Building web sites

I am not a coder, developer, or website building expert. I only know a few things, but I am happy to share what I have learned here, in the hope that the information might help others.

  • Two basic steps are necessary to start a website: 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.

Domain registration

  • Don’t do business with GoDaddy. They look cheap, but the customer service is even cheaper. Their advertising is cheaper yet (eww, gross).
  • Choose your domain name very carefully. Make sure to consult the list of ICANN accredited domain registrars before paying someone 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 a wide variety of 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.

Web hosting

  • 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 one or two years, and instead 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: they make exporting your data a pain in the arse when you move providers.
  • Companies offering affordable web hosting abound. In the past decade-plus I have had good experiences with ASmallOrange.comSite5.com, and MediaTemple.net (for websites with heavier traffic), but I do not know whether those providers are still a good choice today. Currently I use whc.ca because their servers are based in Canada and their helpful staff are too.

Authoring web pages

  • For actually writing web pages, I recommend learning some very basic HTML and CSS. If HTML and CSS are completely new to you, start with an editor like NVu, which lets you switch easily between editing the naked HTML code and editing in a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) view.
  • Humanity benefits from inclusion of persons who happen to have disabilities, as well as able-bodied folks. So please 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: 2019-04-05