How-to: Starting a Web Site

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What is needed for a small business Web site?

Domain name

First you need to choose a domain name. The domain name is the address where your site will be located. Users can enter this address in their web browser to view your web site. For example this site's domain name is gruffgoat.com.

You may register the domain yourself or ask your web host provider to register it for you. We recommend registering your on domain name using our favorite registrar, GoDaddy.com. If you prefer Gruff Goat will register your domain name for you when you purchase a web hosting agreement.

A Web Host

There are four main ways of hosting a web site: shared hosting, dedicated hosting, co-location, doing it yourself. Typically, the most logical and cheapest way for small businesses is shared hosting.

The web host will provide storage space for your files, bandwidth for delivery of your content to the public and the servers needed to deliver your content. Most hosts have multiple, always on Internet connections with on-demand generators for power-loss incidents. The host will also perform regular backups of all files on their servers.

Email

Email has become an essential in today's business world. Most web hosts provide email accounts as part of their service. The number of email accounts you need varies and web hosts usually offer more accounts in their higher level plans

Your email host should provide you with the methods needed to add, delete, and edit your email accounts and passwords. Some other information your email host provides includes the POP server the SMTP server.

Design

Many different software programs claim the ability to create edit and manage web pages and sites.HTML pages may be created and edited in any text editor, including Notepad, however; many designers prefer the WYSIWYG and advanced site management capabilities of dedicated software. Gruff Goat uses Macromedia Dreamweaver for our design and creation of sites. If you don't have any previous web design experience or if you are not interested in spending time learning how to use these programs, this option may not be best for you.

Another option is to use a professional web design firm. This option is more expensive but it may give your business maximum flexibility along with a professional look and feel. You specify exactly what you want and the resulting site is original and unique to your business. Before choosing a firm, make sure that you like their previous work and that you get all the rights to the completed site.

E-Commerce

There are three parts to running secure commerce on your web site. These are SSL, a shopping cart application, and credit card processing. SSL is the Secure Sockets Layer protocol which provides encryption of data, such as credit card numbers. A web host may offer SSL via a certificate in the hosts name or you may purchase your own certificate. The certificates are purchased from companies like Verisign or Thawte and they apply only to the specified domain name. Thus in order to use Gruff Goat's certificate the site must use the gruffgoat.com domain in the address.

The shopping cart application provides a way for visitors to select, accumulate, and modify purchase choices, calculate prices, review choices, and order them.

In order to perform online processing and verification of credit cards, you must have a Internet merchant account. This is not included in any of Gruff Goat's services. If you already process credit cards, you may use your current capabilities in conjunction with SSL, shopping carts and secure email. PayPal offers another alternative to standard Internet merchant accounts.

Upload Your Site

The main method of uploading files to your site's account is by using FTP. Upon signing up with a host, you receive an FTP account that lets you access files in your account, using the suppplied username and password. Then you use any FTP client software such as CuteFTP, WS_FTP LE, or Windows Commander, to transfer files from your hard drive to your account. Dedicated web design software such as Dreamweaver include FTP capabilities.