Building web sites

Want to build your own web site but don’t know how? Here’s my collection of useful bookmarks for running the (half dozen or so) web sites I maintain myself. I hope you find it useful; please feel free to suggest improvements/additions to my set of recommendations.

  • Two basic steps are necessary: registering a domain name and choosing a web hosting package.
  • Domain registration is another name for staking out your place in cyberspace. Usually people pay a Domain Registrar to register a domain (e.g. I pay NameCheap to register kiwinerd.org).
  • Web hosting is another name for paying someone else to serve up your web pages to visitors when they want to see them. This is most reliably, efficiently and cheaply achieved via paid commercial web hosting, located on servers elsewhere than your office or living room. (DIYers are at the mercy of their internet connection and are responsible for the consequences of hardware failures when running sites themselves on their own machine.)

Domain registration

  • Don’t do business with GoDaddy. They look cheap, but the customer service is even cheaper. Their advertising is cheaper yet: it is revoltingly misogynistic bottom-of-the-barrel dreck. Take your hard-earned money elsewhere!
  • Choose your domain name very carefully. Make sure to consult the list of ICANN accredited domain registrars before paying to register a domain.
  • For domain registrations, the shortest billing cycle is normally yearly
  • For plain ordinary .ca, org, .net, .com, .info domains, I like NameCheap.
  • For .nz (New Zealand) domains and others, I like IWantMyName.
  • For .to (Tonga) domains, the sole registrar is TONIC.
  • For .io (British Indian Ocean Territory) domains, the registrar is NIC.IO.

Note: Prices were valid at time of writing with providers listed but may have changed.

Web hosting

  • For entry-level (shared) commercial web hosting packages, expect bills under $10/month.
  • Service levels (99.x% uptime?) and tech support (response in n business days? continuity of personnel?) matter greatly. In addition, quality of service is time-dependent: it can change if the circumstances of the company change. So, if you take just one piece of advice from me then let it be this: avert your eyes from discounts that lock you in for long time periods and buy web hosting services on a monthly basis. That way, if the web host fails to measure up when you need them to, you can change providers relatively painlessly. Also: beware of proprietary control panels because they makes exporting a pain in the arse.
  • Companies offering affordable web hosting abound. In the past I had good experiences with ASmallOrange.comGrokThis.net, Site5.comANhosting.com, and MediaTemple.net. Currently I use whc.ca because their servers are based in Canada and their staff are too.

Authoring web pages

  • Never use Microsoft products to make web pages. Learn HTML and CSS. If HTML and CSS are completely new to you, start with an editor like NVu, which lets you work on the HTML and also switch easily to a WYSIWYG view. (Remember: people who use only WYSIWYG editors rarely learn to code!)
  • Humanity benefits from inclusion of persons who happen to have disabilities, as well as able-bodied folks. So study the W3C accessibility specifications. Note: if you are under-confident in writing W3C-compliant web pages (hint: newbies and typical Microsoft users, this is you!), then please do the decent thing: use the free online W3C HTML validator tool and CSS validator tool on every page you author. Every time.
  • For a blog or small site, use the lean mini-CMS WordPress.

Last updated: 2018-07-20