Web Host Recommendation?

man-looking-at-websites-image-from-shutterstockWeb Host Recommendation? A reader asks…

I am a new small business owner, and want to put up a website. I’ve been doing some research and see that I can setup one using Weebly or Wix, and GoDaddy and Network Solutions have these website design tools that are supposed to be very easy to use. I don’t intend to sell anything online otherwise I’d just use shopify.com, but do want the flexibility to change things around on my website at will. Someone told me that WordPress was the best way to go. What do you think? I don’t have a lot of technical computer skills but can usually puzzle things out as long as they aren’t too complicated. I’d really like to get something up and running fairly quickly.

WordPress LogoLet me just say that WordPress powers over a third of the websites across the internet, so there’s a ton of resources to support it. The Weebly/Wix and other simple tools give you exactly that, simple controls. With that comes a lack of flexibility in terms of what you can do. You’re also limited in what you can do regarding website security – that’s becoming a big thing these days, websites are getting hacked left and right. I think you’ll get the best balance of capability/flexibility/security and ease of use with WordPress.

That said, your first two choices are going to be choosing a domain name and choosing a hosting service provider. In many cases, that can be the same organization. You mentioned GoDaddy and Network Solutions, and they are certainly viable hosts, but I would suggest you consider one or more of the top-rated website hosting service providers. Here’s my short list:

  1. siteground.com – outstanding service, lower cost, full featured (including email), says US based, but everybody appears to be from Eastern Europe
  2. inmotionhosting.com – outstanding service, not the cheapest, full featured (including email), US based company

By all means you can look further afield, these are just currently my top two favorites. I’m more concerned with customer service, reliability, and feature sets, so I’ve not listed any of the very-low-cost providers. These two can do double-duty as your domain name registration agent and your web hosting service provider. They both offer the best in customer service, and their platforms can easily support your Wordpress-powered website.

cpanel-sample-screenshotSo choose your domain name, choose your website hosting service provider, and you’ll get access to your “cPanel” for the hosting platform. From there you’ll almost certainly find a script to install WordPress. From that you’ll get a login URL and credentials (username and password) so you can get into the WordPress control panel and start building your website. There are tons of themes that you can overlay on top of WordPress which make the design part quite easy. Just find a theme you like and install it, then start customizing your site, populating it with your content (words and pictures). Your best bet is to look through themes on both WordPress.org and commercial sites (hint: do a web search on “wordpress themes”). Don’t forget to install plugins to give you the functionality you need. For example I suggest these:

  1. iThemes Security Pro for keeping your site secure from hackers and a host of other good security tools
  2. BackupBuddy for backing up the site and disaster recovery
  3. Mailpoet for generating email newsletters from your website content
  4. Bookly for having an online appointment generation capability

wordpressdotorg-plugins-page-screenshotThere are thousands of free themes and plugins available, plus there are thousands more of professionally developed and high quality themes and plugins (such as some of the plugins above) that can give your website the polish and functionality you desire. My suggestion is that you find a theme that looks good to you with the right colors and style. You can always change themes in the future pretty easily, so don’t think you have to find the perfect theme – just find one that is reasonably close to the look you want.

Don’t forget to also look in your hosting cPanel at the mail features and setup email services for the accounts you need. You can also setup email forwarders (either instead of or in addition to email accounts) – forwarders are simply an email address that automatically forwards the email onto an email account you specify. You will be much better off using email that shows your business off, rather than an email address that advertises someone else like gmail or aol. Did you know you can setup Gmail to use your domain address? Check out my article Stealth Gmail.

Email can still be a powerful tool for working with your clients/customers and getting new business. Speaking about that, you should also take a look at setting up your presence on social media like Facebook and Twitter, depending on your business focus of course.

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