Countless people who have commissioned a new website come to rue a very simple mistake. It’s important enough to justify a line of it’s own, some bold text, and exclamation marks;
REGISTER YOUR DOMAIN NAME YOURSELF!!!
Many businesses allow their web developers to do this for them, and there’s nothing wrong with that…until something happens with the developers. They move to New Zealand, they get sent to jail, their business goes under, they fall out with the client over an unpaid bill……these are all real examples I’ve come across in the last three months alone. Seriously.
When this happens you will end up in all sorts of trouble trying to take action to recover the domain name, transfer it and access it. You will spend many hours and some sleepless nights and you may have to forget all about the domain name you’ve spent years building up and register a new one.
Do yourself a big favour, register it yourself. It’s quick, cheap and extremely easy to do. This guide goes through some of the ins and outs.
There are loads of companies offering domain name registration, some I’ve found to be better than others. Some are overpriced and make it very difficult to leave. I’m not endorsing anybody in particular, but two of the big guys that I’ve used extensively and found to be honest and competitively priced are Easily (http://easily.co.uk/) and 123 Reg (http://www.123-reg.co.uk/). I have based the examples in this tutorial on the 123 Reg system but the Easily system is very similar.
You should expect to pay around £5 per year for a .co.uk and around £12 per year for a .com
Is the domain free??
The first step is to find a domain that hasn’t been registered by somebody else. 123 Reg has a nice system that allows you to quickly establish if your domain or any of it’s variants are free. Just type it into the ‘domain search’ box on their homepage and click the search button;
You’ll be shown a page which tells you which ones have been taken and which ones have not.
Register the Domain
If your domain is available then you can add it (or a number of versions of it) to a basket (as shown in the image overleaf circled in red). When there is something in your basket the ‘OK, let’s continue’ button will cease to be greyed out. You can click on it and proceed through the checkout.
At the next stage they will try to upsell you various additional services like e-mail and hosting. Just ignore them at the moment, there is every chance that your web developer will be providing this or will advise you to use and what you will need for your site. Just hit the continue button.
Fill in your username and address details. You are registering it to yourself and you will be able to control the domain from now on. One important point here is the e-mail address you use to register. I have seen instances in the past where someone has registered using an @btconnect.com address and then a year or so down the line they’ve changed to Talk Talk, and lost their old @btconnect.com e-mail address. Never mind, they set up a @yahoo.co.uk one and carry on. However, when the domain name is up for renewal the registrar then sends the e-mail to their old address, they don’t get it, they don’t renew and their site goes down. Moral of the story? Use a permanent e-mail address that isn’t dependant on the company providing your phone and broadband.
Complete the checkout process and pay for the domain using your credit or debit card.
Whether you’ve done this through 123 Reg or someone else, they will now send you an e-mail confirming your purchase and provide you with the user access details that allows you to manage your account.
Managing the Domain
So, now that you’ve successfully registered your domain name, now what do you do with it? Well that depends on how things are going to be set up with your web developer. I’ll talk you through two options below;
- You want your web developer to handle all your email and hosting
- You want your developer to host your site, but you want to take care of your own e-mail (ie through the absolutely excellent and free Google Apps)
First things first, using the details your registrar has sent you, log in on the registrar’s website.
This example is still following the 123 Reg system, in this case you go down to the ‘Your domains’ section, select the domain from the drop-down list and hit the Manage button, as shown below;
OPTION 1 – You want your web developer to handle all your email and hosting
In this scenario all you would do is change the nameserver details. This is a way of telling the DNS servers around the world which server your website actually resides on. Think of DNS servers as an address book. When an internet user types in your domain name into their browser, the DNS servers direct them to your website via this address.
So all we are doing here is changing the address. Anybody that is hosting your site will have to give you the names of two nameservers. When they have given you those you click on the ‘Change Nameservers (DNS)’ button shown below circled in red.
Now all you do is change the Nameserver 1 and Nameserver 2 details to correspond to those provided by your web developer.
Hit the Change Nameservers button. It can take up to 24 hours for this change to propagate around the DNS system, so don’t expect it all to work instantly.
OPTION 2 – You want your web developer to handle all your hosting but you want to use Google Apps for your email
There’s a bit more to this but I’ll cover the basics so you understand how this is done. In this instance you would choose the ‘Manage DNS’ option, shown below circled in red.
This opens a screen which allows you to add DNS records individually. To cover the hosting you would change the ‘A’ record on the domain to point to the IP address of the server you are hosting the site on (as shown below circled in purple). This would be provided by the hosts/ web developer.
To handle the e-mail you’d need to add a succession on MX records point to the Google Apps mailserver. You would enter these in settings (find them here)the section above circled in orange. The mailservers and priorities are;
When you have added these in you hit the Update DNS button shown above to commit the changes.