What is a Web host, and why do I need one?

A Web host provides you with the resources to make your site available over the Internet. Unless you have your own Web server in the back room (and hopefully a competent staff to manage it), you’ll need an account with an organization that provides this service.

To use a vastly oversimplified metaphor, think of the Internet as a giant network of file cabinets. When someone wants to view a Web site, they electronically request the folder that holds the Web pages that make up the site they want to view, and their browser displays it for them. A Web host, then, is sort of like a big electronic file cabinet that holds the folder that holds your Web pages, which make up your Web site.

There are various levels of Web hosting services. Some hosts, like Google Sites, WordPress, and Yahoo!, will host your site for free. However, the “cost” of this kind of hosting usually is that the hosting provider will display ads on your site. These ads provide the income that pays for your free hosting. You may or may not have any control over what ads are shown — you could end up displaying a direct competitor’s ad right next to your own content! Another drawback of “free” sites is that your URL or Web address will usually contain undesirable elements like the name of the host in some form, such as www.yoursite.big-host-sites.com. This is not acceptable for most business Web sites. You need a hosting account that will work with your own domain name, www.yoursite.com, and for this you will usually have to pay.

The next level is often called “shared hosting.” This means you purchase space from a Web host which physically stores your Web pages on a server that is shared with other sites. Sometimes there are concerns about security and resources with shared hosting, especially if you are handling sensitive data or have a large amount of traffic, but shared hosting can be a good solution for most small organizations.

Reseller hosting is a type of shared hosting. This means that someone has purchased an entire server from a larger Web hosting company and resells space on that server to defray the cost. For example, a web designer or IT consultant might want control of their own server to host their own site, write and test software applications, etc., but they might also sell some of that space to their clients who need hosting space.

You can purchase shared hosting through many national and local companies, some of whom provide extras like shopping carts, email addresses, advertising credits, or 24-hour phone support as part of their packages. See the links below for more information.

For larger organizations, it is possible to host your site on its own server, but this level of service is beyond the budget and needs of most small businesses and nonprofit organizations. However, you can read more about the different types of web hosting here.

A quick Internet search will help you find links to companies that provide hosting services. I don’t endorse any particular hosting company and will be happy to upload your pages to any host of your choosing.

What your designer wants to know

Below are some questions for you to consider when planning your Web site project. While not all questions apply to every project, knowing the answers to the questions that are relevant to you will help your project move along smoothly.

  • Who is your target audience?
  • Why will they be visiting your website and what will they expect to find?
  • Are they worried about internet security?
  • What special needs will your audience have? Think about:
    • Do they use their own device or are they at a public computer?
    • Will they use desktop computers, mobile devices, or both?
    • Will they have accessibility concerns (visual and mobility impairments)?
    • Should we consider language and literacy capabilities?
  • What is your website budget?
  • What percentage of your budget is for design and development? What percentage is for marketing? What percentage is for maintenance?
  • Do you have a web host?
  • Do you have a domain name?
  • Do you have the login information to access your hosting account?
Marketing and SEO
  • Have you done market research on your product/service to get a list of the most popular relevant keywords?
  • Do you have a budget for marketing your website, or will you be doing your own search engine submission, link exchanges, pay-per-click campaigns, email newsletters, etc.?
The Future of Your Site
  • How do you expect your site to grow and change in the future?
  • How will your content change?
  • If you plan to have frequent or extensive changes, will you make them yourself? If not, what is your budget for site maintenance and updates?
  • What colors do you like?
  • What colors do you hate?
  • What emotions would you like your site to evoke, and what colors do you think would create the effect you desire?
  • Do you have a logo, graphics, and/or photographs that you are authorized to use?
  • Do you have text content written, proofread, and spellchecked?
  • Have you tested your content on others to see if you are communicating your message effectively?
Site Function, Features & Complexity
  • How important is being able to edit your site yourself?
  • Do you need photo galleries? Animation? Audio? Video? Feeds?
  • Do you need custom forms and database applications? Ecommerce?
  • Make a list of the things you want visitors to be able to do on your site, and be aware that all of the features you list will most likely increase the cost of your project.
Sample Sites
  • Are there sites you particularly like?
  • What features have you seen on other websites that you particularly like or dislike?
  • Are there sites or features that you find particularly easy or difficult to understand?

Designing a WordPress site with Amy

I use WordPress all the time, for several important reasons:

  1. WordPress is a free, open-source content management system; it can be set up quickly and inexpensively, making it perfect for smaller-budget clients. My base rate for WordPress setup with a prebuilt theme and basic customization is $300.
  2. Because of its efficiency and cost, WordPress is used by many people; therefore, there is lots of online support available.
  3. Similarly, there are hundreds if not thousands of free designs (“themes”) for you to choose from: see the WordPress free themes directory.
  4. WordPress is a relatively easy system to learn, so people who aren’t Web designers can do some of their own site management.
  5. The fact that WordPress is open source means that many developers have built plug-ins that can add complex functions to your site quickly and easily — for example, shopping carts, membership systems to deliver premium content, event management systems, dynamic forms — all of which work efficiently using the core WordPress functions. These features can be added to an existing WordPress site for a fraction of the cost of paying a developer to design a Web application just for your site. Search the WordPress plugin directory to see if there is a plugin for the feature you want.

So what’s the downside? What you will trade, for all of the advantages listed above, is full control over the specific appearance of your site. It is perfectly possible to build custom themes for WordPress based on client design specifications; however, this will likely more than double the cost of your project. Customizing a prebuilt theme can be a good compromise. This site, in fact, is built using the Twenty Eleven theme with the customizations noted below.

Customization of prebuilt templates includes:

  • A custom header for your site using your photos, graphics, logo, and color choices (or I can design a header for you)
  • Customizing the overall theme color scheme (color of text, headings, borders and backgrounds)
  • Navigation placement (left sidebar, right sidebar, horizontal, vertical, or both)
  • Custom sidebar widgets (a calendar of blog posts, a site search box, your contact information, etc.)
  • Custom footer (contact and copyright information, navigation links, etc.)

Of course your content — the text, pictures, and graphics that are specific to each page of your site (as opposed to items that appear on every page) — is always personalized by you, and presented exactly the way you send it to us electronically.

Helpful WordPress links

Don’t forget to search Youtube; you can find some excellent WordPress tutorials there.

Joomla! basic training

Crucial Joomla! Links

Joomla! main page
Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Joomla!
Joomla! User Roles
Joomla! Support Forum

Search! Search!

Use the search engine of your choice; many answers can be found by searching “how to _______ Joomla!”

Joomla! Information Structure

Section (not visible)
    Category (not visible)
      Article (visible; this is the content of the site)

Logging in

Two places to log in:

Front end (website)    http://www.yoursitename.com/
Back end (admin area)    http://www.yoursitename.com/administrator/index.php

Why log in to front end?

  • View protected content
  • Edit articles

Why log in to back end?

  • Edit articles
  • Add new articles & menu items
  • Add media (photographs, pdfs, etc.)
  • Add/manage site special features (events calendar, directory listings, contacts, shopping cart, etc.)

Working With Content

Most web pages are Articles. You can edit them while logged into the front end, or you can add new or edit existing articles in the back end using Article Manager. Don’t forget to set access level when adding new protected items.

Some pages are Section or Category Blog pages. These do not contain any content themselves, but rather display the articles in the category specified. To add items to these pages, add a new article to the relevant section & category and it will automatically be displayed.

Articles that do not belong to a section or category that has a blog page will NOT display automatically. If you add a new article, you must create a menu item for it or a link to it from another page; otherwise, users will have no way to access it.

When adding or editing content, be sure to set the access level! It defaults to Public, so when adding a protected page, you MUST set the access level to Registered or above, in order to limit who can view it. This applies to Articles, Sections, Categories, Menu Items, Events — everything you work with in Joomla! has an access level. Always be aware of this when adding protected content.

Add photos, pdfs, or other documents or assets using Media Manager, under the Site menu. In Media Manager, scroll down to below list of files to find upload box; click “browse”, choose file to upload from your computer, then click “Start Upload.” Please note, file names CANNOT contain spaces, so rename your files before uploading if necessary. Place files in appropriate subfolders if applicable, to make them easier to find later. For example, photos go in the “stories” subfolder.

Creating Links in Joomla! using the JCE Editor Extension

Creating links to content (other articles) within articles:

  1. When you’re editing the article where you want to place a link, highlight the text you want to use for the link.
  2. In the toolbar at the top of the editor text window, choose the fifth icon from the right in the bottom row. It looks like a two-link chain with a plus sign on it. When you hover over it, the tooltip says “Insert/Edit Link.” Click this.
  3. In the window that pops up, click the plus sign next to “Content.”
  4. Click the plus sign next to the section containing the article you want to link to.
  5. Click the plus sign next to the category containing the article you want to link to.
  6. Click on the name of the article. Link shows up in URL text field above.
  7. At the bottom under Attributes, choose the appropriate setting: “Open in this window” if you are linking to another internal web page that will have your site’s navigation; if it is a pdf or a link to another website, choose “Open in new window” so that a window with your site in it stays on the user’s screen.
  8. Click “Insert.”

To change an existing link, just place your cursor anywhere on the link text and follow the same instructions to select a new article or file to link to.

Creating links in articles to .pdf files:

  1. Upload the pdf through the media manager as above.
  2. When you’re editing the article where you want to place a link, highlight the text you want to use for the link.
  3. In the toolbar at the top of the editor text window, choose the fifth icon from the right in the bottom row. It looks like a two-link chain with a plus sign on it. When you hover over it, the tooltip says “Insert/Edit Link.” Click this.
  4. In the window that pops up, click icon next to the URL field that looks like a little icon with a magnifying glass.
  5. Click on the pdfs folder in the list at the left-hand side of the window.
  6. Click the plus sign next to the category containing the article you want to link to.
  7. Click on the name of the file you want to link to. Link shows up in URL text field above.
  8. At the bottom under Attributes, choose “Open in new window” so that a window with your site & navigation in it stays on the user’s screen.
  9. Click “Insert.”

The path to the file will always be the same as long as you put the pdf in the correct folder (images/stories/pdfs/filename.pdf). If you name your files simply so they’re easier to remember, and use only lower case letters, then it’s easier to type the link in manually if you need to, in the URL text field in the “Edit/Insert Link” dialog box.

Discussion forum post on creating a link to a .pdf
Article on creating links, including screenshots

How to add a menu item

Search engine optimization and Joomla!

A general article about Joomla! and SEO

the basics of meta tags

using meta tags in Joomla!

How to use Google Analytics with Joomla!

Congratulations! That’s the end of basic training — but it’s only the beginning of your adventures with Joomla! Make use of the links in this document, the Joomla! website, and discussion forums to continue your exploration.

Search engine optimization

As a matter of good web design and accessibility, all our sites include meta tags, image alt tags, and other basic search engine optimization (SEO) features. However, SEO is a huge, complex field, and we are not qualified to advise you on marketing issues. If your main purpose in building or updating your Web site is to increase search engine ranking, traffic and/or sales, aeweb recommends contacting Jan Zimmerman at Watermelon Mountain Web Marketing, (505) 344-4230. Jan is a nationally recognized web marketing expert, and has written several books on the subject, so you can’t find more knowledgeable help.

If you don’t have a budget for professional SEO assistance, the following resources can help you organize your own campaign:

Web Marketing For Dummies by Jan Zimmerman

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): An Hour a Day by Jennifer Grappone & Gradiva Couzin

Both of these books provide excellent insight into building your site’s traffic and page ranking over time. Also, check out the Beginner’s Guide to SEO, a good basic online resource.

Once you have your SEO campaign in place, aeweb can help by making the technical changes and additions to your Web site that you’ve determined you want.