If you have ever wanted your website then using a Mac to create one is a tremendously rewarding hobby. In this feature, we'll quickly look at how to make a website using a Mac computer.
Building a website can be quick and easy, or take a long time and be incredibly complicated. It all depends on the type of website you want to build. This article will help you get started with creating a basic website that you can use to add articles to, and had its custom domain registration (like www.macworld.co.uk).
Updated 24 June 2016 with general updates.
What you need to build a website
If you want to build a website then there are the things you need to think about:
- Getting hosting for your website.
- Buying a custom domain for your website.
- Designing and building your website.
Of course, this is just to get started, and there’s much more to building a site than we can cover here, but these steps will help you get started.
Getting hosting for your website with a Mac
Many people don’t question how websites work. The content of your website is typically stored on a computer, somewhere, and when you go online and request a website you request that computer to serve it to you, hence the term “server”.
So you need to store your website on a server somewhere, this is called “hosting”. You upload the content for your website as files to the server, and it then delivers them to web browsers upon request.
Now, you can set up an old Mac to work as a server and deliver your website directly to people. You do this using OS X Server edition, available from the Mac App Store for just £14.99. You will also need a static IP address, which you can typically get from your ISP for a small monthly fee. If you don’t know what a static IP address is then maybe you should stop right here. It's best to do what most people do, and rent hosting for your website from a company that knows what it’s doing.
Hosting a small website is a relatively cheap affair, and most companies will rent you space on a server for a couple of pounds a month. A good hosting solution will also have support for content management tools like WordPress (more on that in a bit). With hosting you also get FTP, webmail, and it should have an integrated backup solution.
There is no shortage of hosting services out there, and there is much debate about which one is best. Here are some popular names to help you get started:
- 123-reg: One of the biggest global domain and hosting providers.
- GoDaddy: A global brand, that hosts a wide variety of UK websites.
- SiteGround: A well-known US hosting company that has fast global customer supoprt.
- TSOHost: Popular with beginners and has good WordPress integration.
- FatCow: Reliable with good support. A popular choice for small businesses.
- 1&1: Great value service based in the UK. Offers hosting for a very low price.
Which one you go for is up to you. I've listed a few and I'm currently happy with TSOHost (because I’m mostly using WordPress to run sites these days). None of these hosts will sting you with particularly bad service, and I’ve been happy with all of them when it comes to customer service. There are plenty of other providers around though, and you should shop around to find the deal that works for you.
Getting a domain name for your website
When you buy hosting, you will access it using an IP (Internet Protocol) address. These are the four sets of numbers separated by periods that you see (such as 184.108.40.206). Typing this IP address into a web browser takes it to the computer over the internet and returns the website (the first page returned is the index, which links to all your other pages).
Obviously nobody goes around remembering, or using, these IP addresses so you need to get a more user-friendly name like “johnswebsite.co.uk”, or whatever you want to call it. This user-friendly name is called a domain (although that strictly refers to the bit at the end, the ‘.co.uk’ or ‘.net’ bit.
You do this by checking for your preferred name and domain on a domain registration site. If it's available then you can rent it for a year, and link it to your IP address. Now when somebody goes online and enters the domain it’ll take them to your IP address.
There are lots of domain registration services in the UK, and 123-Reg.co.uk seems to be a popular choice. But I’m going to go out on a limb and advise you to get a domain registration through your hosting company if possible. This coupling makes it easier for them to link the domain straight to your hosting service, and is easier to make changes to down the line.
How to design a website on Mac
Once you have the hosting and domain name registration set up, it is time to put together your website. There are many ways to go about this, at the most basic websites are put together using HTML documents, CSS documents (for the design and layout) and image files. HTML and CSS is by no means difficult to learn, and learning basic HTML is a good idea if you plan to get into web design.
However, most people skip coding a website by hand and use either a program to design the site or an online CMS (content management system) such as WordPress. We think putting together a WordPress site is the best way to put together a website that you can add articles to on a regular basis. WordPress is downloaded from the WordPress.org website. This is different to the WordPress.com website. WordPress.com is used to create personal homepages that end in WordPress.com (such as mysite.wordpress.com), while WordPress.org is used to download the full WordPress system and install it on your site.
If you want to code your website, but control the design completely then take a look at Apple’s Developer section on the Mac App Store.