Website for free? How we did it at EduCrateEduCrate

How we made our website

For my first post I thought I would give everyone an insight into how we have managed to put a decent looking website together for pretty much nothing. I will try and not get super geeky and hopefully this can act as a bit of a guide if you are looking to set up your own. On that subject if you need a site and dont fancy doing what is outlined below just give me a shout and for the cost of a Crate I will set up a website for you.

1. Get a domain

First step is one of the easiest. Hardest part is probably settling on the actual name for the domain. There are though a ton more available now that TLD’s have been expanded, .co, .guru and so on, which has made things quite a bit easier. There are a million and one places to buy your domain from. My advice would be rather than go for the cheapest, look for one which will also give you webspace at that will make things much more straightforward when you start to create your website.

2. Get webspace

As mentioned above most domain name providers will offer you the ability to configure an application on webspace that they provide. This normally is an additional yearly or monthly charge.

What’s an application? An application is a package of code which you can use to run your website. We use WordPress, which is the code behind millions of websites worldwide, but there are plenty of other alternatives out there such as Drupal and Joomla. These are all open source projects so are free to install.

Most providers now offer one click install for publishing applications, so as I mentioned above, using your domain provider to provide webspace is normally the easiest way to get something up and running.

Due to the way EduCrate started we did things slightly differently. The domain was already purchased and our corporate sponsor was able to provide us with webspace, which we used to install WordPress on.

3. Change DNS records

This is a step you will not need to do if you have used your domain provider to also provide your webspace.

If however you have used another service once you have installed your application (in our case WordPress) you will need to change the @ and www. A record on the DNS of your domain to point to the IP address for your application. Sounds more complicated than it is! Here is a useful guide on DNS.

Feel free to give me a shout if you are having problems with this, I have reluctantly become a DNS ninja in the last 5 years!!

4. Install theme

So at this point (if you are still reading) you will now have a website with the basic WordPress theme. Logging into the admin (or backend) of your WordPress site can be done by going to www.example.com/wp-admin – this screen will then ask for your login details which you would have set up when you configured the application.

There are millions of themes available online. Some free some paid. They will do all the heavy lifting in terms of user interface coding and allow you to put something together really quickly that looks super cool. Picking a theme can sometimes take forever, my advice (as always) is to keep it simple, get something out there and spend time finessing later down the line.

For EduCrate we used the amazing woothemes.com theme called Peddlar. The licence for this was donated by Bidlogix.

5. Install plugins

Another great thing about most publishing applications is that you can install plugins or extensions to the base framework.

With wordpress there is a plugin for pretty much anything you can think of. The way this tends to go for me is: research, install, configure, test, uninstall and then install something else! As with themes I always try and keep it simple, otherwise you can end up with plugins coming out of your ears!

It would take quite a while to go through all the plugins we are using (clearly not practicing what I preach) so will probably do another post about that soon.

6. Install E-Commerce

This bit is really the clincher and gets to the heart of what most people want to do online! Sell stuff!

One of the reasons we use WordPress and woothemes is woocommerce. This is an e-commerce plugin that allows us to take donations online and sell tickets.

Other applications have e-commerce plugins but woocommerce is by far and away the market leader, and its free!!

7. Configure Payment Gateway

Out of the box with woocommerce you can accept Pay Pal payments. We decided as they charge 3.4% plus a transaction fee that we would shop around for a better deal. So we decided to use Stripe who charge 1.4% plus 20p transaction fee. The only downside to this is that you need to secure your site with an SSL certificate.

8. Configure SSL

Depending on the payment gateway you are using you might need to secure your site with an SSL certificate. This can be pretty intense, however some providers offer a fairly straightforward installation process if you are using them for your webspace.

At EduCrate we are using Cloudflare (more on that in another sleep inducing post) but an amazing perk with using them for your DNS is that you get SSL certs for free!! Which is awesome as they can cost up to £100 a year.

9. Emails for your domain

So if you are still awake and you have done all the above the next thing you are probably wanting to do is to provide all of your employees/helpers/family/passers-by with an email address for your domain.Google apps is your best bet here, I’m open to other suggestions but not going to post the reasons to use them in this post as it will take all night!

We have not done this yet as we need to become a registered charity before Google will give it to us for free. I have searched high and low for a free alternative but I can’t find it and to be honest I would be surprised if anyone could match the service Google provide.

That’s it from me for now. Will be posting about more geeky stuff in the future so be sure to follow us to get update.

Would you like a website?

If anyone would like a website set up, please feel free to get in contact, will cost you a crate though!

🙂

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