I hear people asking about how easy is it to start and host your own website, and in some cases I hear of organisations paying a lot of money for hosting. There are instances where this is justified but there are many cases where the complexity and cost of a commercial website is not necessary. So I will deal here with how to get a basic WordPress site up and running and what factors you need to consider when creating it.
Some things to consider first are:
- Do you want a blog or static pages layout? Wordpress is better known for the blog layout (chronological entries on a single expanding page like entries in a journal) but it also handles static pages very well (like this website with a hierarchical design and a navigation menu).
- Will you choose your own hosting location or make use of WordPress.com? Sometimes you may want to use your own Internet Service Provider, or you may want to shop around for a cheaper provider, or you may want to avoid the whole hassle of choice and go for WordPress.com (last option may also be because you want to test WordPress out first). The distinction between WordPress.com and WordPress.org is explained here. In summary WordPress.com hosts the site for you and WordPress.org you must find your own hosting.
- Domain names (the address you type into the browser to find the website) - you may opt to pay nothing and choose a name at WordPress.com and it will appear as http://name.wordpress.com or you can register your own domain name (absolutely anything ending with .com, .org, .co.za, or any other) and pay a small fee per year. The advantage of your own domain name is that it uniquely identifies you or your business, and it can remain the same even if you move your hosting elsewhere. You can usually apply for a custom domain name through WordPress.com themselves, through any other hosting service, or even directly from the domain registrar (ie. the owner of the domain ending with .com, .co.za, or whatever). It is a good idea though to ensure that you are listed as the owner of that domain name and not your hosting company, as they could hold you to ransom if you later want to move your hosting elsewhere.
- So why WordPress when there is also free Joomla and Drupal etc for websites? Well WordPress is a lot quicker and easier to get setup and running. It is largely like editing MS Word or LibreOffice documents with bold, underline, centering of text, etc. In addition to this there are simple plugins that can be one-click installed to provide additional features such as Twitter feeds, Flickr photo galleries, Share to Social Sites, Facebook Like buttons, Google Analytics, and thousands more. Also there are thousands of themes (the look, layout, colours) to choose from and you can switch between between themes quite easily without making any changes to your pages. Because WordPress is easily hosted, it can also be backed up and restored to another hosting location. There is no software or licenses to be bought. Only costs to be incurred could be for some premium feature WordPress plugins or themes if you choose to use them, private hosting costs if you choose to host privately, a domain name if you want to choose your own name, and also theme design if you choose to have your own theme designed (well if you are as non-artistic as I am...).
- So how much would private hosting cost and what should look out for? Remember that WordPress need only be hosted on a Linux server so there is no need to pay for Microsoft or other licensing costs on the server hosting side. You will be using a standard Internet browser (like Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer) to access and edit your pages - everything is menu driven so you never see any text command lines or have to compile any source or HTML code. Many cheaper hosting services will only allow a certain amount of traffic to and from your site per month, and will usually also limit the size and number of databases you may host. So you would be looking for a hosting service that offers Linux based servers, with cPanel, and keep an eye on how much traffic etc is allowed as this could limit your site if it gets a bit busier. cPanel is covered below in how to get up and running. In my own case I looked for a hosting service in South Africa and I went with CrazyHostingSA where I got the hosting service at about R29pm inclusive of my own .co.za domain name (with 1,5GB database space and 10GB of monthly traffic). CrazyHostingSA registered the domain name with me as the owner, but they set it up and configured the domain name for me.