So you want to set up a new website or blog, and you're not sure of the steps you need to take to accomplish this task. I totally understand!
The setup process can be a little overwhelming if you've never done it before. Which host do you choose? How do you connect your domain name to your new web host? How do you install your site? Set up email? Do you need an FTP account?
Fortunately, it's not too complicated, and I'd like to walk you through the process I use to get a new website set up.
I've been a web developer for over 16 years, and I've built many sites which have allowed me to work with quite a few web hosts. There are some great hosts out there and some just plain awful ones. After years of working with many different hosting companies, I've come to love and recommend SiteGround to my customers.
This company seems to focus on offering excellent support, and I love that their plans are so affordable.
Selecting a great host is important because it can affect the performance of your website. Cheaper hosts tend to pack more sites on a single server, causing your site to have to fight for precious resources. As you grow and gain more traffic, you want to make sure your site is performing at top speed to keep your visitors happy and coming back.
Trust me, cheaper is not always better. As a matter of fact, in most cases, it's not at all. So make sure when you select a host, you choose one with an excellent reputation for support and performance.
I'm going to walk you through setting up a website using SiteGround, but the tips in this tutorial will apply to most any other host if you choose a different one.
Pick your plan
SiteGround offers three great plans to choose from - StartUp, GrowBig, and GoGeek. They make it easy to start with one plan and upgrade later if you feel you need a little more space.
I like to also think about my support requirements when selecting a plan. Often the higher the plan, the better support your receive.
This is the perfect plan to get you started, and might I add, very budget friendly. It provides you with one website, 10GB of storage space, and can handle around 10,000 monthly visits.
Why you will love this plan
Low cost, essential hosting features if your budget is tight. All plans are pre-paid up front, so I would suggest purchasing as many years in advance as you can afford, to keep the price low. You can always upgrade and pay the difference later if you need a bigger plan.
This plan offers 24/7 tech support, unlimited email, free daily backups and comes with a 30-day money back guarantee.
The GrowBig plan is only $2 more than the StartUp plan, but offers quite a few important features. This is the plan I started with because it was important to have the ability to add additional sites to my account. I like to have a test site that I can play around with and learn from, and this plan offers that ability, along with other features that are important to me.
Why you will love this plan
This plan comes with premium features such as the ability to set up multiple websites under one account. Priority support if you have a question or if something goes wrong, bonus! You have a ton of space - 20GB and this plan can handle around 25,000 monthly visits.
A whole month's worth of site backups included! This is a big one. Let's say you install a new plugin on your site and it breaks. Do you have a backup copy of your site you can revert to? Or what if your site gets hacked, but you don't catch it for a few days? The ability to go back to when you know the site was working properly and reload a good copy is invaluable.
Believe me, I've run into this issue more times than I'd like to admit. Backups are a must!
I recently upgraded from the GrowBig plan to the GoGeek plan. The main reason for the upgrade was to have a staging site. Think of a staging site as a copy of your main website. You make all the changes and updates to the staging copy and then when you are happy with the changes, you can push the changes out to your live site.
It prevents your viewers from seeing any crazy changes you might be making to your site. It also helps in preventing anything going wrong with your live site if you install a new update or plugin.
Why you will love this plan
Fewer sites per server, so there is less competition for valuable server resources. This is so important as your site grows and gains more traffic. It can make all the difference in the performance of your site. This plan comes with a massive 30GB of space and supports around 100,000 visits to your site per month.
Don't forget about staging! Make changes to a copy of your site to test, then quickly push it out to your live site. How awesome is that?
Connect your domain name to your host
Now that you have selected your plan you need to connect your domain name.
If you are setting up hosting for the first time and have not purchased a domain name, you will have the option to search and select a domain name during the setup of your hosting plan.
If you have a domain name registered somewhere else, that's no problem. Once you set up your hosting plan, log into the hosting control panel and look for the Nameservers. There will be two addresses, and you will need both of them.
Head over to the site you originally registered your domain name and navigate to the DNS management area. Look for the Nameservers and change them to the addresses from your hosting control panel.
My domain name is registered with GoDaddy but my hosting plan is with SiteGround. I've added the SiteGround nameservers to my domain name and Voilà, my site and domain name are now connected!
Keep in mind that once you make the nameserver changes to your domain name, it can take some time for the change to propagate across the web.
So don't panic if make the changes to your domain name but it's not immediately connecting to your site. It could take up to 24 to 48 hours.
Install your Content Management System (CMS)
SiteGround makes it super easy to install WordPress or Joomla! with just one click. Select the Wordpress or Joomla! Installer and click the install button to get started.
Under the Choose Protocol drop-down, select http://www for your protocol. If you plan to collect secure information on your site such as credit cards, and you have installed a secure certificate for encryption, then you will need to select https://www. This provides your visitors with a secure connection and any information transmitted from their computer to the server is encrypted.
In the Directory box, leave this blank unless you want to install your site into its own directory. I would suggest installing your main site in the root of your server (so leave this option blank) and install any additional sites for development or testing purposes into a directory to keep separate.
The rest of the information is fairly self-explanatory. Make sure to select a strong admin password and write it down.
I use Dashlane which is a password manager to help me keep track of important usernames and passwords. It also allows me to keep track of secure notes, so anytime I set up a new website, I record all of the setup information, usernames and passwords into a secure note, so I don't lose anything important.
Click install to begin installation of your new site and there you have it, you are ready to go!
Set up email accounts using your domain name
Now that you have a hosting package and a domain name, you can begin to set up email addresses using your domain name.
Click on Email Accounts to get started. Fill in the email and password information and click Create Account. Don't forget to write this information down so you won't forget it, or use a password manager to record your new email accounts and passwords.
After you set up an email address, you can click on Webmail to log into each mailbox to view email online. There is also information listed on how to configure your new emails to download to your favorite desktop email client for easy access.
Almost anything you need to do on your website or blog can be done through the site's backend administrative access, but what if you need to access the files directly? You can use the File Manager in your hosting control panel, or you can set up an FTP account and client.
To set up an account, click on FTP Accounts under the Files section. Select a username and strong password and create your account. Put this information in a secure location so you don't forget it.
Download an FTP client. I use Core FTP as my FTP client and have used it for years. It's a simple client which allows me to make a direct connection to my site and move files back and forth as needed. You could also try Filezilla which is another a popular FTP client.
SiteGround supports both clients, and after you set up your FTP account information, there is a link named Configure FTP Client which gives you a configuration file to install with all the information from your new account.
It's important to have FTP access to your site so you can do things like adding an XML sitemap which is important for SEO, update your .htaccess file to improve website speed and performance by adding caching information, or just to be able to upload large files or manually install components or plugins if needed.
A few easy steps to get you going
Getting your site up and running can be as easy as selecting a plan, connecting your domain name, installing your CMS, setting up email and an FTP account. After many years of website development, these are some of the most important steps to get your site up and running.
Don't worry, you've got this!