Okay, so last week you figured out what the purpose of your website will be. Now, armed with this very important information, you want to stride boldly forward and get one. This is excellent. … Now what?

The answer is, now you need to have three things:

  1. A domain name. (The address people will type into their browsers to find you.)
  2. A website host. (A place for your website’s data to live on the internet.)
  3. A web designer. (Even if that person is you.)

Getting a Domain Name

There are a lot of schools of thought on the domain name front, but most importantly you need to remember that this will become part of your overall branding. That means you want it to represent your name or the name of your band/studio/production company/business if possible.

It has long been a belief that the shorter you can get your domain name, the better. Unfortunately, this has led to shortening of words and names to the point of near absurdity.

Try to find a balance between something that represents you and your brand, and doesn’t take half an hour to type into the address bar.

Getting a Website Host

There’s a lot of confusion around the difference between a domain name and a website host. Let’s clear this up right now.

Think of your house (apartment, condo, whatever). It is the place where you keep all your stuff.

Now, think of your actual address – as in the place the bank sends your credit card statements.

Now, imagine that the address you have the bank send those statements is actually somewhere else, like a P.O. Box.

That’s still your address. Mail will still get to you there, but it’s not the same thing as the place where you keep your stuff.

You can connect your mailing address to your physical address by using a service like a forwarder, but they do not have to be the same thing.

In the digital world that actually resides in the data on the internet, your house is your web host and your address is your domain name. You can connect those two items to get your mail, but they are not the same thing.

Finding a reputable web host is slightly more difficult than you might think. There are a lot of services out there that offer both domain registry and web hosting. Some of them are big, evil predatory companies and some of them are a guy in a basement with a server.

In addition, this is made more difficult by your choices on the back end. Some hosts try to make things easy to the point of making it hard. For example, I find that the overly simplistic, overly instructional interfaces used by Go Daddy and Dreamhost prohibitive to getting work done quickly and easily, but that’s my personal preference. The host I choose most often is HostGator (all of my sites, and many of my clients’, are hosted there). No, I don’t get a kickback for saying this. What I get is good service for a good price that keeps my client’s websites running smoothly, not to mention my own.

So how do you know what to do? Well, you can take the advice of someone with experience in the field and you can do some research on your own. Look at customer reviews and talk to people you know who have done this.

Come back next week when we talk about working with or being a web designer for your newly minted domain and hosting package.