How to Set Up Web Hosting — Your Server & Domain Setup Guide (2017)

Always on the lookout for creative ways to explain web hosting, I try so hard to reimagine the tried-and-true real estate analogy: Shared hosting is like renting an apartment, VPS is akin to owning a condo, and dedicated servers are equivalent to owning your own home. It’s a common comparison, and one I’ve even used before to explain managed services.

Despite my preference to relate hosting to pizza, clothing alterations, and the search for true love, I find myself falling back to the all-too-familiar roots — setting up web hosting is like buying a place to live. Your website and files need somewhere to reside, and we’re here to help you find a happy hosting home.

After putting so much emphasis on finding just the right hosting provider, it’s natural to relax a bit after signing up for a new plan. Selecting a host, however, is just the first step to getting your website online. Whether you’re starting from scratch or looking to move sites from a previous hosting provider, we’ve outlined the steps to hosting happiness below.

1. Choose a Web Host

Simply put, you can’t set up something you don’t yet have. Identifying your best web hosting option can be tricky, given the wide variety of services, sales, and companies in the market. Just as a debt-strapped recent college grad probably shouldn’t move straight into a mansion, a well-to-do family of eight wouldn’t be happy in a cramped studio apartment.

Consider us your real estate agent and view your hosting provider as the properties that balance your budget with location, layouts, and upgraded features. At this stage, we’re just identifying the neighborhood or subdivision you want to target. Most new customers will be quite happy with shared hosting, while others might be outgrowing their shared services and are ready to jump up to VPS, cloud, or dedicated plans. If you already run a website, keep an eye out for a host that offers free transfers or migration. You’ll be able to skip a lot of these steps.

Shared Hosting

A great place to start your search, shared hosting is an affordable, user-friendly way to get small and medium sites online quickly. Shared hosts divvy up server resources to hundreds, sometimes thousands, of customers, making these the easiest plans to set up and manage. Customers can focus on their account without worrying about the technical details of server management.

Narrow down the pool of prospective providers by targeting a few features that are specifically important to you or the goals of your online project. That might mean high-performance solid-state drives, unlimited bandwidth, or spam filters for your email accounts. Other differentiators include eCommerce offerings and free domain options, along with perks like advertising credits, a website builder, and upgraded hardware. Here are some of the top shared hosts we recommend:

SHARED RATING
★★★★★ 5.0/5.0
  • Known for high-performance, low-cost shared hosting
  • FREE website builder with 1,000s of templates
  • Endorsed by the WordPress.org team as a top WP host
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $2.95
Money Back Guarantee 30 days
Disk Space Unlimited
Domain Name FREE (1 year)
Shared Hosting Plans www.bluehost.com/shared
Our Expert's Bluehost Review
If you’re looking for an affordable host, Bluehost is a solid, reputable choice, but their low cost coupled with their supremacy in the shared hosting arena is what makes this provider such a value deal. The Bluehost name is listed toward the top of many of... read more + If you’re looking for an affordable host, Bluehost is a solid, reputable choice, but their low cost coupled with their supremacy in the shared hosting arena is what makes this provider such a value deal. The Bluehost name is listed toward the top of many of our reviews categories, and with good reason. They offer excellent hardware configurations, a generous list of extras, and fantastic support and reliability — all at a price point that’s, generally, lower than the competition.The speed and performance result from very modern hardware and a global content delivery network. They also offer nearly unlimited everything, including storage, emails, and bandwidth, and many other perks. For example, they include a free domain and marketing credits to get your site off the ground — adding to their value.We rank Bluehost at or near the top for their WordPress, VPS, and dedicated options and if those fit your needs, please check them out. You’ll be happy to note their incredibly competitive pricing across the board.We are convinced Bluehost has the goods to meet your hosting needs today and in the future, but more importantly, they are too. They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee should you become dissatisfied with any of their plans for any reason; however, we’re willing to bet you won’t be. collapse info -
SHARED RATING
★★★★★ 4.8/5.0
  • An industry-leading shared host with competitive pricing
  • Attract visitors with a complimentary marketing suite
  • $500 in extras like Google AdWords and SiteLock security
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $1.99
Money Back Guarantee 30 days
Disk Space Unlimited
Domain Name FREE (1 year)
Shared Hosting Plans www.ipage.com/shared
Our Expert's iPage Review
Whether you're a first-time website owner or a web veteran, iPage’s excellent hosting services and fantastic list of extras make them one of the best values in web hosting.Unlimited disk space, bandwidth, and emails are just a part of what makes iPage’s... read more + Whether you're a first-time website owner or a web veteran, iPage’s excellent hosting services and fantastic list of extras make them one of the best values in web hosting.Unlimited disk space, bandwidth, and emails are just a part of what makes iPage’s shared hosting plans a great deal. They offer very good "suites" of extras focusing on web hosting necessities like security, marketing, and support.If you don’t yet have a site, they include a free domain and website builder to get you rolling quickly. We especially love their inclusion of eCommerce templates and online shopping carts for the same low price.Support is one factor that’s very important to us, as it should be to you. For customer support, iPage has US-based phone, email, and chat available 24/7. For the DIY crowd, they also have an extensive list of tutorials and helpful documents.One of the very best budget web hosts out there, iPage offers great hosting features and server performance for a low price. If you are searching for a cheap, reliable web host, iPage should definitely be near the top of your list. collapse info -
SHARED RATING
★★★★★ 4.8/5.0
  • A favorite for shared hosting (and dedicated or cloud)
  • FREE SSD storage packs 20x the performance
  • FREE SSL certificate and 24/7 support
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $2.95
Money Back Guarantee 90 days
Disk Space Unlimited
Domain Name FREE (1 year)
Shared Hosting Plans www.inmotion.com/shared
Our Expert's InMotion Review
InMotion offers an excellent business-class shared hosting plan. While carrying a higher price tag than other cheap hosts, it has a very nice list of features to help justify the extra cost. For the IT crowd in the audience, you’ll appreciate SSH access, as... read more + InMotion offers an excellent business-class shared hosting plan. While carrying a higher price tag than other cheap hosts, it has a very nice list of features to help justify the extra cost. For the IT crowd in the audience, you’ll appreciate SSH access, as well as support for PHP, Ruby, Perl, Python, WP-CLI, and other popular languages. You’ll also appreciate the 20-times faster speed, which comes from all-SSD storage and your choice of datacenter locations. You needn’t worry about data security as InMotion plans include data backups.For the rest of us, we can appreciate the convenience of the free website transfers and 24/7 US-based support. A free domain and website builder with eCommerce support are also appealing.The overall package and business-class hardware make InMotion’s shared hosting a great choice for businesses or those looking for a little higher-end hardware. And, as one of the few remaining independently owned hosting providers left on the market, InMotion has taken every effort to remain cost-competitive. collapse info -

See all the best shared hosts »

VPS Hosting

A virtual private server, or VPS, is best suited for high-traffic sites and applications performing complex tasks. Physical servers are virtualized and split among fewer customers, leaving more power and performance for each website. Customers have direct access to their VPS and often are responsible for installing and maintaining software and security solutions.

VPS plans can be more complicated for beginners to set up, but many hosts offer various tiers of expanded support — also called managed services — that will help users stay on top of security, backups, and operating system updates. Keep scrolling for a list of our favorite VPS hosts.

VPS RATING
★★★★★ 4.9/5.0
  • 50% off the first month with added discounts the first year
  • Real-time redundancy powered by a cloud infrastructure
  • FREE cPanel/WHM licenses with enterprise-grade CentOS
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $19.99
Money Back Guarantee 90 days
Disk Space 75 GB - 260 GB SSD
Domain Name New or Transfer
VPS Hosting Plans www.inmotionhosting.com/vps
Our Expert's InMotion Review
Boasting market-leading VPS hardware, slick management software, and free SSD drives and backups, InMotion offers the most attractive VPS plans you'll find anywhere. Each VPS plan comes with free SSD storage arranged in RAID 6,... read more +

Boasting market-leading VPS hardware, slick management software, and free SSD drives and backups, InMotion offers the most attractive VPS plans you'll find anywhere.

Each VPS plan comes with free SSD storage arranged in RAID 6, which is incredibly fast and secure. Each of their plans also come with an awesome amount of RAM for the server cost, so the speed-to-dollar ratio is high with this host.

InMotion’s VPS packages run on CentOS 6 Linux operating systems and all feature a license for cPanel. Each plan also comes with Web Hosting Management (WHM) software, making it super-easy to resell some unused server resources.

InMotion's reputation for uptime is second-to-none, with a solid track record as a large-scale VPS host and a large, friendly support team available at any time.

Lastly, InMotion has a 90-day money-back guarantee and offers a choice of datacenters, which are nice customer-centric features. Their support is top-notch and 24 hours. We highly recommend you check them out if you are looking for a VPS with great hardware and reseller options at a low price.

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VPS RATING
★★★★★ 4.9/5.0
  • Only pay for resources you use with daily billing
  • 5TB of outgoing bandwidth and FREE incoming bandwidth
  • API access and cPanel available
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $29.50
Money Back Guarantee N/A
Disk Space 50 GB - 1.6 TB SSD
Domain Name FREE (1 year)
VPS Hosting Plans www.liquidweb.com/vps
Our Expert's Liquid Web Review
It's no secret by now that Liquid Web is known for best-in-class technology and reliability that exceeds expectations (from uptime to technical support). Their VPSs embody that reputation to its fullest — including a new... read more +

It's no secret by now that Liquid Web is known for best-in-class technology and reliability that exceeds expectations (from uptime to technical support). Their VPSs embody that reputation to its fullest — including a new Managed WordPress product (Hop one tab over to the WordPress Review for more info on this awesome addition.).

Perks of a Managed VPS: Support Meets Reliability

They offer a high-powered VPS solution as well as their in-house-built, cloud-based Storm® Servers, all of which are backed by their popular SLAs (service-level agreements) promising high uptime rates and highly reliable help from the Heroic Support® experts.

Better Performance with Liquid Web Virtual Servers

With high-powered SSDs and, of course, the Heroic Support® team, the VPS platform shines among the managed services offered at Liquid Web. You'll pay a bit of a premium for managed hosting, but there's a reason customers rave about the Heroic Support®, incredible SLAs, and excellent uptime rates.

SSD Power & Fully Managed Support

RAID-protected SSD storage comes standard for Liquid Web VPS users, which decreases latency and keeps your page loads fast and secure. They offer a range of management plans, as well as cPanel control and API access, so you get the perfect level of infrastructural management support for you and your site.

Cloud-Level Flexibility & Supreme Uptime

The Liquid Web VPS infrastructure was engineered with customer priorities in mind. These solutions are ideal for users that want cloud-like flexibility, such as billing by the day and custom configurations, but also seek the affordability of shared hosting. Customers can instantly provision and deploy their virtual server, easily upgrade, downgrade, clone, or resize, and only pay for the resources they use.

Award-Winning Heroic Support® & Sonar Monitoring™

Liquid Web's SLAs promise speedy response times and industry-leading performance. Their blazing fast and fault-resistant servers are backed by the round-the-clock attention of the Sonar Monitoring™ team.

Heroic Support® Team Helps Consistently Earn High Net Promoter Scores

Not only does the Heroic Promise ensure a Heroic Support® technician will get to you quickly, but their policy of Best Effort Support guarantees that they will attempt to help with any problem you encounter. That kind of customer support translates into customer loyalty, and it's a commitment that's rare and wonderful in this industry.

Sonar Monitoring™ Team Helps Yield Virtually No Downtime

In 2014 Liquid Web yielded an incredible uptime rate of 99.995%. With their wholly owned hardware being watched over and maintained by highly trained technicians, there's no reason to doubt their promise of virtually nonexistent downtime in the future.

All server statuses are watched around the clock by the Sonar Monitoring™ team, which is trained to detect system issues quickly, and ideally have problems resolved before a hiccup even shows up on your radar.

Storm® Platform, Private Cloud, & Add-Ons

In addition to a heroic army of support, Liquid Web has 50+ developers dedicated to the build-out and up-keep of custom solutions. A great example would be their Storm® Platform: an in-house innovation based on their top-of-the-line VPS infrastructure.

With automatic migrations and provisioning and easy scaling options, the Storm® Cloud Server offers all the SSD speed and custom functionality you want in an affordable, shared cloud environment. To give users even more options, Liquid Web developers are constantly working on new projects, including the latest Storm® Private Cloud functionality and their Block Storage, Object Storage, and VPN Storm® Add-Ons.

Liquid Web VPS in a Nutshell

If you want easy scaling, screaming fast speed, custom functionalities, and unparalleled support, look no further than Liquid Web for your VPS. They own all the hardware and have a rather large development team in their corner, so the technological possibilities are pretty much limitless. We'd recommend going with their custom Storm® Servers, which offer all the power, flexibility, and scaling options you'd require of a virtual or dedicated server with the affordability and ease of use of a shared hosting solution.

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VPS RATING
★★★★★ 4.8/5.0
  • 2-4 cores and 4-16GB of RAM
  • Endorsed by the WordPress team
  • Redundant storage and optional SiteLock security
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $19.99
Money Back Guarantee 30 days
Disk Space 30 GB - 240 GB SSD
Domain Name FREE (1 year)
VPS Hosting Plans www.bluehost.com/vps
Our Expert's Bluehost Review
When comparing the performance versus price of VPS plans, Bluehost brings supreme value to the table. In addition to competitive pricing, they offer premium support and excellent uptime compared to other VPS options in the... read more +

When comparing the performance versus price of VPS plans, Bluehost brings supreme value to the table. In addition to competitive pricing, they offer premium support and excellent uptime compared to other VPS options in the industry. If you’ve outgrown shared hosting, or need the flexibility and security of a VPS, Bluehost is a great choice for you.

Bluehost’s virtual servers boast several benefits compared to standard shared hosting and other VPS offerings. The first is speed; Bluehost offers your choice of two or four cores and 4GB to 16GB of RAM with guaranteed resources, so you have the power you need when you need it. The second perk is security; Bluehost offers redundant storage and optional SiteLock protection to secure your data.

For those new to VPS hosting who may not know exactly what is needed, Bluehost makes it incredibly easy and seamless to switch between their plans to find the perfect package for you. If you have questions or need some advice, their wonderful support staff is standing by to assist 24/7.

Formed in 2003, Bluehost has long since been a hosting innovator and leader. Today, the company powers more than two million websites and carries the official seal of approval given by the WordPress.org team for their managed WordPress services hosted on their VPS platform. With years of experience, competitive pricing, and excellent support, Bluehost is a pick you can take to the bank in the VPS hosting space.

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See all the best VPS hosts »

Dedicated Server Hosting

Customers who opt for a dedicated server typically see very high levels of traffic, store massive amounts of data, and have a critical need for performance, security, and reliability. The most expensive hosting option, dedicated servers are also the fastest and most powerful hosting configuration. Users have ultimate control over how to set up their dedicated hosting, but with great power comes great responsibility.

Because customers get total and complete control over an entire server, dedicated hosting plans aren’t really suited for rookies. Again, less experienced site owners can (and should) rely heavily on managed services, but the price tag can become astronomical for premium white-glove treatment. Our top dedicated server hosting providers, however, all excel at maintaining name-brand, performant hardware with hands-on technical support teams.

DEDICATED RATING
★★★★★ 4.9/5.0
  • FREE incoming bandwidth and choice of operating system
  • Custom configurations with SSDs and instant provisioning
  • Auto-migrations, backups, and 24/7 Sonar Monitoring™
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $79.00
Money Back Guarantee N/A
Disk Space 211 GB - 1,775 GB SSD
Domain Name New or Transfer
Dedicated Hosting Plans www.liquidweb.com/dedicated
Our Expert's Liquid Web Review
Liquid Web's strong suit is their managed dedicated server hosting. They own and operate three state-of-the-art datacenters in the US and have over 50 developers working tirelessly to build and maintain custom solutions for added... read more +

Liquid Web's strong suit is their managed dedicated server hosting. They own and operate three state-of-the-art datacenters in the US and have over 50 developers working tirelessly to build and maintain custom solutions for added performance and security.

Fully, Core-, or Self-Managed — Plus Storm® Servers

Liquid Web offers single, dual, and quad processor servers with fully, core-, or self-managed plans. All dedicated server customers reap the benefits and support of the Heroic Support® team and the 24/7 protection of the Sonar Monitoring™ team.

Redundantly Built, Multi-Tiered Network

Featuring top-of-the-line Cisco equipment, the Liquid Web N+1 network is redundantly built to allow routing devices to quickly self-heal. They're designed to bounce back and correct system failures without interrupting the customer's connection. With the integration of premier providers, Level 3, Verizon, Comcast, Cogent, and Equinix, the Liquid Web network is optimized for rapid and fault-resistant performance.

Highly Available Sites with the Tech of 50+ Developers

Liquid Web boasted an incredible 99.995% uptime rate in 2014, a bragging right that's helped shape their reputation for performance. With the maintenance of 50+ developers, the Liquid Web infrastructure is engineered to evade and survive typical site disasters.

24/7 Proactive Protection from the Sonar Monitoring™ & Heroic Support® Teams

Should disaster strike, the Sonar Monitoring™ team is trained to catch the issue first, performing system-level health checks and patches 24/7, so they can hopefully have it handled before you're even aware of the situation. Meanwhile, the Heroic Support® team of 300+ experts is available anytime to help with any troubleshooting need.

Storm® Servers & Add-Ons

For the dev nerds out there, one of our favorite facets of Liquid Web as a hosting provider is the commitment to in-house-built technology. All of their team members' experience and expertise becomes very evident once you check out their custom Storm® Platform.

All the Power Plus All the Flexibility

If you're in need of dedicated resources, drawn to the customization of the Cloud, and know you need screaming fast performance, the Storm® Dedicated Server may be your solution. These custom server systems allow for cloud-like flexibility that traditional dedicated servers aren't capable of, like instant provisioning and automatic migrations.

Added Extras Make the Dedicated Cost a Done Deal

The Liquid Web development team is constantly coming up with new Storm® Add-Ons, like Load Balancers, Block Storage, Object Storage, and a VPN. Think you can't afford such full-featured and flexible hardware? Think again. With pricing starting around $110/month, the Storm® Platform is great for the cost-conscious dedicated server shopper.

Liquid Web Dedicated Servers in Review

If you want feature-rich dedicated resources and relentlessly reliable technical support, Liquid Web should be on your short list. They're known for strong managed service offerings, but the drawback to managed hosting is usually the cost. Liquid Web doesn't leave you hanging there though — in-house solutions like the Storm® Dedicated Server keep the cloud-level flexibility and performance up and the cost down.

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DEDICATED RATING
★★★★★ 4.9/5.0
  • Rebootless kernel updates
  • 1-click installs and FREE SSDs
  • cPanel/WHM licences with FREE SSL
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $99.99
Money Back Guarantee 30 days
Disk Space 500 GB - 1.2 TB SSD
Domain Name FREE (1 year)
Dedicated Hosting Plans www.inmotionhosting.com/dedicated
Our Expert's InMotion Review
InMotion offers amazingly fast, reliable dedicated hosting on market-leading hardware — making it an easy choice for anyone seeking a premium dedicated host. From free SSDs to a fanatical support team, InMotion has all the... read more +

InMotion offers amazingly fast, reliable dedicated hosting on market-leading hardware — making it an easy choice for anyone seeking a premium dedicated host. From free SSDs to a fanatical support team, InMotion has all the bases covered for both small-scale and large-scale operations, featuring a truly reliable dedicated host.

Unlike some hosts, InMotion gives SSH and Root access to their servers. Each plan is managed and comes with between two and four hours of SysAdmin time at launch, which is an excellent help in getting your site configured to meet your needs. Each server also is set up with cPanel and WHM for easy management.

Plenty of CPU power, RAM, and storage, plus lots of IP addresses, come with each plan. Perhaps our favorite feature of InMotion is their zero-downtime, rebootless kernel updates, which are partially the reason for their superb 99.999% uptime.

InMotion has a 30-day money-back guarantee on their dedicated plans, which is fairly rare and just another reason you can’t go wrong selecting them as your dedicated host.

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DEDICATED RATING
★★★★★ 4.9/5.0
  • RAID 1 mirrored storage
  • Minimum 3 IP addresses per plan
  • Modern hardware, spec'd and maintained in house
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $79.99
Money Back Guarantee 30 days
Disk Space 1 TB
Domain Name FREE (1 year)
Dedicated Hosting Plans www.bluehost.com/dedicated
Our Expert's Bluehost Review
Built on OpenStack technology, with a minimum of four cores per server, Bluehost offers reliable and flexible dedicated hosting options at an extremely reasonable price. We continually praise their shared hosting options for having fantastic... read more +

Built on OpenStack technology, with a minimum of four cores per server, Bluehost offers reliable and flexible dedicated hosting options at an extremely reasonable price. We continually praise their shared hosting options for having fantastic hardware and a great management console, and their dedicated offerings are no different.

Designed and maintained in house, Bluehost uses only the latest technologies on their dedicated servers. Their most recent upgrade moved all CPUs to four cores, 1TB of RAID storage, and between four and 16 gigs of available RAM. Each server is provisioned instantly and can be upgraded at any time with essentially just a few mouse clicks.

One reason we’ll always consider Bluehost for our hosting needs is their fantastic 24/7 support team. They do have a premium team of engineers for their dedicated servers. The expert technicians are incredibly helpful and available at a moment’s notice.
Already one of our favorite hosting companies, when you combine their fanatical support and the value offered in their dedicated hosting plans, Bluehost is hard to pass up.

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See all the best dedicated servers »

2. Register a Domain Name

Once you find the perfect place or property, you’ll need a way for people to find you. Because you can’t select your home’s address, we’ll compare this stage to finding the specific apartment, condo, house, or floor plan in the complex, neighborhood, or subdivision you’ve chosen as your favorite. The idyllic house number and street name might already be occupied by someone else, but you can usually find something close nearby without stooping to streets that are hard to pronounce or remember.

Domain Host vs. Domain Registrar

Most hosting companies — but not all — allow you to reserve and register a domain name, with many even including the service for free. The hosts, acting as registrars, work with the global managers of domain registries to secure the name of your site. A few hosts, however, avoid this step and simply prefer to focus on storing your files and making them readily available to site visitors. You can register a domain with any registrar and house your information separately. While we recommend keeping everything under the same roof for simplicity, you can register a domain and host your files separately.

Domain names act as easily understood placeholders for IP addresses, which DNS connects to files on a web server.

A domain name is like using your new home’s mailing address instead of the longitude and latitude coordinates. Computers can’t communicate using domain names and find each other using IP addresses. The Domain Name System, or DNS, acts as the translation service that connects IP addresses to domain names. Hosts use DNS servers or nameservers to connect your website to the worldwide system.

Choosing a Domain

As your brand or website’s address, the domain name you choose is supremely important. SEO experts at Moz outline eight rules for a strong domain name. To have the greatest effect, domains should be brandable, pronounceable, short, clear of trademarks, and intuitive. When needed, a domain name should use broad keywords or rely on creative modifications.

3. Choose a Website Design Route

Now, we’re in that stage of finally having a new place to live — but all your stuff is still in boxes. To make a house a home, you might want to hire an interior decorator or a landscaping crew. Naturally, you want your space to look and feel like your brand or personality and take advantage of the files, pictures, and trinkets you own.

Website builders and content management systems blend the expertise of others while still allowing you to exude your own personal flair. Designing and coding a website from scratch, however, will likely appeal to developers and do-it-yourself-ers. If you already have a site design you’re happy with, skip ahead to learn how to seamlessly migrate it to your new hosting plan.

A. Design By Website Builder

The red-hot market for site building platforms provides a bevy of options for site owners who want a custom look without the long days of slaving away over a code and a keyboard.

Website builders offer bloggers, entrepreneurs, developers, and hobbyists a chance to create a stunning and professional website in minutes, with services typically focused on usability and mobile-friendly designs. Buyer beware: Several hosts include a building platform for free with new plans, but others can only be had by using the site builder’s hosting services.

WEBSITE BUILDER RATING
★★★★★ 4.9/5.0
  • No coding skills needed with drag-and-drop website builder
  • 100s of templates with industry-specific designs
  • Add features via the App Market
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $5.00
Money Back Guarantee 14 days
Disk Space 500 MB - 20 GB
Domain Name Transfer
Website Builder Hosting Plans www.wix.com/site-builder
Our Expert's Wix Review
Website building is where Wix shines. The thousands of templates, the intuitive editor, the industry-leading designs that cater to a variety of specific fields and use cases — all these facets represent a platform that... read more +

Website building is where Wix shines. The thousands of templates, the intuitive editor, the industry-leading designs that cater to a variety of specific fields and use cases — all these facets represent a platform that excels at facilitating easy web design for the non-tech-savvy user. Sign up with your Facebook account or email address and get started for free.

I'll admit, the Wix Editor may appear daunting when you first meet it, but get to know the interface. Once you familiarize yourself with the environment, you'll realize that what first comes across as overwhelming is actually empowering — the customization functionalities to be had are many, and they're awesome. There's no need for coding of any kind. Just drag and drop elements of your new site and BAM: What You See Is What You Get (i.e., Wix is a WYSIWYG website builder!).

You don't have to design your website from scratch with Wix, though blank templates are available. There are thousands of templates, each one categorized by design need and further classified into industry niches, and the site's look can be molded to match your brand or personality very easily. Layout and design options include parallax themes (where the viewer scrolls down the screen and one page rolls seamlessly into the next), custom sliders, multiple columns, mobile-specific and mobile-responsive displays, and tons of button and menu navigation tricks.

While Wix isn't our favorite host in terms of expert support or top-of-the-line hardware, it's an industry-leading platform for website building. It's popular for many reasons: the simple startup process, the ease of use, the array of customization options, and the WYSIWYG results, as examples. Its reputation precedes it, and we can totally see where the rave reviews are coming from.

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B. Design By Content Management System

You’d be hard-pressed to find a web host that doesn’t offer a one-click WordPress installation. The world’s most popular content management system can be tough for beginners to learn, but WordPress is a free, open-source solution seemingly without limits.

For nervous beginners, try signing up with our top WordPress hosting provider, InMotion Hosting, which blends the best of both worlds with its proprietary, one-of-a-kind WordPress website builder, called BoldGrid.

BEST OVERALL RATING
★★★★★ 5.0/5.0
  • FREE software with 1-click install
  • Trusted by millions of site owners
  • 1,000s of drag-and-drop themes
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $3.49
Money Back Guarantee 90 days
Disk Space Unlimited
Domain Name FREE (1 year)
Best Overall Hosting Plans www.inmotionhosting.com/wordpress
Our Expert's WordPress Review
WordPress, the #1 blogging platform and software that powers more than 26% of websites currently online, needs no introduction. The underlying software of WordPress.com, a browser-based website builder for newbie site owners to stretch their... read more +

WordPress, the #1 blogging platform and software that powers more than 26% of websites currently online, needs no introduction. The underlying software of WordPress.com, a browser-based website builder for newbie site owners to stretch their website design wings, can be downloaded and installed for free via WordPress.org.

Many of the top hosting providers make the software even easier to access, however, by offering single-click installations for WordPress. WordPress hosting front-runner, InMotion Hosting will preinstall the platform for you at checkout.

Once the platform is successfully set up, site owners can begin browsing the theme marketplace, previewing site content before publishing to the web. Find the perfect theme, incorporate any plugins you'd like to extend your site's functionality, and begin drafting your first post! Whether you're building a blog or an online store — hosting on a shared server or your very own VPS — you can have a new WordPress site online in less than an hour. It only has to take a few minutes, but we're no stranger to perfectionism.

You'll have the support of the open-source community in your corner, as the WordPress core code is actively maintained by a team of all-star contributing developers. And just about any question you could imagine having has probably been asked and answered somewhere on the web. It's a long-standing, fast-growing family of fans, and we at HostingAdvice welcome you to team WordPress!

Whether you're looking for shared, cloud-based, or dedicated server WordPress hosting, we recommend InMotion. Throughout our review of the WordPress platform, we'll use InMotion's pricing, storage allowances, uptime rates, and support standards to illustrate the ease and excellence of building a website with WordPress and a WP-friendly host.

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Compare WordPress with other CMSes »

C. Design From Scratch

With the right tools and lots of patience, you can craft a website from thin air. Coding a website from scratch can be a worthwhile endeavor for those not under a time crunch to get their site online. Learning web design and programming languages empowers site owners to create exactly the look and user experience they desire — and further tweak and expand your website as you acquire more skills.

Still unsure which route to take? Whether you want to learn how to code or are still checking out your design options, our helpful guide to site builders, CMSes, and coding provides a greater level of detail on the perks and downfalls of each choice.

Additional Steps If You’re Migrating From Another Host

If this isn’t your first hosting home, you’ll have the option to hire movers to box up and transfer your belongings from your old place. Many of our favorite hosts offer free website and domain migrations. Of course, you can elect to move things yourself with relatively little experience, but why bother? The hands-free transfers usually incur little to no downtime — and exactly zero headaches for you.

Transfer Files and Databases Using FTP and phpMyAdmin

Load up the moving truck by downloading all your website files through FTP, or file transfer protocol. You can either use your old host’s file transfer tool found in cPanel installations or configure a free FTP program of your choosing. Unsurprisingly, you’ll then connect to your new host’s server through FTP and upload all the files to your new storage space.

Although you can manually transfer website files and databases, many hosts include hassle-free migrations.

For simple, static sites, that’s all for this step. Most sites with dynamic content, such as blogs, have databases that will have to migrate, as well. Database management can be done using phpMyAdmin, which is found in your host’s cPanel platform. Export the relevant databases from your old host and sign into phpMyAdmin on your new host. You’ll need to create new databases and usernames before importing the information.

Alternatively, you can minimize downtime by downloading and restoring backups using cPanel, so long as the web-based control panel is used by both hosting providers. You’ll want to collect compressed backup files for your website, subdomains, and databases. Once the files have been uploaded to your new server, you’ll have to enter username and password information associated with each MySQL database in the cPanel tool.

Point Your Domain Toward Your New Host’s Nameservers

Once your files and databases have been moved, all that remains is telling the internet that your domain should now look for a different server to load and display content. This is akin to alerting the Post Office of your new address and signing up for mail forwarding. Moving a domain name to your new hosting plan is completely optional. Hosts will give you instructions on how to initiate that process, or it is perfectly fine to host domains separately from your website files.

Regardless of where your domain resides, log into that account management interface, and replace the domain nameservers with the updated information from your new host. Changes to the DNS records will take up to 24 hours to take effect, but both the new and old websites will function properly in the interim.

Once Your Website is Set Up, You Can Focus On Content & Customers

Even though we enjoy comparing two hosting options to seeking medical attention, the tried-and-true real estate comparison is the best route for explaining how to set up web hosting services. Regardless of the new hosting plan or server configuration you ultimately select, price, support, storage, and performance are all important features to consider when shopping for a hosting plan. Those components never go out of style, whether you’re looking for somewhere to house a blog or your growing online store.

Naturally, once you’re done moving into the starter home of your dreams, all that remains is throwing the housewarming party. Take advantage of the SEO tools and advertising credits many hosts offer to grow your audience and show off your new digs.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Stamey

Laura Stamey is a multi-talented communicator with a master's degree in web design and online communication and extensive experience creating web, print, and multimedia products. As a Contributing Editor for HostingAdvice.com, she combines her communication skills with web design experience, a passionate love for WordPress, and a strong desire to continue learning. When she's not addressing user questions via helpful how-to guides, you'll find her connecting with the folks behind companies that are powering the Web — covering their innovative technologies and the teams that engineer them.