Do-It-Yourself Website basics (Part 1)

15 Sep Do-It-Yourself Website basics (Part 1)

FTP, SMTP, HTTP, domain, host, server, registrar, ssl certificates: all of these are integral in the proper functioning of your website and it can be very confusing keeping them straight when maintaining your nonprofit associations’ website on your own.  The easiest way to go through these will be to go through some steps required to get a web presence.

Step one: Domain Name
First you will come up with a clever domain name.  These are of the form www.xyzassociation for example.  Once you have decided on the proper name you will need to find out if someone has already taken it.   One really easy way is to try and go that webpage in your browser.  If you get a “could not find” error message, no one owns that domain yet.  You may find webpages that appear to be nothing but ads with a message similar to “If you are interested in purchasing www.xyzassociation.com please click here”.  This means that someone else owns this domain but will sell it to you or rent it to you.

If your domain is not yet registered (owned by anyone else) you will need to find a domain name registrar to provide you with domain name registration services.  There are a few really large ones such as GoDaddy, eNom and Tucows; luckily, there are so many you will not have a hard time finding one. Prices will vary between them and be aware that your introductory rate will be the best rate you will receive for these services.  For this reason it may be a good idea to buy services that will last for a few years.

Once you have chosen a domain name registrar you will need to choose the extension or TLD (top-level domain).  These are the .com, .org, .info, .net etc. that you see at the end of all website addresses.  The most popular for non-profits and associations is .org, however it does not mean that the registered owner of the domain is a non-profit or association.  Interestingly any domain that is 5 letters or shorter is considered a premium domain name and may cost more (if it’s still available).

Many individuals will opt to purchase domain registration services for their preferred domain name and a few other popular extensions and similar derivations of their name.  For example:
www.xyzassociation.com
www.xyzassociation.org
www.xyzgroup.org
www.xyzgroup.com
You get the idea.

No two people or companies can be registered for the same domain name.  This is very important, especially for the non-profit and association world.  If the person registered to your organizations domain name with the domain registrar leaves the organization or passes away it will be very difficult to change domains, renew your domain or anything similar.  This means you need to register the domain to someone who is active in the organization for the long term and ensure that someone has their login credentials or security questions secured somewhere in case they cannot make the necessary changes themselves.

It’s hard to over-emphasize how important it is to have these domain registration items kept in good order.  If your registration expires, after a certain period the public is able to register for your domain name and take your site from you.  This is also why it is important that more than one trusted person has access to the login credentials for your domain registrar.