Tuesday, July 17, 2012

We Own the Web...

For non-techies, the WYSIWYG editors gave us a ray of hope. I found out right away that SiteBuilder and similar tools were sticky and complicated. They were easy to break. Once broken, they weren't always easy to fix. Yahoo used SiteBuilder (I think). Sometimes, what I saw wasn't what I got. There'd be big gaps between sections, maybe. (I was still hung up on the idea of designing a tight, but clean, "layout.") Not only was "what I saw" not what I got, but what I saw wasn't what other people got, either. My site still looked way different on different machines. This about drove me crazy. It wasn't that every little aspect of it had to be the same. Little tiny style differences wouldn't kill me. They might keep me awake at night, and thus shorten my life, but they wouldn't kill me. What bothered me was that my site varied a good bit from one machine to the other. Sometimes it just looked horrible. I went back to HTML right away, but it was never satisfactory. Tables were the only way I could control margins, and yet w3c and others were screaming, "Don't use tables! Tables are not meant for layout!" I didn't even understand what they meant, back then. I mean, everybody was using tables for layout. If they weren't for layout, what the heck were they for? (Oh, like scientific tables? Elemental tables? Geological tables? That kinda thing? Bor-r-r-ing!) Anyway, I couldn't understand how all these other sites managed nice, clean, brochure-or-book-like pages, but I couldn't do it. And meanwhile, all the tech gurus out there were warning me not to use WYSIWYG, not to try to control style, not to create any broken code. I mean, essentially, they were saying, "Shut up and go away. You don't belong on the Web, and you don't have a right to say or design anything. We are the techs and we own the Web!"

Easy? Or just another cPanel in Disguise?

Seeing that everybody and their mother seems to have a website, I figured it must have gotten easier after all these years. Silly me. I've discovered that all these sites are built the same way: Glossy, slick, classic, or downright ugly front page, with cPanel under the hood. When Amateurs like myself got into the site-building game, companies had to make it look easier to make a web page (not that they actually did make it easier). Back in the day, I wondered how webmasters built sites that let other users share space, or even buy in. I was both envious and hopeful. For awhile there, I thought it just couldn't be done unless a person could write copious amounts of code, all on their own. I began to suspect otherwise. I've read enough now to know that lots of cheap hosts are just resellers who put their own spin on a webpage, while utilizing their papa host's cPanel. I don't know if you'd call them SpinOffs or Para-Sites. What I mean is, they buy a hosting plan with, say, ComplexHost, set up a home page entitled "EasyHost," and give you links to a fraction of the tools that ComplexHost offers. This could be an okay thing. As a beginner, you may not need, or know how to use, all that stuff that ComplexHost has to offer. The downside is that you're paying about as much for EasyHost as you would for the other, yet getting half the tools. Even worse, you may just be paying to look at EasyHost's front page. Once hooked, you might find yourself right back under the hood, in cPanel, wondering which monkey wrench to use.

GoDaddy's Instant Page Changed My IP?

It strikes me as ironic that I made the same mistake again, after all these years. I did just what I said I'd never do: bought names from one provider, and bought hosting from another. I did it because that's what everybody said to do. Of course, most of the people saying that are these SEO-minded, get-rich-quick schemers who want to park a bunch of ads. Buy lots of domains! they say. Buy them on GoDaddy and host them elsewhere! Nothing wrong with that, if you know what you're doing. Obviously, I'm one of those people who don't; and there are many, many like me, for I found literally hundreds of me, my Doppelgangers, crying like week-old noobs on numerous forums: Wah! GoDaddy hijacked my domain. I can't move my site. Wah, wah, wah! It's not that simple. GoDaddy gives you that old, familiar, ugly cPanel, all defaulted to workable IPs. They leave it entirely up to you to mess with their default IPs at your own risk. They provide lots of tutorials. And other hosts (Weebly, Google) give you tutorials telling you how to redirect from GoDaddy. But since GoDaddy's whole site seems to be in the process of redesigning itself to suit people like me (tech illiterates) half of the instructions in their tutorials (and in everyone else's tutorials) tell you to click on .... some button that doesn't exist. I've spent a lot of time on their site trying to find the Google Webmasters Tools icon, the Webhosting button, the Whatever thingy. Those things have migrated. GoDaddy's entire site is now devoted to selling cheap hosting plans along with cheap domain names. I *think* that might be why it's so hard to find the button you're looking for ~ they're not going to make it easy for you to click on "Somebody Else" as a host.

For the record (and it could change tomorrow, so do some massive searching before you plug in any IP from Clueless, here) these were the IP numbers that were used for my A Record on GoDaddy:

Default (GoDaddy Shared Servers):
InstantPage Server:

I haven't a clue as to whether those are good, bad, or indifferent. I still don't know whether the problem had to do with shared servers, or just my redirecting after the fact. I suspect it was the latter. I probably just did things in the wrong order. If I had it to do over again, and if I were going to have one registrar and another host, I wouldn't do it with the same domain. I'd use something like "mydomain.org" for my static page and I'd build my site on a different, but slightly similar name (not a sub-domain): say, "mydomain.com" or "my2nddomain.org." Yep, that's what I'd do. Hindsight ~ what a concept!

InstantPage Server vs GoDaddy Server

InstantPage is on its own server, you see. At least, it's on a different server than the shared server on GoDaddy. I think that many people on many different forums broached this subject: some of them ranting, some of them whining, and some sounding resigned. The problem is, I just didn't "get" what they were saying. I do now. (Nothing like experience...) That's probably of very little importance if you go that route from the beginning: build your site on GoDaddy using InstantPage. That has its own drawbacks, I'm sure, and it would be just as much a problem if you did that and tried to change later. Anyhow, GoDaddy kind of lures you into buying multiple domain names. "Lure" has negative connotations. I mean, they are giving you a bargain, and you do get what you pay for: domain names. It's like buying a handful of sticky file labels with your file names on them. Now you've got to find a place to put them. That's gonna cost ya. It will cost in time, money, and heartache. You have a handful of labels. You don't have a file folder to put them on. You don't even know where the file cabinet is.