Choosing a site builder and host for your first website

When people decide to build a website, there are two central questions they need to address – who’s going to build the site, and who’s going to host it.

When it comes to building the site there are three fundamental options; build it yourself, pay someone else to do it or use an auto build tool. For a simple site which can be put together using html, do-it-yourself is a good option. There are a number of html editors around that are more or less as easy as using Microsoft Word, and if you build it yourself you have the luxury of endless free updates.

Several of the major web hosts offer site building tools which claim to assemble a quality web site in a few clicks, but most people find these to be rather unsatisfactory because the customisation potential is actually quite limited, and because the sites normally end up costing a lot of money in monthly fees. They may be free to build, but that’s not the same thing as free to maintain.

The third option of hiring someone else might sound like an expensive route, and it might be depending who you hire. There are now various websites like Peopleperhour.com and Freelancer.com that let you post a job and allow people around the world will bid on it. Website building is a very competitive area and normally produces a wide range of bids. If you choose this route it’s important to specify what you want in as much detail as you can, and read the proposals that come in carefully. A lot of bids simply say “I’d like to do your job”, but some people will make the effort to give you a specific bid targeted to your requirements, and these are likely to be better quality providers.

The next issue to address is which web hosting company to use, and with so many on the market this can be a difficult decision. The first thing to consider is what performance you want from your site, and who is in a position to impact that. There are really only two performance issues to think about; percentage uptime and page load speed. All web hosts offer uptime guarantees and mostly at around 99%, although you should be aware the small print is likely to give them a get-out for most situations. Nonetheless, uptime is not normally a problem, but the same cannot be said of page load speed.

Back in 2010 when google added page load speed to their ranking signals, the matter got a lot of attention, but really a webmaster should want quick page load speed anyway, because it will lead to more site traffic. Indeed it can be argued that when choosing new host, page load speed is the number one consideration. The average bounce rate for all websites is 60-70%, this being the number of visitors who navigate away within 10 seconds. There are three prime reasons they do this;

  • They hit the wrong link by mistake, and in this instance there’s nothing for the site owner to do in response.
  • As soon as they saw the page they decided it wasn’t for them. This might mean there are site design issues, but equally it might mean that the site really isn’t for them, and the design is so good they can tell immediately.
  • They get bored waiting for the page load. This is a real problem and one that needs serious attention.

There are two things that affect page load speed, and the first is down to the site author. Pages should be light, that is to say they should have minimum total file size, because some potential readers will be on relatively slow internet services. The second is the server response time, and this is entirely down to your host’s performance. Unfortunately finding out a web host’s performance in advance of buying the service can be difficult. It’s likely that the cheaper services, and those that offer unlimited bandwidth, will be slower, but it doesn’t always follow that more expensive services are faster. The best route is probably personal recommendation, and in this regard it’s a good idea to join a web builder’s forum, such as webhostingtalk or 000webhost. In fact, if you’re building a website, joining a forum should probably be your first step!

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