How we created our website (almost) for free

image with the writing www.smeyavos.world

Everything that happens behind the scenes of the realization of projects like ours rarely sees the light. The reasons could be that the content is not engaging, excessive and out of topic. Nevertheless, we have decided to unveil exactly how smeyavos.world was born!

Warning: this article contains several cybernetic and computer science's references. Nerd people will have no troubles, for everyone else we will try to make it understandable as much as possible!

A website by ourselves, is it possible?

Computer Science's degree obtained by Paola has been useful for sure, but it was not strictly necessary. Unfortunately, none of the university's courses have taught to us something about this internet world.

Hence, we got our hands and mind to use and thoroughly consulted the vastness of information available on the web. It is absolutely a mine of knowledge, but as every tool, one must know how to use it.

Many things, combined, permitted us to spend almost no money. This is because we had a huge amount of free time to use in learning and assimilating, in addition to the absence of deadlines to deal with.

Moreover, a great amount of patience, believing in our abilities and eventually being able to search on Google distinguishing between useful and useless information, helped us succeed.

Where to start?

The first step was deciding how to build the website "foundations". We have chosen to use a Content Management System, that is a software tool which enables a user to create a website without necessarily having technical skills and knowledge of web developing.

Plenty of CMS exists nowadays, free and paid ones, with distinct characteristics. For us, the chosen one was Joomla!: is it widespread, free and easy-to-use, it allows the construction of complex and articulated websites and to greatly personalize them. Its open-source nature has contributed to the definitive choice.

Without doubts, we could have selected another one, but for the moment, after an initial period of learning how it works, we are truly satisfied.

Once there, we also found out an active Joomla! community on Facebook, which has been a precious source of information. Without it, everything would certainly have been harder to accomplish.

How a website works: domain, hosting

After browsing some manuals the moment of concrete action has arrived.

As we wanted to start without spending anything, we looked for a service which could allow us to create a free website, giving us a domain and a host service.

Speaking roughly, the domain is the website's name (www.smeyavos.world), while a host is someone who offers a computer (server) where all the files of the website are stored. We found CloudAccess which does all that and we got to work.

Let's shape it!

One of the first steps to do was choosing a template for our own website.

This is a graphic and formatting model which uniforms the aspect of the website.

This is an important passage as it will define the style and the visual appearance of it. Also here, you can lose yourself while choosing one! Hundreds of them do exist, from more professional and specific, to simpler and essential.

During the choosing process of a template, one has to keep in mind not only its beauty but also its compatibility with other tools, the documentation, support of its developer. We opted for a free one of Joomshaper, called "Helix Ultimate".

Accepting compromises

Joomshaper makes available an ample documentation and has a super active support forum, where lots of questions and answers from experts can be found. One of the cons is that users who have the free version do not have the right to post new questions and answers.

Fortunately, there is a quick workaround for this because if you have a problem with your website, there is a 99% probability it has also happened to someone else who made that question!

Huge pros, instead, is the integration of a web pages builder called SP Page Builder into that template.

It enables you to create easily functional web pages which also look good, monitoring your changes in real time. The version linked above is the one we used and it is free, even if a paid one also exists and it offers much more features.

Anyway, we managed to do what we wanted with the free one.

Visualize the structure

At this point we stopped for a moment: we took a piece of paper and a pencil and drew our website's structure. What topics we want to show, in which order and the content of each one.

Once back in the digital world we made real what we scribbled earlier integrating extensions, modules and plugins, all free. They are necessary in order to have some particular features such as the form of contact us and the map in live location.

Everything was planned to be shown with a multi-language approach. Basically our website is in English, however, it is also consultable in Italian for our parents and old friends from Italy!

Going forward with trials & errors

Bit by bit, we finally created everything exactly how we wanted it. It has been not easy at all at times because if you want to do this completely free, you have a restricted array of tools which brings you to accept some compromises.

Probably, to build a website which is more complex and has particular and specific functions, it would have been a superior challenge remaining at zero costs. But for our project, with a simple clean website (for now), we have not felt the necessity to upgrade.

What we needed, though, was learning a bit more about technical concepts, in order to be able to edit the internal code of the template and modules. This permits to modify some little parts of the website which make it more pleasant overall.

Hence, our wannabe hacker Paola has deepened the study of languages like CSS and PHP. To do that, website like w3schools and stackoverflow were really useful to us.

Things are getting serious!

When everything started to appear like a decent website, finally we decided to use some money (just a bit)! For our project, the moment to become serious and definitive has arrived.

We did not want to remain tied to CloudAccess, because this free service implies a fixed domain (i.e. www.smeyavos.cloudaccess.host), among other constraints.

We started to search for the best solution for us and thanks to the Facebook group about Joomla! we found our solution: Versio. With them, we bought both the domain and hosting service, for an astonishing amount of 12.3 euros for a year!

For the few of you who are considering about relying on this company, we put here below the direct link (affiliated) to Versio, where it is possible to do the same.

The right name

Talking specifically about the domain, choosing the .world was not straightforward. In fact, initially, we found out that among the most famous ones like .it, .com, .net and similar, there are tons of others!

There are many original, odd and strange ones, for a total of more than 1500!! Did you know that? We did not, and this discovery floored us for a while, making us a bit hesitant.

We were uncertain about using something which is common for the people and thus opt for a classic smeyavos.com, or using something more particular and enjoyable, which can already reveal some information about us.

As you can easily see, we have chosen the latter! We do not feel as citizens of a certain specific country, but rather simple human beings, a citizen of the whole world. The domain we selected reflects these thoughts about how we see the world and how we live in it. Hence, www.smeyavos.world got the point!

Regarding the hosting service, Versio offers a fair package of features, useful and enough for the type of websites like ours. Thus, also the hosting was acquired from Versio. In the end, we needed just basic options with a not so powerful server, and they had what we wanted to start.

After all this technological shopping the only thing remained to do was the transfer of our old website on the shiny new server. It was effortless as the Versio's customer service did everything for us when we asked, hence we did not have any problems.

Details count, a lot!

Once the management of the website's structure and all those things came to a conclusion, just the last piece of the puzzle was remaining. That is, arranging all the graphics, images, logo, photos, icons, writings and similar. Also for all this stuff, we used the DIY approach.

Mostly we adopted the basic options of Photoshop, but we could have used also Gimp or other similar software for photo-editing to obtain the same results. All the images available on our website are our property or are royalty-free pictures. Our favorite sources of getting those are Pexels and Pixabay.

Mission completed, and now?

Eventually, we can conclude that after two months of intense studies, numerous trials & errors, endless research and an infinite amount of hours in front of the computer, now we feel a bit more like web designers, web developers, web graphics, web-everything.

In other words, freelancers in our own way. Until now, we got a huge amount of new knowledge, and who knows how much more awaits us

If the idea of having a personal website for your own project swirls in your mind, too, but you are far away from starting developing it, always remember that you can contact us. We will be glad to help you as much as we can!

The astonishing thing of this digital world is that people can work together from any kind of place, so keep in mind that even if we are on a Cambodian's island, we can help you anyway!

At this point, what remained is to give you our official welcome in smeyavos.world: we wish that you could find here something stimulating, useful, worthful and exciting for you and your life

Artëm & Paola