Not having website is as good as not having an identity in today’s world. This is especially true for Indie authors. You most probably do not have a huge budget for advertising your books. At the same time your success depends on your ability to publicize and distribute your book. This is where having a website of your own comes in. A website allows for a 24/7 presence and a platform to connect with your readers.
In our first post in this three part series we are going to introduce you to some important terms. You don’t need to know everything technical about creating websites. But a basic understanding of these terms will help you make sure that you get a website that serves your purpose well.
A domain name is the name of a website. For example www.google.com or www.instascribe.com. It is unique to every website. It has to be. How else would you reach the right place on Internet? You, obviously, need a domain name. So, the next question is how do you reserve a unique name for your website? That’s where domain name registration and domain name registrar come into picture.
Domain Name Registrar
If you think about it, you will realize that there should be a central body that governs the ownership of domain names and ensures that one domain name has only one owner. There is indeed one such central body called ICANN. The registrations are managed through various companies, which are called domain name registrars. If you decided on www.BennyBookWriter.com and the domain is not already owned by somebody, then these guys will help you to register this name on the internet.
A server is essentially a computer on which the content of your website is present. Unlike a typical personal computer, however, these computers are visible on Internet. That’s why files on your personal computer are not visible to anyone on Internet, but your website will be. Because you will put the website on a hosting server.
Hosting Service Provider
But you do not need to worry about how to put a computer on Internet. There are many companies that offer this service. They own the servers we just talked about. They will allow you to rent a certain amount of space and hence allow you to publish your website on the internet.
You are looking at a web page right now. A web page is a kind of computer file written in such a way that a Web browser like Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome can display it. It is usually written in a language called HTML, or HyperText Markup Language.
The web page that you are looking at right now is part of a website. If you think of a web page, then a website is like a book conisting of all those pages. It is a collection of related web pages found on one domain.
HTML and CSS
You don’t need to get into details here. It will suffice to know that HTML and CSS are what the browser understand and they are used to make your content look a certain way. For example, when you write in HTML the following
I must go
Then the text “I must go” appears as italics on your web page. If the CSS declares
Then the text over which this declaration applies appears red.
But don’t worry. You will not have to learn how to do all this. Because there are tools to help you with it.
Website creation Tools
Like the name suggests, these are the tools or software that help you build a website. That is, they help you create webpages and help them link to each other to create a full website. If you are really determined, and learn HTML and CSS, you can create your whole website in a program like Notepad. But unless you are already familiar with it, as an author, it will be a waste of time. Instead, you can use tools that give you a MS Word like interface and create HTML and CSS in the background. In these you can just click a button or apply a keyboard shortcut (say Ctrl+B for bold), and format the content the way you like.
Putting them all together
In some cases, domain registrar, hosting service provider, provider of website creation tools (or any combination of them) might all be provided by the same company, but it is important not to confuse them. For example, godaddy.com is a big domain name registrar. They also provide hosting servers. They may even sell them as a bundle, with some website creation tools thrown in, but if there is a better hosting server provider, you do not need to hosting your website on godaddy, and instead only use it for registering your domain name. You could be hosting it with another provider like bluehost or with Media Temple. If you start a blog on wordpress.com, they are by default giving you hosting server and tools to create your website (the post and page editors, menu creators etc.). The blog URL you get by default (something like yourname.wordpress.com) is not your own domain. But you can register your own domain through them, or elsewhere, and use that for your blog using one of their paid services.
Why bother understanding all this?
These technicalities are important to understand even if someone else creates your website. Understanding these terms will ensure that you get what you pay for. Because we have seen cases where unscrupulous website developers have held the website owner at virtual ransom. They would register their domain, or put their website in a server, but not give them the access details.
If you are hiring a service provider for doing your website, it is important that you understand the following points.
- Who are the service providers? And what exactly are you paying them for?
- How do you access the administration side of your website? (The relevant username/passwords for accessing domain registration details as well as hosting server.)
- What is the renewal frequency and deadline for each service? (Typically domain name and hosting server have to be renewed each year, or at another frequency depending on for how long you paid initially.)
- Will the service provider help with renewal or did they provide a one-time service?
Yes, we know it is a mouthful, but do not be discouraged. You do not have to know all these things in depth. You do not have to become a website design ninja and a website manager hero! After all, you are already a ninja author!
But understanding these basics will help you in dealing with a service provider, or even in doing things yourself. In the next two articles of the series, we will discuss what are essential design and content considerations while creating your author website. We will then look at some tools that help you create your website on your own.
If there are things you did not understand and want more information about, please feel free to leave a comment.