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How To Create A New Web Site

I'm often asked how to set up a website, either for personal use or for a new business. Fortunately, it's easy and very affordable to create a new web site, or to add a blog or forum to an existing web site. You don't even have to know HTML or web programming, thanks to several free and powerful website templates.

Here are three steps to creating a new web site from start to finish.

Check if your domain name is available.

A domain is the name of your website, such as rickysays.com or dad-eblog.com. Domains normally end with .com, .org, .net, .biz, and .info - the most popular being the .com ending.

Here's a link to check if your domain name is available: Check now (click "Domain Check" once you're there)

Checking if a domain is available is completely free, and there's no obligation to purchase the domain. However, if you think of a great idea for a website name, you're smart to reserve it as soon as possible - before someone else snatches it for themselves!

In fact, most web hosting providers give you a free domain name when you sign up with them - read on:

Sign up with a web hosting provider.

A web host is a company that stores your web pages and makes them viewable on the Internet. They also provide email accounts, blogs, forums, and even online store fronts.

You reserve a domain name with a web host, and usually pay an annual fee for them to host your web pages. Web hosting rates are extremely competitive - as low as $5.95 a month with a professional web host like HostMonster (which hosts this web site and all of my other sites as well).

Your web hosting account will come with several personalized email addresses, such as yourname@yoursite.com (e.g. rick@rickysays.com). It will also come with database support, spam control, web traffic monitoring/statistics, and several other tools to help you manage your new web site.

Here's a list of top-rated web hosts with very competitive hosting rates, and a comparison of their features.

Create your web pages.

Once you've reserved your domain name and signed up for a web hosting account, it's time to create your web pages. Your new web site should have a consistent look and feel to its web pages, and there are many free tools that will help you quickly build professional looking web pages.

NVu is a free HTML editor that will let you type up your web pages in a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, and will save them in HTML format automatically. You don't need to be savvy with HTML in order to create web pages using a tool like NVu, but you still need to put some time into creating graphics, choosing color themes, etc. And you'll need to know how to upload your html pages to your web hosting account using FTP.

Fortunately there are several free open source web site templates you can use that make it even easier. They give you a fully functional web site for blogging, writing articles, or creating forum discussion topics.

For example, this web site was built using Drupal, which is a popular open source content management system (CMS). Another very popular blogging framework is WordPress. These templates can be installed using the web control panel from your web hosting account, usually with just a couple clicks.

Here's how I set up a website using my HostMonster control panel:

  1. Log in to your web hosting account.
  2. For HostMonster, you can access your web hosting account by visiting http://www.hostmonster.com and entering your domain name and password. After logging in, you'll see a welcome screen with a link to your Control Panel (cP):

  3. Select the Fantastico script runner.
  4. Enter your control panel by clicking the cP icon on your welcome screen (shown above). You'll see a screen containing several icons for managing your domains, setting up email accounts, and installing databases. Scroll down until you see a smiley-faced icon named Fantastico. Click the Fantastico icon to view your available installation scripts. Here's a full list of available Fantastico scripts.

    Fantastico Scripts

  5. Install Drupal or WordPress
  6. You'll see several templates available for one-click installation. Click "Drupal" or "WordPress" and then "New Installation" to install for the first time. You'll be asked to enter the domain name, user account information, and admin email address.

    Rickysays.com was built using Drupal, which gives you everything you need for a full-fledged website including blogs, forums, polls, and dozens of pre-built themes that control the look and feel of your website.

    When you create a website using Fantasico, it also creates a MySQL database for you on your web hosting server that stores all of your website information.

  7. Start Blogging or Creating Web Pages
  8. Now that you have installed your website, you can view it using the domain name you chose (e.g. http://www.yourdomainname.com).

    Creating web pages or blog posts is as easy as clicking a "Create Content" link on your new site, and typing in your article or discussion topics in regular text format. You don't even need to know any HTML to use a site based on Drupal or Wordpress - it automatically converts the text you type into HTML so that others can view it in their web browsers.

Here's a list of other free open source web site templates for everything from a blog or a forum to a real estate listing or online store front. The top-rated web hosts listed here provide these web site templates free of charge.

Free Drupal website templates: http://themegarden.org/drupal6

Free Wordpress website templates: http://themes.wordpress.net/

Happy web site building!

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