The Planning Stage

There are three steps that need to be completed when beginning a website development project. Choosing and registering a domain name, selecting a hosting service and building the website.

Choosing a domain name

It can be difficult to find the perfect domain name. To find out if the domain name that you want is available use a WHOIS service. Type the domain name into the WHOIS form on a website that provides this service. If the domain is already registered information about the registrant will display on the page. If the domain is not registered you can contact a Registrar to have them register the domain for you.

A domain can be registered for one or more years at a time. Domain registration fees range from one company to another and the type of domain name you have chosen. When a domain is registered it becomes the property of the person who registers it for as long as they keep the registration up to date.

Domain registration companies will register your domain with your contact information including your name, company name, mailing address, phone, optional fax, and email address. It is extremely important that your email address is current. If your email address is going to change be sure to change your contact email address or contact your registrar to have them change it for you.

As well as a domain name you must also choose a Top Level Domain (TLD) extension. The three original extensions are .com, .net, and .org. Since then there have been regular additions to the pool of TLDs. Some of the earliest additions where .biz, .info, .name but since then there have been dozens of others such as .bike, .clothing, .guru, .holdings, .ventures, .plumbing, .singles, .camera, .lighting, .equipment, .estate, graphics, .gallery, .photography and many more. Each country also has a country specific TLD. Canada uses .ca, United States uses .us, Japan uses .jp, Tuvalu uses .tv, etc. Each country has regulations around how their TLD can be used. Check with your registrar to find out what the regulations and cost is for registering a country specific TLD.

Your registrar will also setup your Dynamic Name Server (DNS) to point to the website hosting server that you hire to host your website. This name server is used by the visitors' browser to locate your website from the millions of others on the Internet.

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Selecting a Hosting Service

Your website must be available 24 hours a day year round. Though it is possible to host your own website it requires an expert knowledge of server and email technology and internet security. You will also need to have a dedicated IP address to setup a correctly configured domain.

Most people, companies and organizations choose to hire a web hosting service. Prices for hosting range quite a bit from company to company.

What you are purchasing is space on an internet server to store you website, email and other documents. Most hosting services also provide access to internet programs or Common Gateway Interface (CGI) to run programs and interact with a database. A modern hosting service will also provide a control panel to allow the domain owner the ability to manage their domain.

The hosting service also provides a set amount of bandwidth. The bandwidth increases each time a visitor views a web page, downloads a file or listens to music on your site. An average website will never come close to using their allocated bandwidth but if the site provides large files, like audio, or runs a chat system you could find that the site approaches the bandwidth limit. Most service providers will provide more comprehensive packages that will increase the bandwidth limit.

When choosing a hosting service compare the services provided. One test is CGI. If CGI is not available it usually means that the company doesn't have technical staff to setup and maintain their server. Unlike a domain registration a hosting service can be changed at any time. Simply setup a hosting service with a new hosting company, transfer your website files to the new server and change your DNS settings (or contact your registrar to change them for you). A server DNS change will take up to 72 hours to complete but usually happens within a few hours.

When changing servers be sure to forward your email on the old server before changing your DNS settings to redirect your mail to another address while the transfer is underway.

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Building the Website

A certain amount of discussion and planning needs to happen before implementing a website project. Creating a rough draft, whether on paper or a rough website, is a good first step. Having the proper tools is also important. Most organizations already have material that can be used to create a draft site. Though each organization and business is unique the following are a selection of the many questions that need to be addressed when planning or updating a website.

Design Tools

There are thousands of reference materials and user's guides available for web designers. There are also thousands of different pieces of software available to assist a developer in designing websites. A good graphics program and an HTML editor are the main tools that a designer uses though there are many others that a designer will also need. The table below is a list of applications that a designer will want to have available. There are many good quality software products available and many new ones added each day. When choosing a software package check the companys' website first to look for trial versions, support service, upgrades, etc.

The Web Designers Toolkit

  • Text Editor
  • Browsers
    • make sure you have the latest graphic versions but keep the old versions around for testing
    • text browser
  • Archive/Compression (Zip) Software
  • Web Design or Publishing Software
  • Graphics Software
  • File Transfer (FTP) Software
  • Link Verification Software or Service
  • Anti-Virus Software
  • Computer Hardware
    • Pentium (or equivalent)
    • 56k MODEM or high speed connection
    • 24 bit colour card (or greater)
    • good quality monitor (17 inch or greater if possible)
    • scanner
  • Server (optional)
  • Reference Books & Software
    • HTML reference guide
    • CSS style guide
    • Web designer reference guide (UNIX, JavaScript, CGI, etc)

Issues to Consider

  • Who will be using the site?
  • Do you have a target audience or are you providing general information?
  • Will the average visitor be using the latest technology or a text browser?
  • Does the material on your website reflect the other material that your organization produces?
  • What kind of security measures will be in place?
  • Will you have mailto: links and who will be answering that mail?
  • Will you be selling products or services through the website?

What information are you providing?

  • Are you providing a service?
  • Are you marketing a product?
  • Are you a research site?
  • Are you advertising a product or service?

Deciding on the sites location?

  • Are you purchasing a space from a commercial provider or do you have access to a community/university server?
  • Are you going to obtain your own domain or use a free account?
  • Will you be expanding your site over time and if so can the service meet your long term goals?
  • What type of service do you need (basic, CGI, secure server, etc.)
  • How much space do you need?
  • What does the service charge for things like bandwidth, FrontPage extension, extra storage, initial setup, commercial content, etc.?

Security

  • Who is allowed to access the file system
  • Procedures for granting and revoking access
  • When do you change the passwords
  • Acceptable use policy
  • System monitoring procedures and protocols for responding to suspected security breaches

Updating the site

  • Will you be adding information regularly?
  • Will the information change frequently or are you providing research resources?
  • Who will be updating the site?
  • If there are more than one person updating the site how will it be coordinated?
  • Does the site have the ability to be expanded as needed?

How will people find the site?

  • Will you be registering the site with search engines?
  • Will you share links with other like minded organizations?
  • Do you have current <meta> tags that describe your organization in less than 256 characters?
  • Do you have a <meta> tag that defines keywords that target your organization/business?
  • Does your printed material (business card, flyers, newsletters, advertisements, etc.) have your website listed?

This marks the end of the section on web development.

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