Designing and creating your site is the first and most complex step in the web design process. If you have followed with me so far you can now see your site on your own computer, but it means little if you are not able to present your work to the outside world.

Before we start on the process to do so, we need to define a few terms.

First, a web server is simply a computer that has software installed to serve content to the web. There’s nothing special about the computer itself (or even the software), just its connection to the internet. You could turn your own computer into a web server, but in order to host a public web site it would have to have a 24/7 connection to the internet and an IP address (a computer address that translates to a domain name). You’d also have to keep the computer secure from intrusion. That’s too much effort for most, so we turn that service over to a web hosting provider, a company that specializes in hosting web sites. They will typically have a number of servers, mounted in racks, with a “big pipe” high speed connection to the internet.

Having a public website involves two steps. The first is choosing a domain name for your site, and paying for it. This process is known as domain registration. The second, often separate step is finding a hosting provider, paying them to host your site, mapping the domain you have purchased to their server(s), and uploading your site.

While you can leave the technicalities of registering and finding a host to the client, there are several reasons you want to do it for yourself. The first is simple: money. Generally the client doesn’t want to deal with technical issues. For taking on these tasks you are compensated for your time, effort, and any markup you wish to charge on the actual costs involved in the registration process.

In addition, by registering and hosting the domain, you can remain the technical and administrative contact for the site. That means that you have the power of life and death over the site. If the client doesn’t pay, you can, ultimately, pull the site from public access.