Building A Website

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Getting Started

How do I make my web pages?

 PRO TIP: Don't "build" pages at all! Just use one of our "one-click" applications to create a "ready to go" website, as detailed further down the page in the section One_Click_Installs

The Process

A web page is a text file, usually written in HTML, then sent from your computer to your web address, generally via FTP (file transfer protocol). There are basically two choices when it comes to creating your web page:

  • WYSIWYG environments will help you create nice-looking pages quickly, without learning HTML (the system of tags for creating web pages) or FTP (how you send your site to our servers), or CGI (programs that allow the user to interact with your site). Some popular WYSIWYG environments are: Open Source Nvu; Macromedia Dreamweaver, Microsoft Publisher, Adobe Pagemill, and Adobe Go Live!. You can even use plain old Open Office, or Microsoft Word (98 or above) --- just save your file with the extension .html, instead of .doc.

On the down side, not knowing how these things work will make it more difficult to troubleshoot your site when things go wrong (for instance if certain elements of your page are not compatible with all users' browsers).

  • Learning to hand code HTML is fun and easy, and there are a lot of tools on the Net, at the library, and in the bookstore, to help you along your way. Chances are, you can pick up enough to make a basic site in less time than it would take to figure out how to do the same thing in an authoring tool. Another advantage of hand-coding is that you, the author, will be empowered to troubleshoot and customize your site at will. You will know exactly how it is put together, and how to change and update things as needed.

It's not for everyone, however --- some people don't have the time or drive to teach themselves HTML. It will take practice to get your page exactly as you want it. But by that time, chances are, you'll be having so much fun you won't want to stop!

If you want to see a somewhat ugly - but functional - page of HTML, use the 'View Source' function in your browser (usually underneath a 'View' menu) to see the HTML for this page. Don't worry, not all web pages need to be this complex. Once you've created your page(s), you need to send them via FTP (see our related articles) to our server, where people can view them. Remember that the first page people are to see when they visit your site must be called index.html --- if it's called something else, then instead of your default site, visitors will see a list of files.

Some Notes on Design

Remember that you're designing a page for people to read. Goodd desine and speling doez mattur (See what we mean?). Read up on good web style; your site's visitors will thank you for it. We recommend the book "Creating Killer Web Sites", by Dave Siegel. It will show you what works and what doesn't when targeting the web community. You can visit the companion web site at www.killersites.com.

The rule to follow is that experimentation leads to knowledge.

Outside Resources

Here are some good resources for you to use in learning the basics of web design.

How do I set up a web site on the web?

To set up your website, you must do the following:

  • Secure webspace by signing up for a web hosting plan and either registering a new domain or transferring your existing domain to DreamHost.
  • Build your html web pages.
  • Send your html web pages to our servers via FTP (your main page should be called index.html)

Domain Registration means that you have paid for and are registered as owning a specific domain name, such as mycooldomain.com.

Domain Hosting means that you have paid a company, such as DreamHost, to store your html files on their server.

Transferring a domain means changing the registration information (DNS servers) to indicate where you would like your website hosted. To host a domain with DreamHost your DNS servers must be set to:

  • ns1.dreamhost.com 66.33.206.206
  • ns2.dreamhost.com 208.97.182.10
  • ns3.dreamhost.com 66.33.216.216

After signing up and being approved, you'll receive an email with your username and password and the name of the server you should connect to to upload your web site to via FTP.

Make sure your domain name is registered and working. If you told us to register it, you shouldn't have to do anything, it will begin to work within a day, or two at the most.

If you have a domain registered through someone else, you should make sure you have transferred its dns servers to us. You have to do this on your own; we cannot help with this (because you are the owner of the domain, not us!). Once your domain is registered or transferred to us, and you've FTPed your content to our servers, your site will be live on the Internet to anyone in the world who visits it!

How do I configure DreamHost's server to host my domain?

When [signing up] for DreamHost you're asked what the first domain is you'd like to host. If you've finished the signup process and received your welcome email then DreamHost is already done with their part of the process!

If you're trying to set up a second domain, you just need to add it from the Domain > Manage Domain area of the DreamHost Control Panel. You'll get an automatic email when DreamHost is finished configuring the server for the new domain!

Why do I get an empty directory listing where my website should be?

When you first get set up and your domain becomes active, your URL will most likely bring you to an empty directory listing page. This is because you haven't uploaded your site yet. To put something up there, you'll need to use an FTP program to send your page(s) to our server.

If you have uploaded your site, you need to create an index page. An index page can have whatever you want on it, but it must be called "index.html" (or "index.cgi" if it's a CGI program, or "index.htm", "index.php" and a few other default names). Calling the file "index.html" tells your visitors' browsers to open that page; otherwise, the browser will just show your file list.

How do I use FTP to upload my site?

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a very popular standard with which to upload and download files to and from computer to computer. Like most web hosts, we provide access to our servers via FTP.

Choose an FTP Client

Mac

For the Macintosh, you will probably want to look into one of the following FTP clients, which we recommend:

Windows

For Microsoft Windows-based PCs, you will find that the following programs are most popular, and are well supported with Dreamhost's servers (also note that most web-design software like and Dreamweaver have FTP built-in):

Other

There are dozens of FTP clients available for just about every operating system out there. For Linux, your command line FTP program is probably as good as any graphical client (then again, if you run Linux, you probably knew that). You can even find FTP clients for your PalmPilot, Mac OS X Server, and all sorts of other operating systems. If you need help finding one, let us know.

Set-up

Once you have downloaded an FTP program, we suggest that you read the documentation in order to become familiar with its capabilities. However, as most FTP clients function pretty much in the same fashion, you should find these instructions useful in getting started.

Once you have your FTP program open and running, you will still need to point it somewhere to upload files. You'll need to enter the 'hostname' of your site (often called a domain name or server, depending on the FTP program). For example, if your site is viewable at 'www.dreamhostrules.com', the hostname would simply be 'dreamhostrules.com'.

If your domain hasn't been set up yet (not registered or not transferred to DreamHost) you can still upload your site directly to your machine name temporarily. You should have gotten the name of your machine in a welcome email, it will be of the form machine.dreamhost.com.

Next, you'll probably be prompted for a username and password. These values should have been given to you when you first signed up. If you have any questions as to what they are, please feel free to ask.

You may also be asked for a starting directory. This tells the FTP client where to put you within the directory structure of your account. Almost all web sites need to go into a directory named after the domain they are hosted under, not in the root of the account! Although putting your files directly into the root directory will not break anything, this will certainly prevent you from seeing your site until you move them. For the starting directory setting, you should put in a value such as /dreamhostrules.com/ (assuming that was your domain name).

Using One-click installs

Another way to build a website at DreamHost, is to use a one-click install. You may want to learn more about the details before trying these, but they are an option to build something more glorious, faster and cheaper than even WYSIWYG environments (or not).

How do I get people to visit my website?

Once your site is up and running, you will still need to publicize it. Nobody will visit if they can't find you through a search engine or from another related site. Here are some ways to make this happen:

  • Visit each of the major search engines that you know about, and submit your URL. Most of these sites have a link called "submit your site," (or something like that) --- just click on the link and follow the directions. For the most part, the links are not placed prominently or noticeably --- try just searching for them! Some popular search engines include:
  • To make your site easier for the search engines to crawl and classify, consider adding some META tags to your index page. You can add general keywords that you think would interest people, and a short description.

META tags go between the <head> and </head> tags in your HTML code. META tags for a site about your Indonesian restaurant might look something like this:

<META NAME = "keywords" CONTENT= "restaurant, food, cuisine, Indonesian, rijstafel, vegetarian, cooking, vegetables, tofu">

<META NAME = "description" CONTENT= "Java Internationale of Amsterdam provides the best of traditional Indonesian dining in a relaxed atmosphere. Conveniently located along Singel, near Leidestraat.">

The "keywords" tag gives the search engine a way to classify your page. The "description" gives the search engine something coherent to put in the blurb that visitors will see on the search page, rather than the first few words that appear on the page, which would appear there by default.

On the other hand, just because you have a site doesn't mean you have to tell everyone about it - it's always good to have a place where you can experiment with learning HTML or creating web graphics.

Good luck!