This document provides a step-by-step guide to setting up a professional website. This
document offers alternative choices and contains money saving tips and tricks. In
addition, this document contains a series of appendixes that can be customized to
further elucidate the requirements of the website. These appendixes include:
determining the functionality of the website, HTML resources, and web design software
comparison. This document can be useful for individuals or small businesses that want
more information about how to create a functioning and proficient website.
Ten Steps to Creating a
An Organized Approach for Establishing Your Presence
on the World Wide Web
Ten Steps to Creating a Functional Website
This checklist will walk you through the steps in getting a website up and running, and will
provide you with information you need to know in order to build the site that is right for you, and
that fits within your budgetary constraints. Where you have alternate choices, this document will
point that out, and includes money-saving tips and tricks.
STEP ONE: Determine Functionality of the Site
Before you can begin the process of designing your site, which is for most of us the fun part, you
need to figure out what you need your site to do for you and for the users of and visitors to your
site. In order to make this step a little easier for you, we have included a worksheet attached as
Appendix A. This worksheet will help you to consider all of the functionality that will be needed
to make your site effective for its intended purpose.
STEP TWO: Establish Your Domain
Definition of Domain: A domain is an identifier
of an Internet site, made up of characters (usually
words and dashes), and separated by periods. An
example is “www.example.com”.
The most difficult part of establishing your domain name will probably be coming up with what
you want it to be called and finding one that isn’t already taken. Domain names are available for
no cost, or you can pay a fee to have a little more convenience (and choice) in setting one up.
These fees can range from $10.00 to $35.00 or more. Think, first, however, about what type of
domain you want.
The most widely recognized are the ‘dot com’ sites, as well as .net, and .org. These days,
however, domains can have a variety of different extensions. There is a non-profit organization
commissioned by the government, and known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names
and Numbers (ICANN), that oversees top-level domain name system management. ICANN
recently allowed for new top-level domains that include the following extension types: .aero;
.biz; .coop; .info; .museum; .name; and .pro.
You will first need to check to see if the domain name you would like to have is available. A
domain name registrar can assist you with this. The registrars are entities that have been given
authority by ICANN to register domain names and will usually offer a selection of web hosting
services as well. You can find a partial list of these registrars on the internet by typing the search
term, “list of domain name registrars,” into your web browser.
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When you select the registrar you wish to use, there will be two basic steps; (1) search for
availability of the name you want; and (2) finish the process if yours is available. You will need
to be somewhat flexible here, as the name you have selected as being ideal for you might have
already been taken, and you will need to keep trying until you find one that is not. Although
there are millions of domain names already in use, don’t be discouraged, as there are millions
more that no one has thought of yet.
Tips and Tricks: Be careful during this process that you are not agreeing to other
services that you do not wish to purchase.
STEP THREE: Obtain a Hosting Site
Definition of Hosting Site: Companies that provide space on a
server for websites. These companies may own or lease the servers
on which the web site will reside.
There are several things that you must consider during this step in the process.
Cost: If choosing a “free” site, you must consider whether or not it is really without cost. Sure,
there may not be a fee to pay up front, but you could end up paying in the form of allowing
advertisers (not of your choosing) to post ads on your site – sometimes even ads that are for
products or services that are in direct competition with those you are offering. Another way free
sites make money is to sell your information to companies that will inundate you with e-mailed
advertisements otherwise known as “spam.” Know that on some free sites you could be
required to refer other people to the hosting entity, people that must pay for the service, in order
for you to get your service without being charged. Finally, if there are no forced advertisements,
spam inducers, or referral requirements, you should be wary of that site as it is more likely to
shut down on you if it is not making money.
Sites that charge up front number in the hundreds and it can be confusing trying to pick the one
that will work for you. You will need to select from Shared Hosting, Dedicated Hosting, or
Shared Hosting is where you will share the site with other customers, and the easiest way
to understand this is to think of it in terms of a house where several bedrooms are rented
out to different people, and where you each must share in the cost of food and the
utilities. You may be stuck paying more than your share as the result of folks who refuse
to turn off their lights, thereby increasing your electric bill, or you may never get a
chance to eat any of the snack food because another tenant has hogged it all. While
Shared Hosting can work nicely for some small businesses, you just never know if one of
your “neighbors” will hog all your bandwidth and slow your site down. Consider, also,
that you could be severely limited in the amount of space you are allocated, and this type
of hosting can be more susceptible to hacking. The costs for Shared Hosting can range
from $1.99 per month to $25.00 per month or more.
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Dedicated Hosting is just that – you get your own dedicated server managed by the
provider site. This type of hosting is recommended for those sites that will transact e-
commerce via the web, mainly because it provides more security for your site. The
consideration here, however, is that you may be required to provide some of the system
administration, and if you do not have the skills or desire to do so, that will cost you
extra, unless you’re willing to learn a little bit about administration. The costs for
Dedicated Hosting can range from $50.00 per month to more than $1,500.00 per month.
Colocation is at the highest end of the cost spectrum associated with web hosting, but it
does give you complete control over your site. Colocation allows you to rent space and
install your own servers in that space. It is, therefore, recommended only for those who
are particularly skilled in site administration and IT functions, and is usually only used
for specialized proprietary applications. The costs for Colocation are difficult to
determine unless you know how much information will be transferred each month, as this
service charges for internet connection generally based on the total number of bits
transferred each second then averaged for a month, and can be quite costly.
File Types and Sizes: For those who want to use HTML (see Step Five below), and only .jpeg,
or .gif images on their site, this is not so much of a consideration. For those, however, who have
a need to run their own programs, or who wish to use Flash (see Step Seven below), or other
macromedia alternatives, it will be an important consideration when choosing a web host, as
many of them are limited only to HTML. If you have these special needs, be sure to double-
check what limitations are imposed by the provider you are contemplating.
Speed and Downtime: These two things can make or break your site, so you must do some
research about the provider to see how reliable it is, and how quickly a customer can access your
site. Find forums or threads that speak to the reliability of the provider you are looking into (but
do bear in mind that folks will generally voice a negative opinion more often than they will a
positive one). You also have the right to request information from the potential host related to
how often their servers have been down over the last year, and also how quickly they were able
to reestablish the service. If they refuse to provide you with this information, find another host
that will. To check speed, you can spend a little time accessing other sites hosted by the same
provider (and the web host will generally either list its customers, or be happy to provide you
with a few that you can check), and see how quickly you can access the site and move around the
pages of the site. If your potential customers cannot get onto your site, they will simply find
another, and if your pages are taking too long to load, most folks will not stick around and wait.
STEP FOUR: Design Your Site
You will have a couple of different choices here: (1) you can
purchase the services of someone who is skilled at website
design; or (2) you can use software to design your own.
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Hiring an Expert. As with hiring a professional for any type of work, there are a number of
ways to find one. For more detailed information on this process, please refer to Step Eight
Using Software to Design it Yourself. The key decision for using software to help you design
your own site will be which design software to select. Naturally, you will want a package that is
easy to learn and use, but also one that provides you with the tools to create a website that
includes all the functional components that you came up with in Step One above. The cost of
such software varies greatly, and, while the general rule of, “you get what you pay for,” does
apply here, you may not need all the bells and whistles that some programs offer.
Using the worksheet you completed for the functionality you wish your website to have, shop
around for the program that offers you the ability to do all those things. Read the consumer
reviews on each piece of software you consider, and keep a checklist that allows you to compile
information on several different software packages before you make a purchase. Appendix C
provides you with a handy spreadsheet to compare the different software packages out there.
One plus of purchasing a software package is that it will usually convert plain text into HTML
for you, allowing you to avoid Step Five below.
STEP FIVE: Using HTML
Definition of HTML: HTML is an acronym for Hypertext Markup Language, and it is
the method of coding certain words and phrases by using “tags” to make text appear a
certain way, whether by font or size, and to embed images and graphics into a web page.
There are two approaches one can take related to HTML: (1) learn it yourself; or (2) use
software that translates text into HTML. Appendix B includes lists of resources for each of these
Learning HTML on your own. Not so long ago, this was the only method available to anyone
who wished to create and maintain a website. These days, however, the choice to learn HTML is
based purely on your desire to do so. The basics of HTML are fairly easy to comprehend, and
with a good instruction guide, you will usually be able to figure out the codes or tags that you
need to apply to accomplish the end result you desire.
HTML Translation Software. These products range in cost from free shareware programs to
those that can cost a couple of hundred dollars or more. You must be careful with some of these,
however, as many of them are not too accurate, and it can be a frustrating exercise to try to
correct a problem caused by the software itself. Refer to Step Four, above to learn about
software that automatically formats your website in HTML while you design it.
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STEP SIX: Learning about Servers and Clients
The very best analogy out there for explaining clients and servers is one that appears on
Scomptec Information Technology Company’s website, and which likens this process to
ordering a meal in a restaurant. The following paraphrases this easy-to-follow analogy.
The client can be compared to a customer in a restaurant who orders a set of services that
may include a beverage, appetizer, main course, and dessert. The client/customer makes
these requests to one person – the waiter. No matter who is really preparing each of these
components, the client/customer only deals with the waiter.
The server can be compared to the waiter who takes the order from the client/customer
and carries the specifications for the order back to the busboy, chefs, bartender, etc., who
are the actual people preparing each part of that order. The waiter then brings each
ordered selection to the client/customer.
This is exactly how the client-server process works. The client puts in a request for a set of
services from the server, and then the server goes out and gathers those services and returns them
to the client within the expected time frame for doing so. No matter where the server obtains the
service, the client only deals with the server.
There are several resources out there that will provide much more detailed information on how
this process works, and you should take the time to brush up before building your own website,
so that you have an understanding of the inner workings of the system. Some of these that
explain fairly nicely include:
Client Server Computing by Albert Yau
Network Computing -- Information Week Business Technology
STEP SEVEN: Learning about Flash
Flash was created and introduced in 1996 by Macromedia, which was acquired by Adobe in
2005. Flash has quickly become one of the most popular authoring and playback systems
available and Flash formats are used for most of the animated ads and video clips that you see on
websites these days. There are several resources available for getting started with Flash;
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however, if it is one of your websites functional requirements, you can also look for website
design software that incorporates Flash.
If you are interested in learning more about Flash, consider these resources:
The source: Macromedia or Adobe
Additional resources: http://www.hostservices.net/design-flash.html
As with hiring any professional to perform a service for you, you will want to look at several
before deciding on one, and there are many ways to find an individual or company that will
provide what you need at a price that fits within your budget.
STEP EIGHT: Hiring a Web Designer
As far as word-of-mouth referrals, if someone you know has had good luck with an individual
designer or a design firm for the same basic type of site you’re looking to create, this is probably
the best bet. Just make sure you’re comparing apples to apples; and by that we mean if the
person who is recommending the designer had a large corporate-type site built, and you need a
small business site, you may have far different needs, and the same designer might not work for
you as well as it did for the person referring that designer to you.
No matter if you have a referral or if you are on your own with the selection of a professional
designer, you will need to choose between a company and someone who freelances. In either
situation, it is strongly recommended that you ask for and check references, and that you obtain
as much information as you can about the type of sites with which the person or organization has
the most experience, and in what area of design they spend the majority of their working time.
Freelancers and companies alike can be found through reputable sites such as www.elance.com,
which enables you to see the person’s feedback from other employers, as well as information
posted on their profile. Elance also provides you with the opportunity to have experts bid against
one another for your project, allowing you to select the best candidate at the end of the bidding
process. The workers on Elance include both individuals and companies, so this puts you in a
position to be able to review the best of both worlds all in one place.
STEP NINE: Adding a Back-End Database and Shopping Cart
Definition of Back-End Database: This is a database that is used to
store lists of information or data, especially those lists that contain
information that is always changing. The back-end database is
stored separately from the static information on the website (things such as logo, slogan
or other website content that does not change very often), and can be accessed by
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browsers that connect to that server. These are generally used for lists of products and
product descriptions that change as inventory changes.
Definition of Shopping Cart: A shopping cart is just that – it allows a website’s
customers to select items they wish to purchase, review those items before purchase, and
then to “check out” or pay for those items. For ecommerce websites, you will almost
always need a shopping cart, but you may or may not require a back-end database. When
you either select a software program to help you design your site, or retain a professional
to build it for you, you will need to know whether you want these features included,
however if you start your website without them, they can be added later.
There is much debate about whether you need to include a back-end database on your site, and
the general rule is that you should include one if you have many items for sale, and if those items
frequently change. For instance, if you are selling books, you may wish to have a back-end
database that stores the descriptions and reviews of those books, so that when you sell out of a
particular title, it can be removed from the database without a lot of manipulation to the site
itself. The theory here is that it is much simpler to remove an entry in an Access (or other)
database, than it is to remove it from the website.
There are many programs out there that will allow you add a database or shopping cart after you
have already built your site, and the same principles that apply to shopping for web design
software can be applied to the search for such software. In fact, you can modify the checklist at
Appendix C to work for you during your research for the right database or shopping cart for your
STEP TEN: Obtain Advertising Revenue
Selling your products and/or services is the primary way that most of us hope to make money
from our websites; however, you can also generate revenue through advertising for other entities.
The most common of these methods are known as “affiliate programs,” and there are four main
categories of affiliate programs out there.
Cost-per-Click (CPC)/Pay-per-Click (PPC): This is where you allow banners (or
advertisements) to be displayed on your site and you are paid each time one of the
visitors to your site clicks on that banner/advertisement. The most popular of these is
Google’s AdSense, a free program that is easy to use and nets good results.
Cost-per-Mil (CPM)/Cost-per-Impression (CPI): This method is generally more
effective if you have a lot of traffic on your site. It, too, permits advertisements or
banners to be displayed on your site, and then you are paid for each thousand
‘impressions’ (each time the advertised page loads).
Pay-for-Performance (P4P): Again, you will be required to display advertisements or
banners on your site when using this method, however, it will take more than a click or a
page loading in order for you to be paid – the customer must complete a specific task,
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such as signing up for a newsletter or actually making a purchase from the advertiser,
before you are paid.
Sponsorship: This is a traditional form of advertising (you see it constantly in television
commercials), and the same theory applies to web site advertising. A sponsor will
purchase space on your site in which to advertise their product or service. You will have
to work, however, in order to find sponsors for your site, and this method is also known
as “sell-to” advertising. You will have to sell the idea of advertising to the company you
wish to sponsor your site.
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Appendix A: Worksheet for Determining Functionality of Your Website
Check each box that applies to what you envision your site accomplishing for you. If you are unsure of whether you
need a particular functionality, mark it with a question mark until you obtain additional information.
/? Function Comments / Notes
Allow users to search the site.
Allow users to contact you via the site.
Allow users to sign up for e-mail alerts.
Offer products for sale / shopping cart.
Allow users to track orders.
Allow users to obtain data from a database or list.
Include links to other sites.
Use custom or proprietary software.
Include downloadable brochures or .pdf files.
Allow photo enlargement / zoom.
Include audio and/or video streaming.
English to [language] translation.
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Appendix B: HTML Resources
Learning HTML on Your Own:
Free on-line classes.
o Enter the search term, “free on-line HTML classes,” into your web browser.
Free on-line tutorials.
o Enter the search term, “free on-line HTML tutorials,” into your web browser.
Study an on-line tag library.
o Enter the search term, “free HTML tag library,” into your web browser.
Read on-line articles about HTML.
o Enter the search term, “HTML information,” into your web browser.
The website, www.programmingbooks.org, has a list of the books it recommends for learning HTML, and
this is an excellent resource that includes pricing and rankings.
Otherwise, simply enter the search term, “best HTML books,” into your web browser to bring up many
HTML Converter Resources:
HTML conversion software is available as shareware (free) all over the internet, or can be purchased as a
stand-alone program or as part of other web design software. Before using any free software or purchasing
a program that works as an HTML converter, read the reviews in order to ensure that you are using
software that works accurately.
The website www.fileguru.com offers an extensive list of downloadable conversion software.
Read the descriptions carefully as each software listed is for a specific purpose such as converting
.pdf files to HTML, converting Word documents into HTML, or converting HTML documents
into another format.
The website www.findapp.com also offers a nice list of conversion software, but mainly focuses
on software that you must purchase, rather than shareware.
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Appendix C: Checklist for Web Design Software Comparison
In the first column, note the name of each package you review.
Replace each “function” in the column header with the actual functions from the worksheet you created in Step One. Delete any
columns you do not need, or add columns if you need more.
Indicate the cost of the software package in the last column.
Software Package Function #1 Function #2 Function #3 Function #4 Function #5 Function #6 Function #7 Cost
A completed checklist may look something like this:
Search Shopping Database Graphics /
Software Package Contact You Cost
Site Cart Search Images
ABC Design Software $35.99
Website Design Star $140.00