Join James Williamson for an in-depth discussion in this video Administering sites, part of Introduction to Web Design and Development.
- If you've chosen to host your own site you'll need to work with your hosting company's web server to control and manage your site. Although the server will handle most of what you need for basic sites just automatically, it really helps to understand what's going on behind the scenes and what you're likely to encounter. So to demonstrate this I've opened up my web server control panel for my sample desolve.org site. Now I'm hosting this site through the hosting company called bluehost, I love those guys, but this is not a recommendation for them or even a demonstration of how their web server works.
What you're actually looking at right here, and as I scroll down you can kind of see some of the options that we have here, what you're actually looking here is the server administrative tool called cPanel. This is the most commonly used server administrator client across all hosting companies, so it's pretty likely that you're going to encounter it regardless of which hosting company you eventually choose. cPanel also updates sort of the layout a good bit as well, so if it doesn't look exactly like this don't be surprised. But the functionality will be very similar to this.
Okay, the first thing I want to do is I just want to scroll through here and I want you to look at some of these categories, Mail, Website Builders, Marketplace, File Management. As I go through them this can be really overwhelming to people when they host a website for the first time and they can come in here and look at all this stuff and say, "Oh my god, I have to modify all of that? "What am I doing?" No, you don't. A lot of this stuff is add-on stuff that you won't really ever need or use, some of it is things that they're trying to sell you, services that are available to you, and some of it, frankly, is using technology that you might not be using.
If you are not doing a dynamic site, for example, you really don't need of the data-based tools. Okay, so chances are you're not going to use over half of these items on here, you're only going to use just the ones you need for what you're doing on your site. Now if I take a closer look at some of these categories. The first one is Mail, and this allows me to manage any Email Accounts and if I click on this it takes you to a nice graphic interface, almost all of these will, and it allows me to create brand new Email Accounts. You'll notice that I actually have several sub-domains that are part of the Desolve site, so I could choose any one of these to create an email address.
So I could just go ahead and create, for example, firstname.lastname@example.org, now this one actually already exists, so I'm actually not going to create that. And as it tells me nobody @desolve.org is not a valid email address, thank you very much for that. But you would enter their Password, if they had a Quota every month on their mailbox, and then you could create an account. So if you were working with a client, for example, you could go ahead and create email accounts for everybody involved in that company that might need to get email through the site. If it's you're own personal site, you can go ahead and create email for yourself. Listed below that you're going to see all the email accounts associated with your domains, and actually it looks like I don't have email@example.com, so maybe I should've made that.
Now, as I mentioned before, a lot of this stuff you won't actually be using, but there are some categories that you are going to be using a good bit and I want to point those out to you. The first one is here, is this File Management. Later on I'll be talking in more detail about uploading and downloading files from your site and this is the area where you would be doing a lot of that. Notice we have a Backup option here, so you could set this up to automatically backup your site, so that if something went down, if the server went down, or if there were files got corrupted, you could just use the back up here. You'll notice here, we also have this File Manager and if I click on this I get to choose which site I want to use, I'm just going to use the Web Root for the whole thing, and go to this.
And it looks very, very similar to either a Windows Explorer window or kind of a Mac Finder window and that's exactly what this is. What you're looking at right now is my entire site, this is it and I can see all of the files, all of the sub-directories, all of the folders. Later on we're going to talk about site architecture as well, so you can get a good feel for how this site is structured. But you can see, I can come in here, I can open up any of these things, in addition to the public html, I can go into the Mail and find out which mail has been sent and received and which accounts are available for this particular site.
So this panel has a lot of functionality to it. I can upload files, I can download files here, I can back files up here, I can compress files, extract them, there's a lot of things that I can do here on my live site. Now you do want to take care when you're using something like this, because this is your live site. If I went in here and deleted a file, or moved a file, I could dramatically effect site functionality without meaning to, so keep in mind, this is your live site. Okay, we also have Domain Management. You're going to be using this probably a good bit.
Here this allows you to manages all of the domains that you've registered through this particular host. You can Register new Domains, you can transfer domains from one host to another one, you can create Sub-domains. Sub-domains are, for example, on this desolve.org site I also have allisonwebfonts which was a sample site I did for my Web Fonts First Look course. Instead of going out and registering a brand new domain for that one, I just created a sub-domain and I host it through here. So even if you type in allisonwebfonts.com that site will come up, but it's really being served from the desolve.org site.
It's a really nice, sneaky way to add multiple sites without having to have multiple hosted accounts. We can also Addon Domains, Parked Domains, parking them means basically you have a domain, but you don't want to use it right now, you're going to use it later, so you can just go ahead and park it. And you can do Redirects, you can redirect, for example, from the .biz site to the .com site, so that both of them point to the same one. Now as I mentioned, there are some upgrade things. These are all options and services they have to sell. Stats are really nice, you can come in and take a look at how many people are using your site, your Bandwidth usage, some statistics behind the users.
The analytics here typically aren't as through as say, Google's analytics, but they're really nice and it's a really nice way to sort of keep track of who's been visiting your site and what you're site traffic is like. You also have Error Logs, so if you're having some trouble with your site, you can go in here and check those out. We have Security, which allows you to set up things like secure uploading and downloading, you can set Secure Socket Layers for you site. It's especially important if you're doing e-commerce and things like that, you can do that all through there. If you've got dynamic sites you can set and create Databases through here, you can go ahead and configure PHP, or Ruby, Ruby on Rails, depending on which type of dynamic software that you need.
And down here at the bottom, there's some really interesting things, the sort of Advanced mode. Now a lot of people see this Advanced option and they get a little nervous about it. And truth be told, there are some things that you can do inside here that can dramatically impact your site in a negative way, so if you don't know exactly what you're doing with these, you want to leave them alone until you kind of figure it out. The nice thing is though, for the most part, they do explain themselves. For example, if I click on Index Manager, maybe I don't know what that means. I can say, okay, which one do you want to do it for, and let's just do it for desolve.org. Okay, so what it says is, "This Index Manager "allows you to customize the way "a directory will be viewed on the web." Oh, okay.
"You can select between a default style, "no indexes, or two types of indexing. "If you do not wish for people to be able "to see the files in your directory, "you want to hide a directory, you can choose 'No idexing'." Now this is kind of interesting. That doesn't mean that resources from it might not be served. Let me kind of show you what this is talking about. If I go over here to my Desolve site, let's say I look inside the images directory. So I type in /_images, so you'll see that what I'm looking at here is an index of all these images. You've probably seen these before and people may have described them to you as an unprotected directory.
What this means is that it's a directory that doesn't have indexing turned on, so essentially you're free to go through here and look at whatever they have in here, whether they wanted you to see it or not. Any visitor could see these. Now it doesn't really bother me to much that somebody can see these, I don't have any images in here that I wouldn't want somebody to see or find. But it's actually a really good idea to go ahead and index folders like this, like images, and CSS, and resources, so that people can't go through and just sort of look in a directory listing in terms of what you have. Okay, so let me go back here for a second and let's say I find _images, it's right there.
Maybe I'll click on this one and when I do that I get an option, right now I can see the Default System Setting is turned on, which is Indexing. I'm going to turn Indexing off, so that people can't look at it and I'll Save that, and as soon as I do that if I go back to my Desolve site now and let's say I go ahead and do /_images and reload that, you can see that I get a 403 Permission Denied. Basically it's saying, "Hey, I'm sorry, you don't have permission to view this particular directory." Now that doesn't mean that the images inside that aren't still view-able.
You can see, for example, on my site my images are still showing up. It just means that somebody's not going to see that directory structure. So that's pretty much your control panel of your website. I'm not say that whatever hosting company that you'll work with, that your control panel will look or behave just like this one, what I'm really hoping that you'll take away from this particular movie is that interacting with your web server is not going to be this mysterious, arcane process that you need all these advanced technical skills to do. You're going to be able to perform most of the tasks that you need through graphic interfaces that actually explain what you're doing.
And if you do have questions, don't hesitate to ask their customer support, that is what they're there for after all. And most customer support will gladly walk you through the process of setting up your sites and explaining all these options.
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- What is web design?
- What is a web designer?
- Learning to code
- Choosing a web host
- Working with a CMS
- Exploring how websites are structured
- Choosing your framework or software
- Designing with standards and accessibility in mind