Most people I come in contact with (still) don’t have a grasp of how much goes into having a website. This isn’t their fault, and I definitely don’t blame them for it. Hell there’s a lot of details about things that I don’t know nor do I plan to find out.
To give you a back story, I had been planning on writing up “the n00b’s guide to a website” for a while now, and even wrote up a rough draft to a friend that was in need of a website for her business. Now that I’m finally putting the time into it, it should be a bit more comprehensive.
To start, having a website consists of 3 major parts: domain name, web hosting and the website itself. The domain name is most likely to be the first thing you acquire in the process and prices vary greatly based on who you are registering (directNIC – $15 [and has been for years], GoDaddy – $1.99 – ??? [based on which up sells youare scammed intopick] and NetworkSolutions – $9 [but used to be significantly higher years ago]) and what type of domain you want to purchase (.com, .org, .me, et cetera). This cost is a recurring cost and many companies allow you to purchase a domain for multiple years, sometimes at a discount. I would recommend purchasing a .com and avoid the others as people still have a tendency to type .com even though you tell them .net or more obscure .mobi. Granted, none of this really means much in a world driven by Google searches.
After you have your domain name, you probably will either attempt to build a site yourself or pursue a developer (or younger relative) to help out. This is an important step but shouldn’t be done until you decide on where you want to host. Hosting comes in many shapes and sizes, you can lease space on a server with other people (very cheap, sometimes even <$10 for a year with a coupon code but around $20 [MediaTemple] is not unlikely), host on a dedicated server or server (pricey, upwards of $100 or more), or just host it from your local computer (ill advised as most ISPs do not allow this without an additional charge for some mythological “business class” service). My suggestion starting out with be to find a cheap shared hosting company (or know someone like my that has a dedicated server to lease space from), the speed of loading the website may leave a bit to be desired but it won’t break the bank either. This will be recurring like the domain registration, and some domain registrars also function as hosting companies as well with discounts for signing up for both at the same time. Oh, and your hosting will more than likely
Lastly is getting a website to host. I mentioned before that you may just end up doing it yourself or finding someone to do it. Costs will vary, mostly based on what you’re looking for in a web site. E-commerce / sales driven websites will cost more, but there are a lot of pre-built software packages out there and a lot of hack developers that will charge you to set it up. Also based on what you need in a site, your hosting has to be able to support it. You will need to know what programming language(s) (PHP, ASP.NET, et cetera) you can run, and whether or not you have a database. But this is assuming you need any of that, most web presences for small businesses that are just getting on the web won’t need much more than a contact form (requires a programming language to send the email) and maybe a store locator (would require a programming language and potentially, a database to store your location’s data). I don’t think there’s a single host out there that doesn’t offer a suitable development environment to host a dynamic web site off of. Unlike domain registration and hosting building your site should not be a recurring expense unless you are constantly making changes to the site. Most textual changes you can probably do yourself by editing the HTML (I realize that’s probably beyond most folks). To help keep recurring costs down you can request a content management system (too many to actually list here) which may cost a bit more to set up initially, but will give you the ability to make all of your changes yourself instead of paying someone for it.
That sums it up! There are a few (but not many) moving parts when it comes to a website. There will be both upfront and recurring costs, but the recurring costs should be minimal in comparison. So yeah, I hope this helps people that are new to the game and want a website.