class is over: what next?

When looking at your sites, everyone says the same thing: These are all viable ideas.

They really are. Whether they’re viable big or viable small, they’re all viable. These sites are yours. You created them. If you want to take them to the next level–turn them into something even more amazing–it is up to you now. There are essentially three things that would need to happen to turn this from a class project into an actual website:

1) Buy a domain name. That’s the first step to a “real” site: being able to type the site name into the browser and there it is. No more messing around with group numbers and subdomains of the j-incubator.net site (soon to be upgraded and pretty at the root level, by the way). Domains cost anywhere from $15 a year to totally free, depending on where you buy from and the plan you choose. There are literally hundreds of places you can buy your domain name from. Many are shady, some are good. One thing: You may not be able to get your domain that you’ve been talking about all semester. Roll with that punch and rename your site if you need to.

Cheapest is GoDaddy, who are huge and corporate and I hear good things and bad things about them all the time. Your mileage may vary.

I buy my domains from DirectNIC, but don’t host with them. They do offer hosting plans. Now that I think about it, I don’t know why I don’t host with them. But I don’t.

For one-stop shopping (we’ll get to why that’s useful in a second), I recommend BlueHost. That’s who hosts the j-incubator site, and who’s hosting more and more of the projects I’m working on (for instance, whatifwewon.com is hosted there).

1) Find a web host. Your free ride is over folks, sorry. You’ll have to pay for hosting your site. When doing so, there are a couple things to consider. The first is storage space. You want a good amount of space. But remember, they tend to offer storage in the gigabytes, and you’re still in the megabyte realm, so anything should be fine for now. More important is bandwidth: the amount they’ll charge for information to move to and out of your site. This can cost significant amounts if you go over (kind of like cell minutes). However, bigger places, like BlueHost, are starting to offer unlimited plans for everything.

More to consider–and this is really about how confident you are in your abilities (you’ll learn! fast! really!!) is how much hand holding a site offers in terms of setup, configuration, etc. There are fancy things you have to do to attach a hosting site to a domain name (called DNS settings), and if you don’t feel up to it, you want to make sure you’re buying from the same place you’ll be hosting with. That’s why I recommended BlueHost. They do a good job of hooking everything up, and have a very complete control panel for setting up e-mail addresses, along with various dodads and whatnots.

3. Move your site. Most hosts can migrate a preexisting site to their servers. Since the j-incubator is on BlueHost, again, this should be very painlessly easy. However, this is something that I’ll probably have to assist with, because I’ll have to give permission for the move, but I am VERY VERY VERY happy to help.

4. (OK, four steps apparently). Once you’re on your own server with your own domain, you’re as “real” a site as anyone else. You’ll be able to set up e-mail addresses, do MUCH more configuration than you could before, and make real mistakes that have real consequences. You will learn to not be afraid of FTP. You will learn a lot about configuring the backend of a site–you’ll learn some basic database skills, for instance. You will learn a lot. So: Do not be afraid!! You have all learned so much. You can learn anything.

All that said, I’m happy to help with anything else as well. Just drop a line. You know how to reach me.

Good luck, and thanks for a wonderful semester.

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