Words, Pictures & Web Sites by J R Compton
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THIS PAGE: I.S.P.   Web Host   Domain & Registration   Web Promotion   Moving a Website

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Mom and her 10 ducklings

Mom and Her 10 Fuzzy Ducklings at White Rock Lake in Dallas, Texas, USA

To have a website on the internet, you'll need some things I can not provide (They usually require your credit card number.).


You probably already have an ISP (Internet Service Provider) whom you pay for E-mail and access to the internet.

Some ISPs provide free web space, although those URLs (Universal Resource Locator or web address) for those freebies may be long and difficult to remember. The easy-to-remember part of having your own web site is important.


web host

A host sells you hard disk space connected to the internet, where the pages for your website are stored and can be accessed by anyone on the web.

They also provide hosting-related services (See below). Those services can be complicated, but as your webbie I’d handle them for you, once you have acquired what we need.

You can buy web space online in just a few minutes, and many hosts will register one free domain for you, for as long as you stay with them.

The going rate for a web host big enough for even large sites is generally $4-40 a month. Some hosts cost much more. About $8 to $10 per month will net you a decent web host.

More expensive web hosts often give free telephone help that can be the difference between working out difficulties quickly and going crazy trying to figure out what they call what you need and how to make it work.


domain and registration

A domain is your URL, usually expressed as www.YourName.com, although domains can also end in .net, .org, .tv, .info, .us or others. (The full format for a domain is more like http://www.DallasArtsRevue.com, but most browsers and email programs understand if it begins with www. More recently, you can even do without the www — http://DallasArtsRevue.com works just fine.)

A domain name should be easy to remember. People and companies often use their names or a memorable phrase. Capitalization does not matter with websites, although some webpages won't work unless you use the correct capitalization.

Your webbie can help you with this, because we've done it before and know the ins and outs of the process.

Domain names can be up to 255 characters long, with restrictions. Domains cannot start with a digit (number) and should include only letters, digits, hyphens and underlines. The shorter they are, the easier they are to remember.

Using a hyphen anywhere in your doman (usually to make it different from another URL with the same words) is asking for trouble. Nobody remembers where the fool hyphens go.

Domains require registration, which guarantees no one else can use your URL for the term of registration. If you let your registration lapse, someone else may use it, and by then your site would no longer be online.

Domains can be registered with someone besides your web host and, although that can get complicated, it's sometimes a good idea if you are experimenting with new web hosts.

It's much easier to transfer from one host to another if someone besides the host has the registration.

Because I registered DallasArtsRevue.com for 9 years (maximum time available then) I don't have to hassle with ISPs every single year, and it was cheaper.


web promotion

Owners are responsible for promoting their own website.

The signature on every email you send out should include information like "Visit my website at www.JRCompton.com."

Every invitational postcard, Chistmas or other card you send out should include your web address in small (or large) letters, often centered at the bottom of white space.

Put it on your letterhead, your flyers, your business cards and everything else you send out. Tell everybody you know and everybody you meet.

The only advertising DallasArtsRevue ever did was me handing out business cards and telling people about it at art openings and meetings .

There is a saying in the ad business, "He who toots not his own horn, the same shall not be tooted." Meaning, it's up to you and you alone to make sure people go to your website.

Being shy about it does not help.

Promises to put your website at the top of search engine lists are scams. If your site has interesting information or images, people will find it. Almost all search engines provide a free way to list your site. Paying someone else to do it does not guarantee anything, except that you will spend more money.


Moving a website

Moving from one host to another is a complex dance that requires a lot of backing up and telling the two web hosts involved, simple and redundant information they should already know and have done something about — until they finally give up and do their jobs.

Most of these tasks are the site owners' job, because webhosts are picky about whom they'll talk with, and your credit card number is the bottom line.

    1. Establish a new account with the new webhost.
    2. Obtain full FTP (file transfer protocol) information from the new webhost,
      • so your webbie can load your files onto the new webhost before it is activated.
      • Webhost know what that is and will send it to you, and you'll forward their email to your webbie.
      • Do not change webbies in the middle of moving a website.
    3. Make sure the web host understands that I (your web guy) have full access to all your pages online. Sometimes it is difficult to get their attention about this, but it is important.
    4. If page Hit Counts are important to you, go through your site while it is still on your old host and list each page and the number of hits you've got so far, because the new host will use a whole different kind of page counter, and you will have to start each one from zero again.
    5. Load all pages and images onto the new webhost.  MY JOB!
    6. Close your account with the old webhost as soon as all your new information is loaded on the new webhost.
    7. Insist that the old webhost change the DNS to the new webhost.
    8. Notify the new webhost that you have changed hosting to them.
    9. Notify whoever has registered your site to change to your new host.
    10. Check to make sure the domain is up and running.
    11. Harass the old host until they finally give up and let go of it and harass the new host until they get it up and running.
    12. Check your bank account a couple of months after you think it's all over to see if the old account is still charging you. Then harass them more.

Your webbie would just love to do all this for you,
but he isn't the owner of your website. You are.

You need your own domain, because you want people to remember where your site is.

This site and the humongous DallasArtsRevue are both hosted on DreamHost. They used to be very difficult to deal with and didn't always deliver what they promised. Like all web hosts who continue and grow, however, they learned to communicate quickly and directly and do what they say they will.

I hosted DallasArtsRevue and JRCompton.com with them, because they were so much cheaper than my former web host.

I now have both JRCompton.com and DallasArtsRevue.com there, and I haven't had any problem with them in several years. Don't believe 100% online guarantees. All web hosts have trouble, and all sites sometimes go offline.

Another web host I've been wanting to try is Fat Cow. For $99 a year (less than $8.25 a month), they'll host up to a one-gigabyte site, although registering the URL is extra. I don't know much else about them. A gig site would be humongous. You'll probably never need that much spece. Even DallasArtsRevue's 400+ pages and all those pictures doesn't take anything near that much.

Hosting costs leveled off in 2006. But if it seems too cheap to believe, it probably is. More expensive hosts sometimes give more service.

Another hosting site I've dealt with and would strongly recommend against is Network Solutions, which is great for registering URLs, their core business, but they are either new to web hosting and/or just lousy at it, and I'm not the only one who has noticed this.

It doesn't matter which host you use to your readers/customers — until it goes off line, of course. But it matters big-time to you or to your webbie.

My website prices are detailed on my Prices page.

My latest email address is always on my Contact page.


Some common webhost services include:

Web statistics — See Analog's How The Web Works for too much info about web stats.

Guest books — according to DreamHost, “Guestbooks let visitors to your page leave comments and remarks. It adds more content to any site, and it's fun for you to read as well. You can see from where and when people are looking at your page, and also get valuable feedback. Its one of the simplest ways to add interactivity to your site.”

Sounds good, but actual implementation may vary. I've never used one.

Bad Link and other Error notices — help track down which pages are generating 404: Link Not Found Errors. Implementation varies sigificantly from web host to web hosts. New web hosts often promise these things but forget to tell webmasters how to implement them.

Password Protection — hide some directories on your site from unauthorized access.

E-mail referrals — virtual email addresses automatically forward emails to your personal email account, without anyone learning your personal E-mail address. Usually, hundreds of these e-aliases are available, so you can bounce specific topic emails to all the right personal accounts.

If you already have a workable and easy to access email address, ignore site-based email addresses — i.e., Freddie@mydomain.com. Dream Host's (which they rightfully name Squirrel Mail) is a nightmare to access, as are some other web hosts'. Your mileage may vary.


Stories I Did Not Write But Are Worth Reading on Other Websites:

The SiteWizard.com has some very informative articles about these things:

Accepting credit cards on your site.
How to choose a web host
Which web host to choose
Changing Web Hosts
Woes of a Big Site: And How to Prepare Your Site for Growth
Budget Web Hosting
How to Make Money from Your Website
Starting Your Own Site Newsletter

The Free Country has hundreds of links of value to webmasters.


My latest email address is always on my Contact page.