New Small Biz Website - Ground Zero Advice

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New Small Biz Website - Ground Zero Advice

Postposted on Thu Jul 11, 2013 9:25 am

Long time lurker, first post.

I have the mission of setting up a simple web site, initially consisting of a few pages of information for customers, and a way to get in touch with the new company if the client is interested in our services. Eventually I wish to add programmed functionality, but I want to work in stages as I develop my skills. The only "complication" of the initial site is that is must be both PC and mobile device friendly for browsing.

My plan is to follow the steps in the Ars Tecnica series on setting up a secure Ubuntu server running on a local virtual machine. I then plan to use the structure and tools provided at HTML5 Boilerplate to set up my basic pages, and modify the server configs as needed.

I have a 6MB upload (50MB download) fiber optic connection, so in principle, with low traffic and little functionality, running my own server instead of hosting it elsewhere seems doable, especially since the Ars series shows how to harden the server a bit against attacks.

I have a background in PICK OS mini-computer programming from back in the 80's (whoa!), but haven't programmed since. I think what I am wishing to accomplish shouldn't be too hard for me to learn. Once really into it, my guess is that I would prefer Python scripting over javascript, but that decision comes later.

My question to you is this: are you aware of any guidelines or alternate sources than those cited above I should check out, or am I on a decent track? For now, the mission is just to get this "flat" html site up and running with as little unnecessary hassle as possible.

Thanks in advance for any sage advice you might be able to provide.
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Re: New Small Biz Website - Ground Zero Advice

Postposted on Thu Jul 11, 2013 10:23 am

OMG, watching for replies (but no relevant experience to add to the conversation)

I haven't written an (external) site since 2004 and I was already using "outdated" ASP by that point.
People sometimes ask me and I just point them to 1&1 or some other big domain hosting organisation with site-builder tools, but I'd be curious about how easy or hard it is in these days of HTML5.
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Re: New Small Biz Website - Ground Zero Advice

Postposted on Thu Jul 11, 2013 11:04 am

Sounds like a reasonable way to start.

A few comments on your proposed approach:

Hosting the site yourself is probably doable, but there are some additional factors to consider:

- If you are not on a static IP you will need to use a dynamic DNS service of some sort to maintain the URL to IP mapping when your IP address changes.

- The TOS of some residential Internet plans specifically forbid running commercial servers on the connection. Some ISPs will even actively block the incoming HTTP/HTTPS ports on residential lines.

- If the server will be sending e-mails to customers, these may get blocked by the recipients' spam filter. Many spam filters automatically block messages which originate from a server on a residential connection. There are workarounds for this (e.g. using "smarthost" to route through your ISP's server instead), but it's one more thing you may need to worry about.

- A hosted solution will likely provide better reliability and availability than a self-hosted solution.

All of the above notwithstanding, developing/testing the site on a home server is a fantastic idea. I'm just not sure it is what you'll want to use when the site goes "live".

Also, regarding the Javascript vs. Python issue: If you're doing server-side scripting, then yeah Python would be a better choice. But for client-side (browser) scripting, you really need to use Javascript, since web browsers can't directly execute Python code.
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Re: New Small Biz Website - Ground Zero Advice

Postposted on Thu Jul 11, 2013 12:38 pm

If you want to run a server, use a VPS from Linode or Rackspace. The server will be housed on a box in a datacenter with redundant power, cooling, and lots of bandwidth. You could even check Lowendbox a cheap VPS, no promises on reliability though. Just keep in mind, running a server is a big commitment.

Otherwise, rent some webspace from Dreamhost, or whomever. You won't have to worry about hardening or maintaining the box, and you can just work on the website. I happen to like Dreamhost since they are also a registrar, so you can buy and host the sites with one vendor. PHP is pretty universal for hosted solutions. Python support is pretty rare, and Ruby, as Ruby on Rails, is in the middle. Which programming language you would like to use is going to help determine which route you go.

I'd pick a CMS or framework then work from there. Drupal, Wordpress, and Joomla are popular PHP based CMSs, and there are many PHP frameworks. MoinMoin and Plone are Python based CMSs, and Django is The Python web framework. There are some Ruby based CMSs like Refinery, but most people use Ruby for the Rails framework. Check out the Wikipedia list of content management systems for other options.

As JBI mentioned, Javascript and Python are two different things with two different uses. Python will be used to generate a dynamic webpage by pulling data from a database, and javascript will be part of the page that is generated. Javascript is responsible for fancy effects on webpages, and making things interactive.
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Re: New Small Biz Website - Ground Zero Advice

Postposted on Thu Jul 11, 2013 12:57 pm

For what you're probably going to use it for, WordPress and Rackspace. Reliable, easy to work with, can extend it rather well. We use WP for a front end to a large e-commerce site for a rather well-known and massive hotel chain. It integrates rather nicely. It's easy to give to someone else to manage.
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Re: New Small Biz Website - Ground Zero Advice

Postposted on Thu Jul 11, 2013 1:27 pm

Write it by hand. It's not all that hard. The information and contact part is pretty simple and will give you experience to write a little code on top of the HTML when you are ready. Hosting on your own machine is perfectly doable and allows you to fool with the code without worrying about breaking things.

Use Ubuntu's setup of Apache and just hack away at it. HTML is pretty simple, you will pick it up fast if you have ever programmed anything.
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Re: New Small Biz Website - Ground Zero Advice

Postposted on Thu Jul 11, 2013 3:41 pm

I'll diverge a bit from the advice already posted - not knowing anything about you or the situation, I'll give you the perspective of someone who found themselves in your situation. Our business had a website that was put together by someone else (through an equipment manufacturer) and the site was largely static, not very attractive, and any changes had to requested, approved, etc. - it was a huge pain and I hated it. I don't have any programming background outside of some matlab back in engineering school and CNC m and g code in my past career, so I wasn't about to tackle learning html, php, javascript, etc. for a website that I wanted to be attractive, reliable, etc. ( I am not at all creative in that sense so attractive is something I recognize but struggle to create on my own if that makes sense). Anyways - in my search for a solution for a new website I came across Squarespace in my search and it has been a great fit for someone that isn't a programmer but wants to make an attractive website (mobile is also built into the templates) with minimal fuss for what I consider to be fair pricing. If nothing else you could do the 14 day trial and see what you come up with. I would suggest if time is of the essence you start with something like Squarespace, then you go about setting up your own server, refining your mad skills, creating a wicked 2.0 version of the site that you can be proud of without all the pressure to come up with a solution in the here and now. Not being a programmer I'm certainly not using all the Squarespace has to offer, but they may even have everything you're looking for built in already when you're ready to go that direction. My advice is don't force yourself to come up with something that "Just works" for the sake of time when there are affordable/reliable solutions that will allow you to get something online (that other people can modify as well!) while you get your feet wet with the server/programming side of things.
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Re: New Small Biz Website - Ground Zero Advice

Postposted on Thu Jul 11, 2013 5:26 pm

First of all, thank you everyone, There's a bit to digest, and I may post some questions soon, or come back in some weeks' time for more.

Secondly, kudos to the TR forum denizens. I posted the same text on three sites, the other two of (also) great renown. Quite a big and positive difference here on TR, in number, variety, and quality of responses.

Hmmm. Seems this might be a nice forum.
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Re: New Small Biz Website - Ground Zero Advice

Postposted on Thu Jul 11, 2013 5:29 pm

Hlafordlaes wrote:Hmmm. Seems this might be a nice forum.

Welcome aboard. We're pretty good at crowd-sourcing answers to problems no one knew existed.

EDIT: Given your location I must also add "¿Que?" I'll leave to you to figure out where I'm coming from.
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Re: New Small Biz Website - Ground Zero Advice

Postposted on Thu Jul 11, 2013 6:00 pm

Captain Ned wrote:
Hlafordlaes wrote:Hmmm. Seems this might be a nice forum.

Welcome aboard. We're pretty good at crowd-sourcing answers to problems no one knew existed.

EDIT: Given your location I must also add "¿Que?" I'll leave to you to figure out where I'm coming from.


Thanks! I run a tapas bar in Barcelona and am a physics fan, who spends most of his online time making up jokes on an astronomy forum. Been to 50 countries and have worked on every continent except Antarctica, so as to where I am from, well, nationality means absolutely nothing to me at this point.

The link provided to Squarespace by <kind poster whose name I can't see while replying> is quite good and very well priced. Might very well go for three web sites: restaurant, new biz, and a political blog. The last would let me finally utilize a domain name I've owned for over 10 years (go figure.) No worries, I'm not a ranting sort with wild ideas. More things along the line of what you'll find on ProjectSyndicate,which hosts articles by known figures in econ and politics (yet lacks a forum,)
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