Well, I did it. I have a website.
It turned out to be trickier than I thought it would be but that wasn’t because it was hard, only that there are so many options out there that it took some time to evaluate a handful of them and be sure I was making the right choices. I’ll layout the process I’ve used and my rational to hopefully help anyone else setting up their own website.
Why have a website?
The decision to start a website was made over Christmas while having a discussion about hobbies with a like minded friend. I would like to share my projects more as seeing other people’s work inspires me and publishing mine would give me motivation to work on them more frequently. I had a failed attempt at a blog back in 2010 with nicksprojectblog.blogspot.ca. Like most new blogs I posted for a month and then never thought about it again. The problem for me at the time was that I didn’t generate enough content to gain momentum (for my own inspiration, not number of views). At that time I had an instructables.com account and decided to use that as a publishing method instead as I didn’t have to create content frequently and could wait until projects were completed for final documentation. At the time of writing I only have one published instructable which I see as a failure on my part. The one I have published has been a huge success winning me a 3d printer and getting over 180k views in just under a year. One project in just under a year isn’t very good though. Looking at the handfull of draft instructables I have under my account made me realise that the blog format would work better as an update site rather than a finished project presentation platform. A lot of my projects end at the prototyping stage and don’t make it to the point where they can be documented as a finished project. In this respect going back to the blog platform makes a lot of sense. If I spend a few evenings researching displays and how to use them I could put up a blog post with a list of links I found which would be useful to someone else trying to do the same project. This all sounds like I’m going back to square one with the blogspot blog but having a website instead of a blog makes a big difference. The blog is just a running list of posts and doesn’t provide the opportunity to get more creative with layout and do things to develop a brand. The website will start as a blog but having a full website provides the flexibility to take it in any direction I choose.
Step one, and arguably the most important, is to pick a domain name. This will be how people know of your site, how they refer to your site and what they call your site. You can’t really call yourself Joe’s pottery studio and use the domain 123.com. No one will ever find you that way. For me picking a name was difficult as I want to cover a wide range of technical hobbies with this site. CNC machining, 3d printing, hobby electronics and more meant that I needed a generic name. After a bunch of brain storming and some help I decided on “NCMachineWorks”. I liked it. The “machine works” part represented my hobbies using machine tools to do most of the work and gives a more industrial tone and the NC is both my initials and NC (numerical control, the precursor to CNC, computer numerical control. Think punch cards not usb cables.) Unfortunately ncmachineworks.com was taken but luckily ncmachineworks.ca was available.
Choosing a hosting provider was the hardest part as there is no shortage of options. I started by looking at the three hosts listed by WordPress.org (Bluehost, DreamHost and Laughing Squid). Because I was looking for a .ca domain I would have had to purchase the domain from a Canadian registar and transfer it to the American host. To remove this extra step (that I wasn’t exactly sure how it worked) I looked at Canadian hosts. On the Canadian side I looked at godaddy.ca, canspace.ca, webnames.ca and shaw.ca. I also looked at HostGator as they have a heavily advertised referral program so I saw their name a lot on websites that I visit.
In total I compared eight hosts and twenty one hosting plans. I found out there were a number of tangible and intangible criteria to be evaluated:
- Price per month
- Storage space
- Number of e-mail addresses provided
- Free domain name?
- Number of website that can be hosted under one plan
- Number of sub-domains allowed
- Number of databases
- Server uptime
- Customer support
From reading the fine print I learnt that some hosting providers gave restrictions on what could be hosted (WordPress.com comes to mind here) restricting the use of adds and sponsored posts on the site.
In the end I went with Webnames.ca and their value plan. I have been happy with my decision as the day after I registered the site I got a call from them asking if I had any issues and gave my their customer service number for their support office (which happens to be located in the same city as me). The service had the ‘one click’ wordpress install which is pretty standard but very helpful. I had an issue with logging into wordpress and a call the support number had be speaking to a rep in 20 seconds. (For the record I don’t receive anything from recommending webnames.ca)
As mentioned I’m using Wordpess to build the site. WordPress is design to host blogs but can be used to make static pages. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to hack it to make a website with numerous static pages with a blog on the side and not the other way around.
Looking through a few dozen WordPress themes the Customizr theme stood out. I like the one feature image on the home page and three smaller images to take the user to other landing pages. So far the theme has been easy to modify and has good support on the WordPress Forum.
I have been playing around with customizing the site using the CSS snippets available on the Customizr website and from google searches. At this point I’m limited by my CSS knowledge so any fine tuning of the layout will have to wait for my CSS skills to improve.
The site it distinctly lacking in any form of branding and content so I will be working on developing a logo and getting more content posted.