Domain Names, Your Digital Address
Jun201402

If you are reading this page, chances are you are using the Internet to do so; but how did you get here? You might have followed a link from another site or search engine, or even directly typed the page’s address in the URL bar at the top of your web browser. Regardless of how it was done, each process involves a key ingredient: the domain name.

 

How the Domain Name Navigates the Series of Tubes

Okay, so maybe the Internet is not necessarily made up of tubes, but you get the point — how is it that all we have to do is type in a domain name and we are instantly transported to a piece of net real estate?

The domain name, as I have mentioned above, is very similar in function to an address, as for a physical place. That exact string of letters and numbers (perhaps even symbols!) represents a distinct location that corresponds to an IP (Internet Protocol) address. All sites have an IP address, because they are all hosted on physical servers somewhere, and the domain name is simply a user-friendly interpretation of that IP address. It’s easier to remember a string of words like “yoursite” than an 8+ string of digits.

Who runs all of this domain name stuff, though? The answer is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, perhaps more fondly known as ICANN. This corporation handles the responsibility of managing domain names at their highest levels in the DNS, aka the Domain Name System.

The Domain Name System is integral to the user-friendly functioning of the Internet, serving a purpose that is not so different from that of a phonebook, or a switchboard operator. The DNS translates the human readable domain name into its corresponding IP address, and allows even the least tech-savvy of users to find their way to the site they wish to visit. Without the Domain Name System to facilitate our connections, the Internet might be a much more barren place today.

 

Know the Difference Between a URL and a Domain Name

But hey, what about all of that extra stuff on a domain name, right? When you type in an address, there is usually more to it, like “http://” and often too many forward-slashes. That peripheral stuff is actually not part of the domain name, believe it or not. The domain name is simply the address the owner chose for it, followed by the correct TLD (Top Level Domain) suffix like “.com” and “.net” and .”edu” — the list goes on. Now put all of these parts together, and you have got a URL
At its most basic levels, one can split the URL into three distinct and important parts:

  • Protocol: We often see “http://” but other types, like “ftp://” do exist.
  • Domain name: This is the unique address that directs users to a site.
  • File directory: More specific information about what exact file to bring up from that site.

Example: “google.com” is a domain name, one that will take you to the leading search engine Google. “http://www.google.com” is a URL, and will also take you to Google’s page.

 

What is a Top Level Domain suffix, or TLD?

As I mentioned above, the domain name is more than just a name chosen by the owner of the site. There is a suffix appended to that name, the most well-known of which is “.com”. There’s quite a few others on the list, however, and you can use these TLD suffixes to distinguish the purpose of your site — though many site owners use suffixes like “.org” and “.net” to represent sites unrelated to those categories.
Here is a list of some of the most used top level domain suffixes hosted on ICANN’s Domain Name System (DNS):

  • .com: commercial
  • .org: non-profit organization
  • .net: network
  • .edu: education
  • .gov: government

If you desire a specific domain name, you may find yourself out of luck, especially if it is on the .com domain. Let us refer to the address metaphor, where the domain name is akin to an address for a physical location. Of course, the contents of the reality is important, but it certainly does not decide the price. As they say, it’s all about location, location, location! Similarly, while a site’s content can help improve the value, it’s often the value of the address that sets the bar.

So, entrepreneurs and amateurs alike began to buy up any domain name which had potential resell value. If you choose a unique domain name, even at the .com TLD, you should not have to pay too much because there has obviously been little interest in that particular domain name. Try for something that has already been grabbed up, and you will discover that the price shoots up quickly, especially if the name is generic.

My best advice: if you want a specific domain name, you may have to be willing to compromise on the TLD. Getting “yoursite.net” or “yoursite.org” may be better than settling for “your-site-92.com”, the latter of which would flounder in search results. Be flexible!

 

Subdomains, or How to Piggyback New Domains on Your Old Ones

Say you own a successful site, and you want to expand that site to include more pages, or sub-sites. Maybe you’re a painter, but you like to dabble in pottery, too. Perhaps you have a small franchise, and want to distinguish each individual store’s page while still remaining on one main site. This is where subdomains come in, and utilizing them can be handy in your site’s ultimate success.

Paying for a whole new domain name to run your separate site on can be a hassle, and certainly does not help the checkbook. It is even worse if that separate site is related to, or even a subset of, your main site. Such a site could benefit from sharing a popular, well-known domain name, and you can do so by adding that site as subdomain.

Instead of making “newsite.com”, you can go for “newsite.yoursite.com”! You should read your hosting provider’s help pages to find out exactly how to do this for your own sites, but it is a fairly simple process for site owners.

Shared Hosting, and What it Means for You
May201427

Not every person or business can afford to spend the kind of dough required to set up a fully personal server for their website(s). In fact, most personal and small business websites are not even hosted on their own personal servers, but rather share a space on a collective server with perhaps dozens or even hundreds of other sites and renters. This is where the name ‘shared hosting’ comes from. Shared hosting is also known by a variety of other names, which include such monikers as ‘virtual hosting,’ ‘shared services,’ or ‘derive host.’

 

How Does it Work?

The reason shared hosting works is that it plays on the idea that most websites will not generate enough incoming traffic or tie up enough server resources to become an issue for other sites on the same shared server. In reality, the hosting service providers almost always provide more than enough resources to run all of the features on all of the sites sharing that server. Since they only have to pay for a single server, service providers make a sweet profit off of partitioning the server up for sale in pieces.

So sure, maybe it’s a bit cheaper if you choose to go for a shared hosting plan — but is it worth it, compared against the more extensive capabilities of a full, private server for your site to get all the space, power, and throttling it needs? Believe it or not, the answer is almost always yes! Shared hosting is incredibly economical, and unless you expect thousands of visitors a month using intensive widgets on your site, shared hosting will cover your needs.

For the sake of education, though, let’s go over the pros and cons of utilizing hosting on a shared server versus personal private servers so that you, or your business, can make the most qualified decision on the matter.

 

Resources Are Not Infinite

Contrary to what seems to be popular belief among amateur and even experienced website owners trying to host their website on shared servers, you do not have infinite resources with which to run your site. Your bandwidth, for one, is most definitely throttled at a certain point to save bandwidth for the other sites on your collective server. This means high-traffic, high-data pages and sites will feel an even steeper effect if a bandwidth cap kicks in — though unless your site is particularly large, you should not see any issues here.

Unfortunately, you are not the only one who can cause a ruckus in the collective resource. Anyone involved could easily overstep their bounds and take up too much of the disk space and bandwidth for their own personal site, leaving the well dry for any visitors who may find your site. This is an issue that does not occur often, or even for very long, but it is important to remember that such a possibility is always lurking.

If your site is the one that is hogging all the resources, though, you might be required to upgrade your hosting service to a more expensive plan so as to compensate for your site’s usage. In such a case, it would probably be better for you to consider the possibility of renting your own private, personal server, which will impose little-to-no restrictions on the growth of your site.

 

Wide Selection Range

The number of shared hosting providers in the U.S. by itself reaches into the thousands, and they encompass small family enterprises looking to sell off partitions on their rented servers all the way up to corporate web hosters with giant, professional server farms. This is good news for the customer, opening up a wide selection of available choices to fit your website and shared server needs.

Your first option should be a cursory search on Google or Bing to see if you can find a big name in the shared hosting game. Some popular companies that offer quality service at an affordable price include HostGator, iPage, Fatcow, Justhost, and Bluehost, but that is certainly not all you will find. Here is a preview of the competitive prices for popular shared host providers:

 

HostGator

All HostGator hosting services come standard with unlimited disk space, unlimited bandwidth, and even a shared SSL certificate.

Hatchling Plan: $2.48/mo. (Single domain)

Baby Plan: $3.98/mo. (Unlimited domains)

Business Plan: $6.48/mo. (Private SSL/IP and toll number)

 

iPage

The shared hosting on iPage is priced with special promotions that change every other day. The lowest prices range from $12 a year to 42$ a year depending on promotion.

 

Fatcow

They offer one and only simple shared hosting plan that is a set price of $44.04 every single day.

 

Specific Features

This step is all that will be needed for 99% of people and businesses looking for shared server hosting, but what if you want specialized service? What if you need a personalized plan that matches the sort of company or style you want your brand to convey? First, figure out what features you will require from your hosting services.

Then, there are a few options you can stay on the look out for in your search: online control panel, many OS options, support for several programming languages, MySQL and more for databases, and even customer support, all of which can make or break a shared host provider’s level of quality.

Also, be sure to consider the disadvantages in general to renting space on a shared server. There will always be limited storage space, and especially limited space to expand if necessary. Even if the site selling the services claims unlimited disk space and / or bandwidth, remember that there is always an upper limit.
If you consider yourself a “power user” (i.e., you need more control over your server), you may find this particular method of hosting can often be a nuisance. Those who are less technical, which is most of us, will find this option the be the most practical. Keep all these tips in mind and you should have no problems in choosing the best shared hosting services for your needs without spending too much at all!

How to Build a Website
May201407

A website is like a plot of land in the vast universe of the Internet, akin to real estate upon which you can build ceaselessly with the sky as your limit. Your domain name, a.k.a. the URL, is the address to this virtual real estate, and visiting this location requires nothing from the viewer but typing in that address and hitting enter.

The best part is, there’s bajillions of plots in the infinite undiscovered abyss of the World Wide Web, waiting for adventurous souls like you to stake a claim and start something! I bet you’re telling yourself, “Easier said than done!” right now, am I right? So the question is, how do you go about crafting a webpage of your own?

Luckily, there exists many sites and services out there to build, or assist you in building, a website. Of course, taking this route means that you will have to relinquish some control of your site to the builder app, but it’s by far the most solid option for beginners trying to get a foothold in the digital world. You may even come to find that builder apps and services are actually more suited to your style!

 

Method #1: Website Building Services

When it comes to site builders, there’s an impressively diverse number of services to choose from. You also have to decide whether or not you want to build something like a blog, which is usually quite personal and sees content added post by post on a regular basis, or something more like a regular, static site, which is updated at your discretion. Once you’ve figured out the format, you can pick the site builder you want to use:

 

Blogs

For those who wish to start a blog, check out WordPress and Blogger. Advanced bloggers will find working with WordPress best, thanks to a plethora of options available. Customization on WordPress can be quite in-depth, though that sort of serious precision will require some learning or experience. For the unitiated, WordPress works on two basic elements, the first being themes, and the second being plugins.

Themes on WordPress can be installed at the click of your mouse, changing the entire look and feel of your page. There is a fairly wide variety of free themes to choose from, and you can always opt-in for premium templates for a fee. To expand on these themes and templates, however, you will need to utilize the plugin system. Tens of thousands of plugins exist, from nav bars to page optimization to user databases — you name it, there’s probably a plugin for it.

For total newbies, or those people who don’t want to deal with complicated design tools, Blogger is by far the preferable choice. Owned and run by the good people at Google, the Blogger service can put a respectable site online in a few minutes, and you can tweak the design to your preferences. Crafty users will find lots of useful tools and settings in the “Layout” and “Template” sections, like changing the background to a custom image or choosing a different font design/size.

 

Other

To build a regular website that you update at your discretion, take a look at Webs.com. You will find that Webs is one of the most versatile and popular site builders out today, used by everyone from kids in their moms’ basements to professional business entities. If you want simple, you got it — but sites on Webs can also be finely tuned to your needs. Best of all, much of their services are free, though you can always pay a rather small fee to get exclusive tools.

If Webs.com doesn’t really fit your type, then try Weebly. This free online website creator utilizes easy, drag-and-drop design tools to put your site together in no time. Just choose the widget you want to add, and then drag it to where you want it to be on your site. Customize to your liking, and that’s all there is to it. This simplicity is exactly why so many users have been coming to Weebly to publish their websites.

Lastly on our list of website builders is Wix.com, which is a cloud-based site builder that also makes good use of drag-and-drop tools. Wix.com doesn’t have as many free options as its counterparts, opting instead for premium options that allow many of its users to put together top-grade sites. This site builder is based on HTML5, but you don’t need to know a single line of code to get a professional website running (which is a pretty sweet deal).

 

Method #2: Learn To Code!

Learn to code? Are you cra–” Now hold on, before you call me crazy, let me just say that you don’t have to go to some internet college to get a degree in computer science, or even really learn advanced coding. Hell, you don’t even have to learn more than one or two languages if you use the right tools. If you’re willing to fork up a small payment for domain name and web hosting services (e.g., something like GoDaddy or HostGator), you can just build the site yourself.

The best part of learning to code is that all of the tools are free, thanks to the open-source nature of true ‘code monkeys.’ Even the most cursory Google search will turn up resources by the thousands, but here’s one reliable and professional source: CodeSchool.com, which has a learning path for HTML and CSS (the languages most used in site building). If you get even a reasonable grasp of HTML alone, you will find that making simple pages is a breeze.

CSS in addition serves to improve your page’s styling. If you want to design your page, you’re going to need to learn CSS. Luckily, both HTML and CSS are easy languages to learn, and you can get going in a relatively short period of time. As always though, practice makes perfect, so spend time working on your coding skills to make a truly great site!

How to Speed Up Your Webpage
Apr201405

Do you need to know how to speed up your website? That’s good — everyone knows that the first step is recognizing that you have a problem! Now, we can take steps to fix your slowly-loading web page with a few simple adjustments to your page layout. Not-so-deep in your website HTML and CSS code is where most of the problems breed, turning your digital magnum opus into no more than a sluggish slop of a web page.

This guide will help you squash those pesky download times, teaching you how to speed up your website with just several easy tips that you can implement today. If you follow these steps, you should see a significantly quicker page load time, and happier site visitors!

 

End directory URLs with a forward slash

One of the simplest improvements you can make is to ensure that all of your directory links have a URL that ends with a “/” forward slash. That’s it. It may seem a bit small to have an real effect on your site, but by adding the forward slash you allow the server to instantaneously figure out that it is indeed a directory link, and not the URL to a file.

 

Example: <a href=”http://www.example.com/directory/”>

 

Remove unnecessary characters & comments

Another easy task that will make your site that much faster is to remove/delete as many unused characters as you can, including those that appear in the comment tags. Such characters include white spaces and line returns, as well. These unnecessary characters take up an entire byte of data each, which can add up to quite a problem in the long run.

That means a comment with several sentences in it can hog a whole kilobyte of data to itself; imagine the speed of a page with a hoard of such comments. You can compress your file-size by as much as a tenth of its original size by following this step alone, and getting rid of the textual fluff in your code.

 

Delete useless META tags & content

META tags have always been popular among the search engine optimization (SEO) group, though their recent value has dipped significantly. Once upon a time, they were useful for displaying keywords and description tags to search engines like Google, who would then use this info to aid in their ranking of the site. Abuse by site owners to game the rankings has since devalued META content harshly, and your site’s speed would be much better off deleting unnecessary tags/content and reducing kept META content to 200 characters of less each.

 

Relative vs. absolute call ups

When you call up a URL in your page code, it is very likely that you are using the “absolute” method, in which the URL is typed out entirely. This helps to avoid confusion for most, and is easily editable without causing a cascade of issues across the site’s internal linkage, but it isn’t the most efficient way to link. Relative call ups allow for a much more precise shorthand, which also means less data used.
Example: Instead of “<a href=”www.example.com/directory/file.jpg>” you could also type “<a href=”/directory/file.jpg”>”

 

Group “class” attributes into a single tag

Applying CSS to specific elements can be a trouble as you copy and paste your “class” attribute into each necessary tag — the total number of which could be in the dozens, or even hundreds. Luckily, you can quite literally nip this problem at the bud by using contextual selector tags like “<div>” and “<span>” to group selections of elements that would otherwise be unwieldy (and quite space-consuming). You can then apply all style modifications to that div/span class, instead of individually to specific elements, clearing out a mess of useless characters.

 

Example:

(HTML)

<div class=”redtext”>

<p>Example of red text #1</p>

<p>Example of red text #2</p>

<p>Example of red text #3</p>

</div>

===

(CSS)

.redtext p

{

color: #f00

}

 

Optimizing CSS for vanity images

Images are notoriously slow to load compared to their textual brethren, but that doesn’t mean you have to let images bog your site down. The wonders of CSS allow site builders many options with which to improve their page load speed in the imagery department, one of which is calling up decorative/vanity images through CSS. Say you have image1.png, which is 150×150 pixels (a nice square); you can use CSS to load that image after your text, which means visitors don’t have to wait for the image to load first:

(HTML)

<div class=”css-image”></div>

===

(CSS)

.css-image

{

background: url(image1.png);

width: 150px;

height: 150px

}

You can also save on loading times when you replace simple text-oriented images, like buttons and banners, with CSS versions. The CSS versions are not really images themselves, technically, but a juxtaposition of various styling elements that comes together to produce the facsimile of an image.

 

Don’t use tables for layout! Use CSS!

Are you using HTML tables to style your page’s layout? Well, let me stop you right there — using tables in place of real CSS styling is one of the biggest rookie mistakes site coders make. Talk to any coder and you’ll get the same response: Don’t use tables for layout! Period. Browsers have to parse tables twice (once for structure, once for content), when CSS is usually much more instantaneous.

Another issue is that tables won’t load any part until the entire deal is rendered, and browers must re-load tables every new visit. CSS code can be lumped up into a single document that is stored in the user’s cache for future reference, which puts CSS way ahead of the game in download time.

 

Take advantage of CloudFlare’s page optimization

CloudFlare is hands down one of the best tools out there to improve your website, in more ways than just download speeds. When you put your page on the internet, it is left naked and open to any incoming traffic, regardless of whether or not it is legitimate, mechanical, or malignant. When you sign up for CloudFlare, your site is protected by the globally distributed cloud of networks through which visitors are routed before being sent to your site.

This re-routing is practically unnoticeable, and it will keep hackers, spammers, and otherwise malicious entities from gaining complete access to your site (which they could abuse to slow down your page for others, or worse). You won’t need to download or install anything, and you don’t even have to bother with code. All that is required is a small tweak to your domain’s DNS, and you’re set!

You don’t need to be told that your page’s loading speed is important, and neither do your visitors. If you want the best in the biz to get your site running smoothly irrespective of those who would cause your page harm, then you need the speed and security of CloudFlare. Just don’t forget to put to use all of the aforementioned tools for page-loading success!

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