In simple terms a domain name is the address you type into the address bar in your browser, so for example the domain name for this site would be churchsite.co.uk. It can also be used in an email address after the @ symbol. If you’re setting up a website yourself then you will need to buy a domain name.
Choosing a domain name
When choosing a domain name, try to make it neither too long to type (st-stephens-and-all-angels-ambridge.org.uk), nor so short that it’s cryptic (stphamb.org.uk). It’s best to avoid using hyphens/dashes too; although they make the address easier to read, people often forget to put them in. We’ve even heard someone ask ‘how do you spell hyphen?‘ These days most people are familiar with the ‘all one word’ concept.
Buying a domain name
There are many places selling domain names and there is quite a variation in prices. Unlike hosting there is no particular advantage in a more expensive registration, although you should check the small print. Some companies offer little or no support and some will charge you if you want to leave them at some point in future. The company I generally use in the UK is tsoHost as they are easy to deal with, and they have very reasonable prices with no hidden charges. Google Domains is also reasonably priced, although they don’t sell all the UK-specific domain names. Be aware that some sellers include VAT in the advertised price and some don’t.
Domain names have to be renewed every year, although you can often purchase several years worth at a time. It is very important that you do renew the domain name; if you don’t then it becomes available to anyone else to buy, and someone will buy it. It’s a form of extortion which is discouraged but not illegal; typically someone will buy up expired domain names, replace the existing content with something completely inappropriate like a fake online shop, and then wait for the original owner to contact them to buy it back for several hundred pounds. So the golden rule is never to allow your domain names to expire. I recommend setting them up to auto-renew by direct debit or from a credit card so that you can’t accidentally forget about it.
A typical annual cost for a domain name would be £7 to £15 depending on the extension you choose. In the UK the .org.uk is appropriate for churches and charities, and in the lowest bracket. You might choose .org for a more global feel, or .com just because it is the most common extension.
Making it easier
If you are using the churchsite service then we can include the domain name in the package if you wish, or you can just use our domain name for free.
Security Certificates (SSL)
In recent years there has been a big push to improve security standards on the internet. This has meant encouraging all websites to use a security certificate which allows the data to be passed between server and browser in a secure manner. This is obviously essential for banking and online shopping, but it is now being strongly encouraged for all sites. Web browsers are now starting to show warnings when you connect to a non-secured site, and the warnings are gradually getting louder. If people perceive your site as being insecure because of these warning messages then they may simply look elsewhere.
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and it is the standard used for secure transfer of data between the web server and the user’s web browser. In order to create an automatic secure connection you need to use the secure protocol, which just means that your website URL starts with https:// instead of http:// (the ‘s‘ stands for secure). You also need to obtain an SSL certificate, which you can buy through your hosting provider.
Fortunately many hosting providers can now offer a free security certificate through a non-profit organisation called Let’s Encrypt. If you are using managed hosting then this is likely to be a very simple operation to enable. If you are self hosting then you may have to dig a little deeper into your hosting control panel, but it’s normally fairly straightforward. You do need to go through your hosting control panel rather than directly to Let’s Encrypt as it is a complex process. Some providers still don’t offer this facility, preferring to stick to the paid certificates which typically start at £50 per year.
If you can’t easily get a certificate then you should consider changing your hosting provider.
We provide a security certificate as standard on all churchsite websites.