Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Basic Guide to Self-Hosting


A Simple Program for Planning a Website


Constructing a website without any clear plan is like building a ship without blueprints.  So many things can get missed out, deadlines can be missed, and things can go in the wrong place.  It doesn't matter whether you're new to blogging or a seasoned veteran this simple guide will help you plan, and lay the groundwork for your future website.





What is the Purpose of Your Website?

Is it to open a store online? Increase publicity for your business?  For a charitable cause?  An important step in starting a website is deciding what it's purpose is going to be, and who your target audience is.  You need to start setting out your goal's, and thinking about what kind of visitor numbers you want to get each month.  How many people your looking to sign up to your newsletter, and how much money you want to make from your website.  Give yourself goals that can be easily  measured, and are in line with your blogging goals.  You can use an analytics tool like Google Analytics , or Google Console to monitor your website performance. 

Establishing a Budget

Setting a budget is really important for any blog start-up.  Even if it's just paying business insurance monthly or paying for a domain name yearly, it all matters.  You need to start writing down the things you need in your budget such as design, programming, and web hosting.

Start by looking at the professionals.  Get a feel for your own chosen field.  How do other website owners run their websites?

Formulate a Content Strategy

Decide what kind of content you'll be creating.

This might include:
  • Embedded social media feeds
  • Slideshows
  • A gallery or pictures
  • Video
  • Documents
  • Blog posts
You need to work out your blog posting frequency, this can be anything from five blog posts a week, one a week, or even one a month.  You may want to hire a writer who is experienced in writing content online.


Organising Your Website

Start organising what pages you want to feature on your blog.  Do you need an About or a Contact page?  Your choice should fit in with your website needs.

Devise a Mock-Up

If your website is complicated create a mock-up or wireframe, this is an outline for your website. You can create this in Photoshop, not much detail is required.  Don't worry about the specifics, this is the first draft to give everyone an idea of your website.

Begin Designing Your Website

A well-designed website will encourage visitor's, an ugly and poorly planned website will drive visitor's away.

Here are some basic concepts to think about.
  • Create easy navigation
  • Make your fonts easy-to-read.
  • Keep all text and background colour simple and easy-to-read
  • Make sure your website is mobile friendly
  • Keep it light and easy to load
  • Make your blog or company logo memorable
  • Styles and colours should be consistent throughout the website
  • All copy should be clear and concise
  • Information such as a newsletter sign up form should be placed above the fold
  • Design it with the future in mind
Ironing Out All the Bugs

By publishing it yourself  you can make sure it looks the the way you want it to in all browsers.  Try it out on your cell phone and or tablet.  Also check all of your links and pages to make sure they work ok.

Manage Your Website

Once your website is up and running, its a full-time job to maintain it.  You'll understand how useful tools such as Google Console, and analytics really are for monitoring your website.  You should keep a close eye on your website regularly with weekly checks to ensure everything is running smoothly.

Taking the extra time to plan your website properly is worth the investment.  In the long run it will serve you well.


How to Build a Website

If you're at the beginning stages of starting a website, it can seem like a lot of work.  Often people opt for a simpler route and hire a web designer to do the hard work for them.  With so many tools and tutorials available anyone can build a high quality blog from scratch, in less time.

There are a lot of advantages to hiring a professional to do the job for you, although this isn't always possible for everyone starting out.  When your website starts making a profit it's an investment to be looked at further down the line.

If you want a blog fully fully functioning and up and running as soon as possible continue reading. Follow me through the process of starting a website, along with handy tools to get you started.

How to Setup Hosting and Domain

Make sure you already have a website plan purchased.  There are lots of great hosting companies that can do this for you.  Here are some well known hosting companies to start:
After your hosting and website are all setup you'll need to start thinking about your basic framework, so you can start forming the structure of your website.

Pick the Right Framework

Check out these popular framework platforms:

Site Builder on Hostgator

Website builder is provided by Hostgator, that enables you to setup your website in a matter of minutes.  If you choose a shared hosting plan with Hostgator, this service is included for free within your hosting package.

WordPress

If you're more tech savvy and prefer to use a fully-developed management system, I recommend you give WordPress a go.  I've used it myself in the past, and it's really good!   If you've already chosen Hostgator hosting, go to your Cpanel and try out the QuickInstall process to install Wordpress for free.

If you have WordPress installed you can choose from a vast variety of paid and free themes.  Simply download the theme, upload it by going to Appearance>Add>New>Upload Theme.

Try customising your theme by navigating to Appearance>Customise within WordPress.

Create Your Own Website from Scratch

Starting a website from scratch will take a lot of patience, trial and error, and experimentation.  If you have the know-how already it can be a really worthwhile process.  If you like getting your hands dirty, you'll need to know some basic coding.

Resources such as CodeAcademy and W3Schools will help you learn how to code.  You'll discover what's needed to build your website including HTML, CSS, and PHP.  This will allow you to to build a website to your own specifications.

There's no harm in learning some basic coding skills even if you're not building your website from scratch.  With a basic knowledge of coding skills, you will be able to customise your website no matter the platform.

HTML Cheat Sheet


Having a basic understanding of HTML will give you a huge confidence boost when you start managing your blog. Being able to make simple changes yourself will not only save you time but money also, because you'll have no need to outsource your problem.

Look below and find a few of the most common post and site formatting options you can use when coding in HTML.

What is HTML?

Also known as Hypertext Markup Language and the main programming language of the internet, also one of the simplest to pickup.

By recognising basic HTML commands you can do things like:
  • Embed and add analytics to your website
  • Sort out image alignment issues
  • Format your blog post for easy readability
  • Add advertising and widgets to your website
You can locate your HTML files by logging into your website host panel.

Simple HTML Tags

Every piece of code has opening and closing tags.  A command will start and end with it.  Depending upon the HTML tag you choose the opening and closing brackets will be formatted by this.

It looks like this: <p>This is a real sentence.</p>

The first <p> tag starts the sequence and it ends with the </p> tag. The final / in the closing tag is very important, without this tag your code won’t function properly and will lead to formatting errors.

 Common HTML tags are:

<strong> </strong> - For bold text or headlines.
<em> </em> - To italicize your text.
<body> </body> - For the body of your html document.
<a> </a> - Allows you to insert links.
<center> </center> - Allows you to align your text in the centre of the page. <head> </head> - This the header of your website.

    There are a lot more HTML tags you can use to change your website.  You can find more common tags below.

    Headings with HTML

    Another great formatting tip is to organise your text using various headings, this will give your blog post a logical structure.

    More common headlines are:
    • <h1> </h1> - Surrounds your page and post title. 
    • <h2> </h2> - Main headlines with your blog post will use the h2 tag. 
    • <h3> </h3> - Headlines within h2 tag will use h3 tag.
    Using the above headline configuration, you'll have a more logical post structure, making it easier for your readers.

    HTML Tips for Beginners

    Let's put the above information into practise.  See below how to properly format your text using the HTML tags highlighted above.

    Formatting Your Design

    You can make certain portions of your text stand out by using bold, underline and italicise, see below:
    • <strong> </strong> - To bold your text. 
    • <em> </em> - Italicize your text. 
    • <u> </u> - Underline your text.
    You can use these tags in your existing paragraphs to change the formatting of words, it will look something like this:

    <p>This sentence that has<strong>boldtext</strong>, <em>italic text</em>, and <u>even a bit of underlined text </u.</p>

    Linking Within Your Content

    When you add a link to your content you'll be using <a href> tag. You'll also require the URL of the website you want to link to.

    A link to, let's say, Amazon.com, would look like this: <a href="https://www.Amazon.com">visit Amazon</a>. 

    Within the quotations is the site you want to link to, the text will be hyperlinked within the URL.

    Adding Images to Your Website

    By adding images to your blog posts and pages you'll peak people's interest more quickly.  You can do this with the code below:

    The image tag is <img src=" ">. Notice that there is no end tag for the img command.

    To pinpoint the image you'll need to upload from another point online, always make sure it's an active URL where you can visit the image.

    The code should look something like this:<img src="http//myimage.com/thisismyimage.jpg">.

    How to Align Your Text

    With the following code you'll be able to justify your text exactly how you want it.

    Use the following commands:
    • <p align="left"> </p> - Left align text within the p tags. 
    • <p align="right"> </p> - Right align text with the the p tags. 
    • <p align="centre"> </p> - Centre align the text within the p tags.
    How to Add Block quotes to Your Website

    You can break up your paragraphs by adding quotes to your website content.  Creating a separation so your readers can tell you're quoting someone else.

    Simply add the <blockquote> </blockquote> tags to any content you wish to format.

    Simple Steps to Secure Your Blog from Hackers


    Once you've created your blog and you've started publishing regular blog posts, there is nothing more terrifying than seeing your work wiped out by a flagrant hacker.

    If you're not already doing so, you should be backing up your website files on a regular basis.

    The steps below will show you how to keep your blog safe:

    Keep Your Directory and File Permissions Properly Locked Down

    I've started with one of the most technical parts - but stay with me, this will get easier...

    Each website contains files and folders that are stored on your web hosting account.  They contain the scripts and data to make your website work.  Each of these files and folders is appointed a set of permissions that controls who reads, writes, and executes all files or folders which are all relative to the user or group to which they belong.

    With the Linux operating system, all permissions are viewable in the form of a three-digit code, each digit being an integer between 0-7.  First digit represents permissions for the owner of the file, Second digit serves as permissions for anyone assigned to the group that owns the file, Third digit represents permissions for everyone else.

    See assignations below:
    • 0 equals no permissions for that user
    • 1 equals Execute
    • 2 equals Write
    • 4 equals Read
    The file that authorises a permission code that gives anyone permission on the internet the power to write and execute, is less secure than one which is already locked down.

    It's best to set your permissions as follows:
    • Individual files = 644
    • Folders and directories = 755

    Always Check Your Passwords are Secure

    Simple enough, but extremely important.

    Don't go with an easy password, some ridiculous like 123456.  A commonly used password, you need to think of something more complicated than that.

    Think of something that's really unique, but not personal to you .  Use a mix of special characters, letters, and numbers, and make it really long!  Like I said before don't use information like your pets name, your kid's name, or anything that can be easily found from social media accounts by a hacker.

    This is the same rule for anyone in your business, or close to you that has access to your website.  A weak password in your team can open your blog up to attack, that's why it's important to hold yourself, and everyone else in your organisation to the same high standard.

    Apply CSP

    Cross-site scripting (XSS) is a common enemy to all bloggers and website owners alike.  Hackers will discover a weakness and a way to slip malicious JavaScript onto your pages, which can then go onto infect all the pages your visitors go to on your website, that are exposed to the particular code.

    You need to make sure that any code you use on your website for all functions, and fields are as clear cut as possible in what is allowed, so that you're not making yourself wide open for anything to conveniently slip in.

    CSP is another handy tool to have to protect your content.  The browser will know not to pay any attention to any malicious script that could infect your visitors PC.

    By simply adding the correct HTTP header to your webpage, this provides a multitude of directives that tells the browser which domains are good.  You can craft your own CSP headers for your blog here through Mozilla.

    Use Prepared Statements (Parameterised Queries)

    A common blog hack many website owners have sadly fallen victim to.

    Other users can use URL parameters that are too open, free enough to hack into your database.  If you're the owner of an online store, information such as credit card numbers, and contact information can be easily accessed.  This is obviously in your hands to protect as a business owner.

    But don't worry, there are a number of things you can do to protect your blog from SQL injection hacks.  An easy way to do this is to implement the use of parameterised queries.  By using parametrised queries you can be assured that specific parameters have been met, so no hacker will mess with them.

    Secure Your Site with HTTPS

    Most consumers know that the green https in your browser keeps all sensitive information safe on a website.  These short letters are shorthand for safety and security on all blogs and websites, they show a website is safe to give out particular sensitive information such as financial or contact information on a particular webpage.

    If you don't already have one for your blog or website you can invest in an SSL certificate here.  The cost is usually small, but the extra level of encryption it offers to your readers and customers is priceless, and will go a long way to making your website more secure and trustworthy.

    Setup security plugins

    If you're using WordPress, free plugins such as iThemes Security and Bulletproof Security will respond to weaknesses within your chosen platform.

    If you're running HTML pages or CMS-managed site check-out SiteLock.  Sitelock provides you with daily monitoring for all your hacker worries.  Providing malware detection to vulnerability identification, and active virus scanning.

    With a managed WordPress hosting plan, SiteLock is already built-in along with much more to keep your website safe.

    Make Sure All Platforms and Scripts are Current

    Keeping all of your platforms and scripts up-to-date is vital, many of the tools created are open-source software programs, which are easily available to website owners with good intentions and virulent hackers.  Security loopholes can be taken advantage of by hackers who will have no problem exploiting a platform or script for weaknesses.

    Having the newest version of your platform and scripts installed will reduce any future attacks you may encounter, and will take very little time to implement.

    How to Deal with Website Downtime

    When your website goes down it can be a very worrying and discouraging experience to go through. Website problems can range from the simple to more extreme.

    Protection and prevention are the best remedies when your site goes offline.  Don't worry, if the unfortunate event does occur, there are plenty of steps you can take to help offset the situation.

    By acting now, and implementing the steps below you can make sure your blog or business doesn't suffer for too long when your website goes down.

    Reasons Websites Go Down

    Websites can go down for a number of different reasons.  If the cause was simple one the problem could be immediately solved.  Even massive websites like Twitter and Facebook suffer from outages every now and again, so you're not alone.

    Server Support (Maintenance)

    Often times your website will go down due to server software updates, causing an interruption to the service.

    This is usually done off-peak when traffic is quiet, depending upon the location of your server.

    Too Much Traffic

    You're host may not be able to cope with the number of visitors, and is unable to handle such large volumes of traffic.

    Your blog may go down if you're using a shared host plan, and other websites using the same server are also receiving a surge in traffic. This is called "The bad neighbour effect", but most hosts try to prevent this from happening.

    Website Coding Mistake

    A single piece of missing code can break your site, along with many other technical errors, can take your blog offline.  If you're receiving a message that has no relation to your server, it may lie with a site plugin or theme conflict.

    Website Invasion

    A hacker may decide to flood your website with traffic, to try and bring your site down.  Without proper security protocols your site is wide open for any hacker to take control, and take down your website.

    Free Hosted Website

    Your website host may not be able to handle the amount of traffic, or it may just be a low-quality host needing a lot of downtime.

    How to Stop Your Website from Going Down

    Keeping your website online is in your own hands.  Take proactive measures to ensure your website stays online.

    Choose a Stable Host

    The uptime of your website is going to depend on the host you choose.  A low quality host will help increase downtime with your website.  A huge factor in choosing the right host depends on how much traffic your site will receive.  You'll need a host that can handle a steady volume of traffic.

    Look at a CDN

    A CDN can enhance your site in various arenas.  In peak traffic times, CDNs can act like a buffer and deter DDos from attacking.  Free CDNs like Cloudflare are a great starting point, and can improve existing hosting environments.

    Update Your Site Regularly

    If you're website requires themes and plugins make sure they're updated regularly, otherwise you run the risk of leaving your website open to attack.

    Look Into a Monitoring Service

    A website monitoring service will tell you when  your site goes down.

    Remember to Renew Your Domain Name

    When it comes to the end of your yearly payment cycle make sure you set your hosting and domain name are set on auto-renew.

    Things to Do When Your Site Crashes

    If your website does go down here are few things you should do before terror sets in:

    Check It's Offline

    Make sure that your website is actually down.  Try Googling it on your mobile phone or tablet. Phone a friend and get them to bring it up on their computer.

    Find Out the Cause

    Try to get to the root of the problem, to help determine the outage.  Have you forgotten to renew your domain or hosting?  Is it because of a surge of traffic?

    Contact Your Webhost Support

    Go to your website host and see if they can diagnose the problem.  After all that's what they're there for.  A really good host will work with you, and help sort out the issue, and fix it.

    Alert Users

    If you have a lot of followers relying on your blog, let them know the situation straight away.  You can do this via email or social media.  Never leave your users in the dark.

    Most of us will go through this at one time or another.  Hopefully the above tips will help minimise the problems downtime might cause.  Choosing the right host that is properly equipped will help you handle any issues that may arise.

    Everything You Need to Know About Page Speed


    Your blog page speed can naturally be seen as a reflection of the Internet Service Provider, and not really seen as an internal issue.  Yes, Internet packages and download speed play a big part how fast your website downloads, there are numerous factors that decide how fast your content will appear in someones browser.

    Google determined in 2010 that a websites page speed was an important factor in the way people experience a website.  It started to be used in their website ranking factor, and how your blog appears in SERP.  Almost half of all customers on the internet anticipate a web page should load in 2 seconds or less.  Experts at Google think an optimised website top ranked should load in under half a second.

    Innumerable studies have shown that page speed can lead to loss of business from the extra time taken for a page to load, leaving consumers frustrated, many online shopping carts abandoned. 

    Factors that Determine Page Speed

    It can seem almost an impossibility to know why your blog is acting so slow, and why the pages are loading so inefficiently.

    See below other contributing factors that provide your overall page speed:

    Web Host

    Having a great customer service can pay dividends when it comes to your web host.  Going cheaper isn't always the best option, often this comes with slow page speeds.

    Big Images

    The necessary resolution for print and screen based imagery differs greatly.  For all purposes 1000 pixels at 72 dpi should suit your current blogging needs, if necessary larger images can be compressed to thin down unnecessary data.

    Outside Media

    Videos from YouTube and other such content is a brilliant idea, just make sure it's frame size.

    Make Your Blog Browser Friendly

    Every search engine will make your website behave differently, if your website isn't behaving properly on Safari but works fine on Chrome you'll take a penalty.

    Don't Fill Your Website Full of Advertising

    Too much advertising can drag down the speed of your blog, think "less is more" just to be safe.

    Website Theme

    If your running a site builder or WordPress theme that's fairly complex, this will add to your blog loading time.

    Widgets

    If you have a number of densely coded widgets on your website this might require a lot of processing power.

    Website Code

    If you're blog is carrying HTML or CSS that is too heavy, this will make your blog really slow!

    How to Check Your Website Loading Time

    There are a number of authorised website tools help you find the weak points of your blog.

    My personal favourite is PageSpeed Insights from Google.  If you're making Google happy then knowing what they recommend for a better ranking page is pretty critical.  You can also checkout Google Console.

    Best Practises for SEO Page Speed

    To comply with Google's Best Practises, try executing the following:
    1. Optimize Images
    2. Adopt a Content Distribution Network
    3. Boost Server Response Time
    4. Influence Browser Caching
    5. Trim down Redirects
    6. Cut back CSS, Javascript and HTML
    7. Implement Compression
    6 Facets Every Website Provider Should Provide

    The best approach for sourcing a solid and trustworthy web hosting company is to look at what they have to offer.

    If you're looking to start a blog you should make sure the web hosting company you choose has access to good quality features, and tools that are easy to manage.

    Here are some tools you should be looking for with your webhost provider:

    1. PHP Script

    Most web hosting companies will offer this because PHP is the most well-known website creation script.

    2. SQL Database

    SQL database is an essential part of web hosting, because every database needs access to unique script.

    3. Extra Domain Names

    A handy extra to have if you're thinking about expanding your empire online.

    4. Site Builder

    If you're unfamiliar with website building this will give you peace of mind while you're acquainting yourself with website creation and site hosting.

    5. CGI

    A functional necessity for profitable web hosting.  Normally offered as a default script, its best to select a host that offers both CGI and PHP until it becomes out-of-date.

    6. Metric and Statistic Monitoring Tools

    A well established company will offer customers a form of measuring tool that allows webmasters to track viewers more readily.  These tools will show you the elements that require improvement.

    Start your website for as little as $3.95 a month.


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