How To Use Open-Source Technology to Quickly & Securely Launch a Website as a Beginner
If you don't have any experience designing, developing, or managing a website, you might have some misconceptions about how much effort and time it takes to build one. Using modern open-source website builders and free online resources, even total amateurs can launch professional-looking and secure websites. How long does this process take? And is it worth it?
We’ll answer these common questions and explain how to leverage open-source technology to launch a website quickly and securely as a beginner.
The Good News
If you're looking for a quick answer to the above questions, you'll be disappointed that you won't get one. But we have some good news we can give you immediately: launching a website, even as a beginner, is faster and easier than you think.
You might also engage with an expert web developer to assist you with this process.
How Long Does It Take to Launch a Website?
Many variables can impact your timeline for making and launching a website, including:
If you've already designed and launched many websites, you'll already have a general idea of the work that goes into it; therefore, you'll likely be able to build and launch a new website much faster than a counterpart learning the craft for the first time. Still, you can know some of the most essential fundamentals in an afternoon and master the basics after just a few weeks of learning in most cases.
Project size and scope
We also need to consider the size and scope of the project. If all you're doing is building a simple blog with a handful of core pages or landing pages, you can launch a website in a day or two. On the other end of the spectrum, if you're trying to create a fundamentally new type of web application, you could be stuck in development for months.
Tools and staff members
You'll also need to consider the tools you're using and the available staff members. If you're using a free website builder that simplifies blog creation, you can develop something basic in hours. Complicated projects can be done relatively quickly if you have an entire team of in-house developers, but it will take much longer if you work alone and need more sophisticated tools to help you.
It is probably not surprising to learn that spending more money can expedite website development. If you have more money to spend, you can accelerate the timeline in almost any scenario, thus shortening your timeline.
Miscommunications and other issues
Minor disruptions, including even the simplest miscommunications, can cause delays and compromise your legitimate timeline. These issues can happen even in the most professional of settings.
What Does the Website Creation Process Involve?
The website creation process looks a little different depending on how you’re building the website, but it usually follows a process like this:
- Initial brainstorming and planning: Arguably, the most critical phase is initial brainstorming and planning, in which you'll outline the site's purpose, speculate about design and development decisions, and create a plan for how you will build and launch the site.
- Design: Work on the initial design, creating the architecture and aesthetics of the site.
- Development: You might be able to work with development in tandem with design, which happens simultaneously in some cases. Otherwise, development occurs after designs are approved.
- Testing: You need testing and quality assurance to guarantee functionality.
- Launch: Only after testing is complete will you be ready to launch.
Website Security Best Practices
Why should you care about website security?
Security will be your responsibility if you build a website with open-source tools. Without a proactive and thorough effort to secure your website, it will be vulnerable to malicious actors and natural cybersecurity vulnerabilities. When exploited, a lack of website security can lead to downtime, loss or corruption of sensitive data, or even worse consequences – so it pays to have a website security strategy in place from the beginning.
These are some of the most essential best practices for website security that you need to follow:
Prioritize Security Patching
Cybersecurity vulnerabilities don't last long. When a weakness is recognized, developers work quickly to try and patch it. However, you will only benefit from this quick work if you download and install the patch. Accordingly, it's crucial to prioritize fast and efficient cyber security patching and enable automatic updates whenever possible.
Check for Server Vulnerabilities
Through port scanning, you can evaluate ports to identify and fix network security issues. Intrusion detection tools can help you proactively identify and respond to potential threats on your server. Reverse engineering helps you better understand the architecture of your system so you can verify its security (or notice insecurity difficulties before they become a problem). Malware checking through cloud security scanners allows you to identify any potential malware on your server.
Additionally, it’s essential to use penetration testing, which we will cover in a moment.
Use a Web Access Firewall (WAF)
A Web Access Firewall (WAF) is a firewall that helps protect web applications and API applications by monitoring and filtering HTTP/HTTPS traffic between a web application and external users by blocking traffic from malicious sources. Essentially, this tool allows you to control web traffic and proactively block suspicious or potentially dangerous forms of traffic.
Initiate a Bug Bounty Program
It's also a good idea to initiate a bug bounty program. In this program, you'll offer a cash reward for any user who brings significant bugs or cyber security vulnerabilities to your attention. It's a way to turn everyday developers into a mini squadron of security testers – and the cash bounties you pay out will be cheap compared to the benefits of keeping your website secure.
Leverage Penetration Testing
Penetration testing is a deliberate practice of white hat hacking; it encourages people on your team to try and break your security protocols to see how well they hold up. If your team members can quickly get through, it's a sign you need to improve your security defenses.
Use an SSL Certificate
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), recently renamed Transport Layer Security (TLS), is a protocol for encrypting, securing, and authenticating communications on the Internet. With an SSL certificate, you'll have an additional layer of security to encrypt communications between users and your site.
Pay attention to your logs so you can flag and address suspicious activity. If you notice aberrant activity or behavior, you can take action before it's too late.
Scan Your Server Frequently
Finally, take the time to scan your server frequently. If you notice malware or anything suspicious, you'll have the opportunity to address it before anyone else can exploit it.
Three Popular, Effective & Secure Open-Source Tools for Website Building
There are many open-source tools that you can use for website building, but naturally, some are better than others.
Here are three open-source options that use PHP as a programming language with themes and templates. They also have large, robust communities to support them.
Joomla allows you to build a website and then manage and publish content easily, relying on thousands of free (and purchasable) templates to showcase your work. Intuitive What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editors make Joomla easy even for amateurs, and built-in media managers and SEO support further enhance its capabilities. However, there’s no free hosting, and some users experience speed and compatibility issues.
WordPress.org is fully open-source, while WordPress.com is a different platform that is only free to use in a limited capacity. WordPress has more than 8,000 free themes, media management tools, draft and scheduling features, and control over user roles and permissions. It also offers more than 50,000 individual plugins, each of which can enhance your website. However, it’s your responsibility to practice setup and security – and your plugins can become challenging to manage if you don’t use them carefully, making WordPress security vulnerabilities possible.
Drupal allows you to build a website without ever touching code. It’s free and open-source, giving you the structure, content formats, and roles/permissions you need to build a website from scratch. There are 3,000 free themes available and more than 40,000 free modules. However, Drupal has a steeper learning curve, and significant updates can require additional effort. It may not work well for specific custom applications.
Final Thoughts on Using Open-Source Technology to Quickly & Securely Launch a Website as a Beginner
Open-source technology has democratized website building, allowing more people, including non-experts, to build, design, and secure the websites they've always envisioned. These free tools are often accessible to use, enabling quick launches, but they also require you to remain conscientious about security. By engaging in website security best practices and understanding some of the unique downsides of open-source technology, you can launch your website quickly and cautiously.