth a month, so their claim will never be questioned. But try to host a busy site with them, and watch them close your account. As someone recently said, "If they had unlimited bandwidth, why isn't Google or Microsoft hosting their account on their servers?"
I have also used some of these cheap £9:95 a year hosts. Some were offline more times than they were online ... and one vendor took their hosting service down within three months! (No refunds of course!!)
Having decided on a host, signed up and paid your money, you will then be quoted something called a "DNS" entry. Short for "Dynamic Name Server", its sort of like an electronic postman on the server of your web host. We'll return to that in a moment, but for now lets say you're quoted a DNS of "NS1.this-site"
Next, you'll need a domain name. Since there are millions of sites on the internet already, you might not be able to use the name you desire. In which case, you will have to do a little more thinking. Once you have your name, you have to register it.
To do this, research your URL name via a "domain name registrar" site online, (again search for suitable sites via a search engine) They will ask for your name and address for their records, and also ask you to enter your DNS url. You type that in ... and that's it. Job done.
After about 48 hours, your new domain name will have "propogated", (travelled) around the internet and be on numerous name servers. Your site is now "live".
What happens is this. You type your domain name into your browser. All the name servers around the World ask "Anyone know where site XYZ is?" Eventually it is traced back to your "domain registrar". That machine says "I know the site. It's on "NS1.this-site". So off we pop to that name server.
We get to that DNS Electronic postman which says, "The site you want is on drive X: in folder ABC" Your broswer looks into that folder, finds the desired page and displays it in your browser. All this too-ing and fro-ing between DNS machines takes just seconds!
At this stage, all we would see would be a blank page. We need to upload our pages. If you're using Cpanel, you could use the "File Manager" to upload your pages, but this is a little slow.Far better to use an FTP program.
Having entered your site domain name and password, the "File Transfer Program" will log into your site, and display two windows side by side. One is your PC, the other your server space. Simply copy files from one window to the other, and the files are uploaded. How easy is that?
At present, you'll be working with simple HTML pages. But as time goes by, you may well be tempted to start investigating the possibilities of using other layout languages such as PHP, PERL, Javascipt, XML, RSS ... Now you've got a website, the fun is only just beginning!
NB: Interested in a web host offering 250 Gigabytes of web hosting space and 2500 gigabytes of bandwidth? Email the author.