Starting a Website!

My First Post

I’m so excited to finally have my own website and brand! The first step towards big things to come. This is just a brief description of what the last couple days have involved with getting a website set up. I’ll try to explain how I made some of my decisions, what resources worked and which didn’t, and maybe somebody can benefit from my experience!

I started it all right from here!

Buying a Domain Name

I spent all of five minutes deciding on a company name. Having very little notion of what direction this little brand is going, I just decided to make it generic. Fortunately, nobody was sitting on this name. I did trademark and copyright searches, confirmed that nobody was using it on gmail, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and nobody was using the coveted ‘.com’ domain name. I established placeholder accounts on social media sites and then started looking into how to buy a domain name. A couple different services came to the forefront after my research: GoDaddy, Google Domains, Amazon Web Services, and the service I ended up using: NameCheap. They all provide extremely similar services as far as purchasing domains; the differences arise from how easily you’re able to integrate site hosting and email hosting, and maybe some other features that matter even less to me. NameCheap was the least expensive and had all the features I needed. Ten dollars and a few minutes later I became the proud owner of www.thebrandofben.com for a year.

Hosting the Website

Netlify, Amazon’s native service, Google’s native service, self-hosting my website, or any of the hundreds of other hosts out there? I decided on Github Pages. Free hosting, reliable servers, easy to track and revert changes. What’s the trade-off? It’s a static site host, so I can’t use many powerful server tools that come alongside a database focused content management system (CMS). I also won’t be able to use the wildly popular WordPress or SquareSpace with their highly developed user interfaces, user and browser experiences, and extensive customization options. But, by opting for the static site, I have fewer security vulnerabilities, faster browsing speed, and low upkeep. Github Pages also made it very easy to set up routing for my domain and has HTTPS/SSL support integrated free of cost.

Mail Hosting

It’s very cool (and very professional) to have an email address at your own site, like bshort@thebrandofben.com. But what if I want to be able to send from newsletter@thebrandofben.com? Or I want to get opinions by receiving at feedback@thebrandofben.com? From my admittedly limited research, it appeared that companies charge $2.50-$4.00 per month per account. I don’t expect to be using ‘contact’ or ‘info’ or ‘support’ often enough for that to make sense, but I’d like to have those options available to send or receive from.

The reason my research wasn’t extensive is because I quickly found that Zoho has a mail hosting service. I’ve used Zoho Sheets and Zoho Projects as part of the Zoho office suite and been blown away by the functionality of their offerings. As soon as I saw that Zoho Mail had a free mail hosting option, I pulled the trigger. And I’m glad I did! They made the fairly technical process of setting up mail routing very easy, and they allowed me to make various aliases to send and receive emails. They also support 2-factor authentication and the mail service is well integrated with the rest of their office suite. Can’t say enough good things about my experience with Zoho.

Making a Website!

This is where I ran into trouble. I don’t know anything about graphic design or anything but the most rudimentary HTML and CSS. My JavaScript skills are laughable at best! But Github Pages is affiliated with a program called Jekyll, and they tout it as being able to set up in no time!

The Static Site Generator Dead Ends

Uh oh. Turns out it uses Ruby. I haven’t seen a glimpse of this programming language before. I decided to download it, give it a try, and see if I can get something workable going while learning on the fly. It was quickly clear that I wouldn’t be able to have a serviceable site deployed in, well, the amount of time I was willing to spend to get one started. What else do people use?

Hugo seemed to drum up a lot of enthusiasm online. Looking at their showcase, I was very impressed by what people were able to do with a static HTML site. But as I looked for alternatives, I found an option I thought would suit my needs even better.

WordPress to Generate a Static Site

Some absolute saints have developed plugins for WordPress that allow you to create a website, then convert it to static HTML pages, and host those however you see fit. After a botched attempt at local hosting using XAMPP, I was able to get a local hosting environment set up using WAMP. This allows me to test and develop the database-driven WordPress site on my own computer, then deploy a static version to Github Pages. This option severely diminishes the features available, but allows enough customization and aesthetic optimization to suit my needs perfectly well.

And finally!

The finished product is what you’re currently browsing!

I have big dreams and high hopes for this little website and brand new company. I can’t wait to share more of my projects and develop my brand with the skill-set and values that are important to me.
I hope that the information here interests or helps somebody and I hope you stay in touch to see what’s next for the Brand of Ben!

If you have any questions about the process or if you would like any help starting your own website, feel free to reach out to me at ben@thebrandofben.com or use the form on the contact page.

Feedback is also greatly appreciated! Positive or negative, it all helps moving forward. Again, feel free to email or fill out the contact form.