Finding a Web Host and Creating a Site

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Here's an early sample from the Web for All Tutorials in which Jim consults the Guru and finds out his best options for creating a website.

Jim: I’d like to create a website for my lemonade stand. How do I get started?
Guru: The easiest way is to use an online site builder. For a quick solution, try the free Google Sites or for a more modern look. However, if you want more control to edit everything, you should use a tool that lets you deal with the actual HTML.

Jim: Yes, I’d like to have full control. Can you explain what exactly HTML is?
Guru: Every web page is made up of HTML. The HTML marks the different elements of a page, such as headings and paragraphs. To create a web page, you can just upload your HTML file to a web server.

Jim: What’s a web server and how do I get one?
Guru: A web server can simply be a computer connected to the internet that serves web pages and files to other computers that request it. In practice, you’ll want to get a web host to host your web pages on their web servers.

Jim: OK, How do I get a web host?
Guru: Well that depends, do you want a static web host or dynamic one?

Jim: Damnit, I don’t know, what's the difference?
Guru: A static web host just serves web files to those that request it, but doesn’t do any computing on its own side (on the back-end). A dynamic web host can do stuff first, such as running code or accessing a database.

Jim: So which one do I need?
Guru: If you just wanted a simple site with only HTML files, you could use a static web host. Do you want to create any other sites besides for your lemonade stand?

Jim: Well, I’d also like to experiment with a startup idea I have that will demolish Facebook.
Guru: Then you’ll want a dynamic web host so you can run applications on the backend. You can also use web-based tools for editing your lemonade stand site, so you don’t need to edit all the HTML on your computer. So just pick a good dynamic host and get started.

Jim: OK, how do I pick a web host?
Guru: You have 2 general choices to go with: shared hosting or PAAS (Platform-As-A-Service) hosting. Which do you want?

Jim: PAAS my AAS! I just want a website already. I don’t know what these terms mean.
Guru: Patience grasshopper. Remember web servers? Well your little site doesn’t need a whole web server. So shared hosting puts a whole bunch of sites on 1 web server. PAAS or Cloud hosting does the same thing, but in a smarter way so you can easily scale up. Also, some PAAS hosts are free initially.

Jim: So why the hell wouldn’t I go with a PAAS host?
Guru: Shared hosting offers some tools, such as one-click app installations, that can be useful for beginner web creators.

Jim: Since I’m going to be the next Facebook, I need to scale up. So I’ll take a PAAS. Where can I get a free one that’s still easy to use?
Guru: OpenShift is a good PAAS that provides a generous free tier. In fact, it may be better than many paid shared hosting options (but without the support).

Jim: Finally an answer! So now that I have a web host, what do I do with it?
Guru: Well, you can start by installing Wordpress on it (in a couple clicks) so you have a quick site. Later we can look at other alternatives, including completely static options.

Jim: If I’m going to use Wordpress, wouldn’t it be easier to just
Guru: Yes, but then you couldn’t customize it how you want. By installing your own Wordpress site, you can easily install thousands of plugins and themes for free.

This is a sample of some early content from the Web for All tutorials. Check out the Kickstarter page for more on the full tutorials, which will include challenges and cartoons.

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