|Once you've decided you need a web site, it's time to determine specifically what you want to put on it, what it will cost, which service provider will host it, and who will build it.|
The short answer to this question is that it could be free, or it could be very expensive. Different things affect the price tag, and only you can decide which choices make sense for you. With web site hosting services, the old adage, "You get what you pay for," holds true.
Things you need to consider when budgeting for the project include:
|Your choice of service provider will affect several things: cost, quality of service, ease of use for your visitors, and professionalism. It's worth spending time on this issue to truly understand what your options are, so you can make an informed decision.|
The Internet Service Provider (ISP) that handles your dial-up, cable modem, or DSL access to the Internet today may already include space for your personal home page as part of the service for no extra charge. For example, Verizon, Earthlink, and others give every user 10 megabytes of free storage space for building your own site. You may find thats quite sufficient for your needs. If you dont plan to add music and video to your web site, you can do a lot with 10 megabytes!
Some of these providers state that their web site services are for "personal" web pages onlyin other words, for web sites featuring hobbies, pets, children, etc. Others don't attach any stipulations, so it's possible to do a small business site with them.
So, before looking further, check with your cable modem, DSL, or dial-up service provider and find out what is available to you.
There are service providers who will give you space to put up your own personal web site free of charge. They usually give you a maximum of 5 megabytes for free, and almost always insist that you use the software they provide to build your pages. Some of these are:
My own bias is that these services prove the adage, "Theres no such thing as a free lunch." Its true, you dont have to spend any money to have a page with them, but they forcibly insert advertisements on your page. You have absolutely no control over the banner ad that may suddenly pop up at the top of the page, and thats the first thing people see when they visit your site.
Another problem with using one of these services is that they usually are very, very slow. Part of it is because they keep their costs down by investing in absolutely no more capacity to the Internet than necessary, so your visitors are competing with thousands of other people for access to the hosts computers. The other issue is that they usually implement the ads by putting special programming at the top of your page that looks up which ad to display, then displays it. Your visitors have to wait while that lookup takes place.
Depending on the service provider, you may be forced to use the web authoring software that they provide instead of choosing your own. On the surface it may sound goodyou dont have to buy any authoring software. But in practice, the ones Ive seen were difficult to use, confusing, poorly documented, and very limiting in what your finished page could look like. On more than one occasion, I've needed to help users of GeoCities and Angelfire figure out how to make changes to their sites, and even with my web expertise I found them difficult to figure out at first.
These issues probably wont matter much if your primary reason for wanting a web site is to put up pictures of yourself in costume for your friends and family to look at. Many people use these personal home page services to describe their hobbies or put up pictures of the new baby for distant relatives to enjoy, and theyre fine for that. However, promoting yourself as a professional dancer through one of these free services is like performing at a party in someones home with chipped fingernail polish, smeared makeup, uncombed hair, a sign saying "Eat At Joe's" pinned on your rear, and a sign saying "Sign Up For XYZ Long Distance Service" on your chest. You get only one chance to make a first impression, and people who dont like your site wont come back.
Do you want your own personalized "domain name" such as "www.yourname.com", or would you be satisfied with the standard name your Internet service provider feels like giving you? This is going to make a difference in cost. Its like vanity license platesfor that personal touch, youll have to pay a little more. Only you can decide whether its worth the extra cost.
I pay my web hosting company something for renting space on their computers. (I have one web site on Valueweb and another on GoDaddy, but I'm not sure I'd recommend either company to someone else. I have a couple of things that have dissatisfied me about each.)
When evaluating web hosting companies, ask what operating system they use for hosting the web server. If they answer either UNIX or Linux, that's a point in their favor. If they answer Microsoft, beware - Microsoft's web server is notoriously easy for hackers to break into. Using Microsoft as the foundation for your web site could put you at risk of security problems.
There is a separate fee that needs to be paid to a domain name registration company for www.yourname.com. I use two different companies - one of my web sites is registered with www.networksolutions.com and the other with www.godaddy.com . There are others, too. I suggest comparing prices before deciding which to use.
Shop around before choosing an Internet provider to host your vanity domain name. The lowest price Ive seen for that service is the $5.25 per month by www.dotster.com for a small starter web site, but Ive seen it much higher as well! Different providers offer different options, like whether to include just one e-mail box or many, how much disk space to give you, etc. Make sure youre comparing apples to apples when you compare pricing options. Dont pay extra for options you wont use!
To get a list of Internet service providers (ISPs) available in your community and a list of web hosting companies, take a look at:
Most of the sites listed at the above link will list pricing information on their web sites. Some of them also offer domain name registration services.
To summarize, the pros and cons of the different options described above are:
Shira's recommendation: if you're not sure you're ready to commit a lot of time, money, or effort to your web site, start by putting up a simple site using the free personal web site space that your ISP already provides as a free add-on to your dial-in access to the Internet. You can later move to having your own domain name if you wish.
A recommended set of software tools for managing your site include:
I personally use Adobe Pagemill for managing my web site. Unfortunately, Adobe has discontinued this product so you can't buy it any more, but I still use it.
I don't recommend using any of Microsoft's products. My general experience has been that Microsoft (whose web authoring product is Front Page) rushes their products to market with many defects that can waste a lot of your time as you try to learn the product, and their documentation is often unclear.
When you use photos from your digital camera, or you scan traditional photos, you often end up with an image that needs to be resized for the web and possibly modified a bit. For example, you might want to fix a red-eye problem.
Heres where to start in evaluating that dizzying selection of graphics products out there:
Your friends may be able to give you good suggestions as well on which tools they like to use on preparing their web sites and why. Maybe they can even show you a demo. I recommend looking around.
If you would rather not spend time at the keyboard figuring out how to build your site, maybe getting someone else to do it for you is the answer. Maybe one of your students is web-savvy and would be willing to barter putting up a web site for you in exchange for private lessons. Or, maybe one of your friends "knows someone" who puts up web sites for a living.
Before reaching agreement with anyone to do your site for you, ask for the addresses of other sites they have built. Visit those sites and explore them in depth. Do they load quickly, or do they take forever to come up on the screen? Are they visually attractive, or do they look as if they were slapped together in a hurry? Is the navigation structure clear and easy to follow? Do they use lots of gratuitous special effects just because the creator knows how, or are special effects limited to situations where they add value?
In my experience, web site designers often fall into one of the following categories. Make sure you understand which category the designer youre considering falls into, and choose someone whose style is compatible with the kind of site you want.
The Graphic Artist
This designer specializes in beautiful graphics, but pages sometimes seem to take hours to load, and the navigation structure for finding what youre looking for isnt always clear. Text is an inconvenient necessity, and is held to a minimum. The site may require users to get special plug-ins to their browsers such as Flash in order to display. Advertising agencies are often heavily populated with this type of web designer. Sites created by these designers are usually very pretty to look at, but they may alienate your visitors due to taking a long time to load and having cryptic navigational clues.
This designer is a computer nerd who loves to play with special effects. Her sites are loaded with music that automatically starts to play when the user first arrives, pop up menus that pounce when your mouse passes over certain parts of the screen, blinking animations, chat rooms, and other technology toys, whether they add value or not. They show off her technical prowess, and theyll draw attention away from you and your dance-related message. A web site created by one of these designers is like a dancer who incorporates cane dance, sword balancing, double veil, floor work, a drum solo, a hair-tossing Saudi dance, and melaya leff all into a single 15-minute performance.
This designer is someone who sees a way to make an easy buck doing web sites for other people. The hapless dancer who hires this designer will end up with a site that has misspelled words, graphics that take a long time to load, and disorganized content. These people just dont bother paying attention to detail.
The "Dream Designer"
This one knows how to make a nice-looking site that loads quickly and easily navigates users to the information theyre looking for. These are rare! So how do you find one? One option is to browse lots of other belly dancing sites on the web, and see which ones have an overall design that you admire. Send e-mail to the owners of those sites to find out who built theirs, and then approach that designer about doing one for you.
Before hiring a web designer, remember that her work will reflect directly on you. Its critical to select someone you trust to listen to what you want and deliver what you ask for. If you were going to hire someone to create a custom dance costume for you, youd probably either want to see examples of work she has done in the past or call references. Do the same homework before hiring someone to build your web site.
Here are some suggestions on how to evaluate a prospective web site designer. Before you meet with the designer for the first time:
When you actually do meet with the designer, here are some questions to explore:
If you have some computer skill, time, and interest, you might consider having the designer create your initial site, then take over management of it yourself after the first edition is complete.
|Handling logistical details like these can be a nuisance, just as creating flyers and doing mailings is a nuisance. But if you want a web site, theyre steps youll need to work through. Once you figure out how to handle the issues described in this article, you can focus on the fun part of choosing pictures to feature online, deciding what to say, and promoting the site!|
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