We all have one of those people on our Christmas list — the person who has everything, or has enough money to buy everything they need. The person you don’t know how to shop for. You’ve given them gifts before and you sense they don’t really like them, or you find out they already have one, or you’re just looking for something truly unique.
Give a Website as a Christmas Gift
Wait, what? A website? How do I give a website?
It’s not as expensive or as complicated as you might think. The most important thing to know is that Web Hosting, like almost everything else you can buy, is often on sale at a deep discount during the holiday buying season. So if you want to purchase web hosting, now is the time. And it can make a great gift for lots of different people.
Do you know anyone who . . .
- Has a hobby they enjoy, or
- Likes to travel, or
- Does something creative (photography, drawing, music, drama, etc.), or
- Writes about just about any topic, or
- Likes to help others or teach people new skills?
Having a website or blog can . . .
- Improve writing skills;
- Develop self-confidence;
- Be a communication tool;
- Become an online resume that can lead to employment opportunities; and
- Develop community and make the world a better place.
So how much does this cost and how does it work?
If you take advantage of one of the holiday sales, and if you opt to pay for 3 years up front (thus qualifying for the lowest price per month) you can give a friend or loved one a website for 3 years for about $100. There are an overwhelming number of web hosts out there. Here are the ones I recommend:
InMotion Hosting — a hosting company that’s employee-owned and committed to open source. They offer design services in addition to a wide range of hosting plans, and have 24/7/365 US-based phone support. This is my top recommendation for most of my clients and where my own websites are hosted. InMotion Hosting is for you if customer service is your number one concern.
Bluehost — out of all the hosts that offer budget-level hosting, Bluehost is one of the most well-respected. They offer a wide variety of plans, including WordPress and WooCommerce hosting, and you won’t out-grow them as you grow because they have an upgrade path to VPS and dedicated hosting. Bluehost is for you if you want all-around quality with a variety of options.
HostGator — is one of the least expensive options for hosting if you take advantage of their frequent sales. They also offer monthly billing, which many hosts don’t do for lower-end hosting plans. The sale price applies to the first transaction, whether you pay for one month or 3 years, so you save the most if you pay for 3 years up-front. HostGator is for you if low price is your most important criteria.
SiteGround — with servers in the US, Europe and Asia, SiteGround is truly an international hosting company. They offer special discounts to students and teachers, have 24/7/365 phone support, and are known for giving back to the WordPress community. SiteGround is for you if you’re looking for speed or if lots of the visitors to your site are likely to be from overseas.
Weebly — one of a few quality hosts that offers truly free hosting as well as upgrades to premium plans. With their drag and drop interface, Weebly is very easy to use. Weebly is for you if you want a free website or if you’re not technical and need a host that’s really easy to use.
Wix — another host that offers a completely free plan, Wix has specialized templates for many specific types of businesses and entrepreneurs, including musicians, event planners, photographers or those in the education field. Wix is for you if you need a small business site that’s free or if you find WordPress too difficult to use.
Strikingly — if you want an easy-to-build long scrolling website, Strikingly’s interface will walk you through the choices you need to make. Strikingly has a free hosting option, and two paid plans. Strikingly is for you if you want a free website that lets you have a store with one item for sale.
Shopify — The simplest way to create an online store, or to sell things from your Facebook page or Pinterest. Shopify helps you learn what you need to know to set up your store and make it successful, and they give you lots of options to help you grow. If you want an online store, Shopify is the best option.
How Does it Work?
If you’ve never had a website before, you probably have lots of questions. Here are some details. If you don’t see the answer to your question, feel free to post a comment and ask and I’ll answer you soon.
- During the sign-up process, it will ask you for a domain name. If you’re not sure, many hosts will let you decide that later, so look for an option to skip this if you don’t know the domain name you want. If you already own a domain name, put that in and you’ll get instructions on how to link it to your new hosting plan later. Some hosts give you a free domain name with your hosting plan. If you choose that and pick a domain, you won’t be able to change the domain name later. But relax, domain names are inexpensive: generally about $15 per year, sometimes cheaper. You can’t exchange one for a different one, but you can just buy another one and stop using the original one if you really want to change it later.
- The best way to save money is to pay up-front for the longest time period you can, especially if you’ve found a good sale. The sale price will only apply to the first transaction, and then it will renew at the regular price. So if you pay for only a month, you save on just the one-month price, but if you pay for 3 years, you save the most.
- Realize that you are entering into a contract, not making a one-time purchase. You can cancel, but if you don’t, they will bill you again (at the regular price) when the time you’ve paid for expires. So if you pay for a year, your card will be charged to renew on the anniversary of the purchase date.If you intend to make this a one-time gift, you’ll need to make arrangements to transfer the billing to the giftee before the renewal date arrives. The web host’s billing department will help you do that.
- Some plans let you just have one website, but there are very affordable plans that allow for more than one website and some are even unlimited. There’s no reason to buy a different hosting plan for each site: if you want to get a website for each of your children, or you want to have one yourself as well as the one you’re giving to a family member, purchase a plan that allows for multiple websites and you’ll get an even better bargain.
I’ve Purchased a Hosting Plan. Now What?
Check your email, where you’ll find links and login information. The steps may vary for each host, but they go something like this (if you chose one of the free hosts, the instructions are different, so skip down to those further down):
- Log in
- Follow the link to a tutorial about how to get started.
- If you’re not sure, a good place to start is to install WordPress (they might ask you during the purchase if you want it installed automatically — if you didn’t choose that, you can install it once you log in).
- The WordPress login will be different from the login to the web host. If you’re buying the website for a child or teen, you might keep the hosting login to yourself and share only the WordPress login with your child.
- Once WordPress is installed, you can choose a different theme, or start customizing the default theme. The web host likely has tutorials for this, or you can search for how to customize a WordPress theme on YouTube or Google.
- Note about site-builders: WordPress should come included with your web hosting plan. Ditto for other open source site builders like Joomla or Drupal and they usually include a Wiki builder and other options. But there may also be an option for a site-builder that you have to pay for. It’s a common way to “upsell” you (like when the fast food clerk asks if you want fries with that). If you’re trying to keep costs down, you want to at least try WordPress first. If you need help setting it up, I can help for a small fee and get you up and running, which may be better than paying an extra monthly fee to the web host.
- If you want to have a second website on the same hosting plan, check to make sure your plan allows that (and upgrade if necessary — the web host’s billing department can help with that). Then follow instructions for an “add-on” domain. Again, it will ask you for the domain name you want to use.
If you are starting with a free plan, or if you purchased hosting from Weebly, Wix or Strikingly, the instructions are different and probably even easier:
- If you’re starting with a completely free plan, you probably start with your domain name. This will be what’s known as a sub-domain. Instead of mydomain.com, it will be mywebsite.weebly.com, for example.
- Once you’ve chosen a site name, you immediately get to start setting it up and adding content. These hosts have their own site builder so you don’t have to install WordPress.
- If you chose the premium plan, or later if you upgrade, you’ll get a chance to connect the site with your domain name (read more below about top level domain names vs. sub-domains).
I Need to Know More about Domain Names
Professional websites have what’s known as top-level domain names, in the format of mydomain.com. Free web hosts give you what are known as sub-domain, like mywebsite.weebly.com. Sub-domains are great for personal blogs or for a website for a kid, but if you want to have a business and be taken seriously, you need a top-level domain name. Here are some things to know:
- Domain names can be purchased for $15 per year, or less.
- Domain names can be purchased separately from a web host, though most web hosts will also sell them to you. If you’ve purchased a domain name separately from the web hosting plan, the company you purchased it from can help you get it set up to point to your website on your web host. They do it all the time so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- If you type a domain name into your browser and a website doesn’t come up, that doesn’t necessarily mean no one owns the domain or that you can buy it. Many domains are owned by people who have not turned them into websites. They may be willing to sell (or even give them away) but they may be hoping to make money by selling a potentially valuable domain. You have to decide how much a name is worth to you, if you find that your chosen name is already taken. Or read on . . .
- If your domain name of choice is already taken, you have several options:
- There are lots of options for domain names in addition to the traditional .com domains. Some examples are .online, .tech, .me, .info, and .news, but there are lots of others. They vary in price, but remember that the price is always for a year, not per month.
- Consider adding hyphens (dashes) to the domain name, making mydomain.com into my-domain.com and see if that’s available.
- Look for a modifying word you can add. MyDomain.com becomes MyDomainStore.com, for example. Most websites can include words like store or online, or you can find a word that applies to your topic, such as designs or photos (or photography) or recipes. Many domain name registers will help you find a name similar to the one you’re trying for if the one you want is taken.
A website might just be the perfect Christmas gift for that hard-to-buy-for person on your list. I’m willing to answer questions or help you sort things out if you’re still in doubt. Please click on the links above if you want to buy a web hosting plan this holiday season, because most of my links are affiliate links. You’ll pay the same as you would otherwise, but I’ll get a commission to reward me for the help I’ve given you in choosing a web host. Note that I have not listed specific prices because prices will change depending on when sales are running, but each host of these hosts will have sales from now up till Christmas Day.