Websites 101 – a primer on how the internet works
To launch a website you’ll need to secure your own corner of the world-wide-web so your site can take its place amongst the 650 million others. Think of it a bit like the phone network – you pay a monthly charge in order to be connected to the ethereal ‘network’, and you have your own phone number so that people know exactly where in the network to find you. Similarly – You pay a monthly/quarterly/annual fee to a web host in exchange for them connecting your website to ‘the net’. This will usually be on a server (which is basically a high powered computer that is permanently connected to the internet.) Your site also has a unique address allocated to it – a bit like your phone number – so that when someone points their web browser at your site, the internet will know where to look for it. In actual fact, that address will be something instantly forgettable like 195.23.372.74 You pay to register a domain name like www.mywebsite.co.uk so that this is automatically linked to that rather obscure address (known as an IP address). This linking is done by something called a ‘nameserver’ – which is different from your ‘web server’ – let’s leave it that for now though as you don’t need to understand the ins and outs of all that!
The easy bit: Registering your domain name.
There’s loads of ‘registrars’ that will enable you to purchase your domain name – I’d recommend using one of the popular ones like 123-reg.co.uk – head over there and you can see if your desired web address is available. Convention has it that non-profit organisations use the ‘org’ name suffix rather than ‘com’. There’s nothing stopping you registering a .com or .co.uk website, and nothing stopping a company or an individual registering a .org. or .org.uk one. Although .org domains are slightly more expensive than .com ones, you should definitely go for a .org. or .org.uk rather than .com or .co.uk because it adds that extra sense of authenticity that you’re a non-profit organisation.
.org or .org.uk ?
There’s no right or wrong answer here. The .org addresses are more expensive than .org.uk ones, though neither cost much in the grand scheme of things. If yours is a small local charity then I’d go for a .org.uk one.
If the .org version is available, and the .com one – then it could be worthwhile registering those as well. It avoids confusion as it stops other people using them. This is more of an issue if you have a more generic name like ‘Oasis’ and there are other charities or companies with a similar name. If you’re ‘Stockport Women’s Aid’ then it’s unlikely that someone else will be using the same name so you’re fine using the .org.uk address. If people type your name into Google – the chances are that your website will show up as there’s not much ‘competition’ around your name. If they type in ‘Oasis’ then there’s all sorts of charities (and fruit drinks, holiday companies etc) that are competing for attention.
What should my domain name be?
Again, this more of an art than a science. Your domain name is quite an important factor in your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) efforts so choose your name carefully. It’s a trade off between making it a bit longer to have more ‘keywords’ in it, and keeping it short enough to make it easy for people to type and remember (and it will also probably form the basis of your email addresses too). I wouldn’t necessarily use the word ‘charity’ in the domain name unless yours is one of those generic names like ‘Oasis’. Although you can put hyphens in a domain name, I wouldn’t recommend it these days.
How much does a domain name cost?
- £15 per year for a .org.uk address
- £30 per year for a .org one
You can set up your domain name account for ‘automatic renewal’ so that it will renew itself every year/2 years unless you specifically tell it not to – this is definitely a good idea for your main domain name. You should also make a note in your diary to log in and check a month before the renewal date and to check your emails in case your credit card expired and they don’t have your new one on file. There’s a grace period after your domain expires, but then it goes back on the open market – if someone else buys it then that’s a major headache coming your way.