My Website Structure and Setup Guide
If you’ve read earlier articles or my about page then you know I got started in data science. Primarily using Python and a bit of R just to see how another language worked. I felt restricted with the options to share my work so I got set up with WordPress.
I wasn’t long before I started to feel restricted again so I decided to take some time out and do it properly. This lead me to full stack web development and I have never looked back.
Here are the 4 main services/ tools I use;
WordPress for the blog portion of my site.
SiteGround for hosting. UPDATE - I now use Amazon S3
Namecheap for domain name registration.
The structure of most sites that I built include a HTML home page that is designed to be attractive and give users information I think they should know. This home page usually has links to the about and contact page if I haven’t included that information on the homepage. I would also have a link to the blog.
If you don’t know already, here’s an outline of basic static page web development.
A Note on WordPress
The blogs are usually built using WordPress, I wrote an article on why web developers should use WordPress if you are interested. An outline is that it saves time and allows me to focus on other things like marketing, writing content and SEO.
Domain Name Registration and Web Hosting
When you want to create a website with your own domain name, you need 2 things. A domain name and hosting.
A domain name is the address you see in the browser bar, campbelldatascience.com for this site. The .com part is the domain name extension and you pay for each one individually on a subscription basis which renews yearly. I also own the .co.uk domain to prevent anyone from setting up a similar site and confusing my clients. There are many extensions to choose from and I usually go for .com and .co.uk. These are what people are most familiar with other than .net and .org and .gov.
I register with Namecheap. I like their user interface and I have never had any problems.
Web hosting is the place where your site lives. Hosting service providers have vast amounts of storage that they divide and sell to users. There are many different types of hosting plans based on your needs. I use a type that lets me install WordPress and host unlimited websites.
I got the GrowBig plan from SiteGround and bought 2 years to take advantage of the introductory offer.
Making a Decision
Once everything is set up, it is pretty straight forward from there. The hard part as someone doing this for the first time is the choice of which service providers to go with. I know because I was in that position and put off making a decision for a long time. I even tried free services like blogger and the free tier wix for a while.
Eventually I thought I need to take this seriously if I am going to get anywhere so I went paid.
Why I chose Namecheap?
Namecheap wasn’t actually my first choice. I went with 123-reg. The search for a good domain registrar wasn’t that stressful. Each had similar reviews and the prices didn’t vary too much. They all offer multiple domain name extensions and as I mentioned before, I just go with the .co.uk and .com for each domain name I buy.
I bought my first domain name through 123-reg and when it was time to buy another for a different site, I decided to browse and read some more reviews. It was the same thing as before where there was no definitive answer. Everyone likes different things and there didn’t seem to be too much variance between them.
I wanted to try something different and ended up finding Namecheap. There were a few things that stood out and one was that their site design is really good. I thought that if they put this much effort into getting the appearance of their site right, they might also put a lot of effort into their service.
After giving Namecheap a chance that first time, now I buy all my domains through them. I’m familiar with it, I like the way the site looks, their service is easy to use and I’ve never had any issues at all.
Should I buy the domain and hosting together?
You might have noticed that most web hosting providers offer a free domain name when you sign up. I would recommend Ignoring this and not using it. In web development, it is good practice to remain as flexible as possible. Some people have no problem registering both with the same company for ease and convenience.
I think that once you register both with one company, they have a stronger hold on you. When your hosting is due to expire, you should shop around and see what other companies offer around the web. If you have both registered to one company, it can be a more of a daunting task to get both your domain name and hosting switched.
In short, aim to register your domain name with one company and keep it there. Aim to register your hosting with a different company that specialises in hosting. Be flexible and don’t be afraid to shop around for a different hosting provider when your plan is due to expire.
Which domain name extension(s) should I get?
I’ll give you a quick overview of the process of choosing a domain name. Think about what your site is about and write down a few ideas for your site based around this. Go on a domain name registrar like Namecheap and try your ideas.
Check to see if the .com and .co.uk versions are available. I normally get both, decide on the main one for my site and set up domain forwarding. This just means if someone types the .co.uk version of my site into the browser, they get sent to .com.
Not everyone does this but is a good way of making sure users don’t get confused and you don’t miss out on any extra traffic.
I then pick the my favourite available name out of the bunch of those available. The next step is to go through the checkout and purchase the domain names.
Hard Time Choosing a Domain Name?
If you are really stuck for a name and really want a simple one, go for a different domain name extension. Sometimes people register domain names and don’t upload a website. Possibly to make a profit, or they just never got around to making the site.
I suggest using a different domain name extension that suits your site but search the .co.uk and .com to see what is on these sites. If they are just holding pages good. If they are similar to what you have planned or something you really don’t want any chance of association with your brand then consider something else.
Domain Hosting Registration Add ons
You will see lots of options for buying add ons. My advice is not to buy any. These things change every year and as a beginner it can be hard to tell if you need any extras. Some of them can sound really convincing but just ignore them.
What is Whois icann - Domain privacy?
When you register a a domain name, you give some personal information. This is stored on a database. People might want to contact site owners for various reasons such as to purchase your domain. They can use the lookup service to browse the database and get hold of your personal information.
One of the things I really like about name cheap is that they offer WhoisGuard which protects your information. The best part is that it is free ‘for everyone forever’. Just type ‘whoisguard free’ into the name cheap browser to see for yourself.
Domain privacy is just one of the hurdles I had to jump when I set up my first domains. It slowed me down as I spent days reading about whether I just buy it or not. You don’t have to worry about that because it is now just a part of their service.
Why I chose SiteGround?
The choice of which hosting provider to go with was the hardest to make. It is the part that requires the most financial commitment. Like I said, once I got past trying to do everything for free, it made the process easier.
I did some research on hosting services and a few names came up then I narrowed those to the ones supported WordPress. These were Bluehost and SiteGround. Both seemed to offer similar services at a similar price but SiteGround stood out because a lot of people praised their customer service and scalability.
The only real downside I could find is that the price goes up after the special signing up offer. To help put this off, I decided I would go sign up for 2 years instead of 1. This was my first experience with paid hosting and I felt like I was taking a risk . I didn’t know what to expect but I can honestly say I am 100% happy with my choice. Now I host multiple websites using one SiteGround GrowBig plan.
I also find that uploading pages I have coded myself using HTML is really easy. SiteGround uses a system that gives you a range of tools. You can view databases, add a SSL certificate (which gives you the https prefix), browse files, view traffic data and all sorts of other things.
Advanced Hosting Providers
As a note, I have tried GitHub and Heroku for tests and web applications. While these are amazing tools and very useful for my work, I find they are more of an advanced so I don’t often recommend them.
Hopefully, you know a bit more about setting up a website with a custom domain as a data scientist or programmer. I’m also hoping I’ve taken away some of the fear and confusion around the subject. The truth is that you won’t know if it works for you until you try it.
I want to try out some different hosting companies in the future just to experiment, for now though I am very happy with what I have.
If you want to know more about setting up your site after you have your domain name and hosting then stay tuned for future articles. If you can’t wait just get in touch. After all, a big part of what I do is web development.Go back to the homepage