Help me make my website easy
June 1, 2007 5:04 PM   Subscribe

What do you recommend for easy to use, do it yourself, no html, professional looking websites for my small business and community site? I've looked at threads and searched on google, and haven't found the answer yet.

Currently, I have two sites. One is for my small business that is hosted on Website Source, which is in html made by a designer. I want to switch it (basically for looks, so I can change content whenever, and have a blog with it). I'd prefer to find an all in one deal that hosts, blog is attached, has email accounts (myname@mybusinessname.com), and can create my own website or use a nice template. I've had a horrible experience with Powweb, not so great with 1and1. I've looked at Squarespace as a possibility, but would like to know if anyone has any personal experience with it, and/or any other recommendations.

The other website is a GoDaddy template that is connected to my GoDaddy account which I do not want other people to have access to. Yet, I want to turn the site itself into something that can have multiple authors, similar to a blog, yet with a website feel that has a calendar of events, bios of members, featured member, etc. This site if for students and alumni of a particular graduate program as a way to network with each other, and also share info about our peers from this program (as in, to a friend or potential client, etc. "I don't have the answer to that, but check out this site where one of my colleagues might have some resources for you.")

Pardon these next novice questions-
You buy a domain name, the site/blog associated with that domain name has to be created (by me, a template, or a designer), then hosted somewhere. Is that correct? What about the emails? Once I find a host, how do I direct my domain name to my new location that has the new look? Both of these sites are in health related fields, are there any specific companies that cater to this? Are there any "green" or sustainable companies that offer packages like this?

Thank you!
posted by healthyliving to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
You could contract with a designer for a one-time fee to build you a template for blogging software like WordPress, Drupal, or Moveable Type. These are blogging tools that can be made to look less like blogs with the right design (Drupal is actually a content management system with a blogging module that can be enabled). This solution could work for either of the sites you mention, but you would need to organise hosting separately. A good designer/developer would take care of specific features like a calendar, bios page, etc. I've used WordPress successfully for academic web sites that aren't actually blogs. Domain names you should administer yourself anyway. I wouldn't leave it in the hands of an all-in-one provider.

E-mail service is provided by your web host. It is based on the domain name you register (whether you register it with your web host or a different company). You set that up using the web hosting company's administration software. To have your domain name registered with company X resolve to a server hosted by company Y you tell your domain registrar what your web hosts name servers are. The web host provides you with this info when you sign up.

I recently set up a blog for my sister using EasyDNS to register her domain name (happy with them so far, they provide a lot of info to educate the customer). My webhosting is with TextDrive. I'm very happy with them. Ease of use is so-so, but the wealth of information on their site, active user forums and quick response times for resolving support issues make for a good experience all round. Pay by the month, leave any time.
posted by ads at 7:00 PM on June 1, 2007


It's important to weigh up the cost of you learning to do this yourself against working with a designer to help you. Even beyond just the look - but with the structure of the site and technical side such as hosting and setting up emails. You are beginning from a very starter position!

Also I actually prefer to keep my domain registrar, hosting service and content management software separate. It makes things a lot easier to manage if you become unsatisfied with your host.
posted by gomichild at 7:44 PM on June 1, 2007


The basic idea is you register your website with a Registrar (like godaddy).

You modify a certain record to point to wherever you host your website.
You modify another to reflect email requests to an email host.

These can be the registrar, or other places.

Here's something I did:

I have several websites registered via Godaddy.

I then paid for an unlimited hosting (about 10gig/month) with TypePad - it's the people who created movabletype (and online blogging backend application). There are people who can customize the design, but you can control all the access you like, AND even find applications on the desktop that permit you to be be a bit more sophisticated without knowing a lick of HTML. I'm not sure if you can password protect the access to this.

You can even hire people to customize the templates (or create you own) on several freelance sites.

Last, you can use Google Apps to host your email. Takes a little bit of work/figuring out, but not much.
posted by filmgeek at 7:46 PM on June 1, 2007


I think the easiest thing for you to do would be to setup a Dreamhost account. Then install wordpress. It's a one-click install, so you won't have to do anything technical.

Once you have Wordpress installed, you have thousands of templates available for you to download and use. If you don't like any of them, then you can mess around with the html or get someone outside to do it for you, but as far as day-to-day, you won't have to touch the HTML at all.

Dreamhost also handles all the email and stuff for you. They have web-based email (webmail.doman.com) and the facilities for you to hook it into outlook.

All of this is pretty cheap (7.95 a month).

I know a lot of people have complaint about Dreamhost, but for a small business site, where you get maybe a couple hundred hits a day, this should fit your needs perfectly.
posted by unexpected at 7:49 PM on June 1, 2007


You buy a domain name, the site/blog associated with that domain name has to be created (by me, a template, or a designer), then hosted somewhere. Is that correct?
Yes, that is correct.

Once I find a host, how do I direct my domain name to my new location that has the new look?
The Domain Name System keeps track of the information that associates domain names (www.example.com) with a numeric IP address (200.000.36.88) that points to a specific server somewhere on the internet.
The registrar for your domain keeps a record that specifies which Name Servers are authoritative for your domain name. If you switch hosting providers, all you have to do is ask your registrar to change the name servers to reflect your new location. When you sign up for a hosting plan, they will tell you the names of those new servers, and will normally help you get the transfer completed.

What about the emails?
The DNS also tracks which Mail Exchange Servers are supposed to receive email sent to your domain. When you switch your Name Servers to your new hosting provider, that should also trigger the Mail Exchange Server switch. Again, you should get help with this when you sign up with a new web host.

Generally, your web hosting provider will include a certain number of email addresses as part of your hosting plan. If not, they should at least let you set up email sent to the domain to forward to any email address you choose.


Personally, I use webhero.com for both my personal site (Wordpress), a WoW guild site that I run (Joomla), and for all three sites I maintain at work (outdated flat file html, blah). I have had great success with them, they are very responsive to customer requests and have both fairly good up-time and decent documentation available.

They will also install the following content management systems for you if you ask (it's free for "hosting club"* members, and 14.95/install if you are not):

Content management systems (CMS): Drupal, Joomla, Mambo, XOOPS
Blogging: WordPress, sBlog
Forums: phpBB
Image Galleries: Coppermine, Zenphoto
Miscellaneous: WebCalendar, Vcalendar

*The "hosting club" is for people with lots of different products (a bunch of sites and domains, all administered by the same person), as you get discounts for additional products and additional levels of support.

They are not the cheapest webhost out there, that's for sure, but like I said I have been happy with the service there.

For what it's worth, I would also recommend Wordpress for a fairly simple site run by someone with no real html/coding background. Joomla and Drupal are both extremely complicated in comparison, although they are certainly more flexible. There are lots and lots of good Wordpress templates, and you can even have one designed specifically for your site for minimal cost.
posted by gemmy at 9:18 PM on June 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: That was all very helpful everyone. Thank you. This is more of a future question, but what if I want to have a store? Both to sell products I create as well as ones that I endorse. Thoughts?
posted by healthyliving at 9:25 PM on June 1, 2007


Response by poster: Just checked, webhero has this feature.
posted by healthyliving at 9:28 PM on June 1, 2007


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