If you want the complete hands off approach you need to gather this information and file it away somewhere safe.
If you want involvement in your site on a regular basis, this is the information you most definitely need to know.
There are many many places to buy your domain name. They range from the popular 123reg, to small companies that run their own services, and everything in between. You will find be that swear you should use one or the other, if you are just starting out, go for something simple that works for you. I recommend 123-reg and Siteground. Siteground offers an astounding service all around but you may not need everything they have to offer. 123-reg has everything you need but won’t offer you much in the way of help, unless its straight forward.
To find a name to use, just use a website search function and get creative. These days you have 10s of website endings to choose from, it doesn’t have to be a dot.com any longer.
Once you have your domain you will need a place to store you website associated with it. This is essentially a box on the internet where all of your website files sit. Most domain sellers offer hosting too, again, what you choose to do depends on how involved you want to get. You can make your choice on price alone, or you can pass this responisblity off to your web developer (recommend this, as it will just become a bit of annoynace for you both going forward if you don’t). You can also choose the easy route and host where you bought the domain. Before you commit to anything, I would take some time to decide what you want from your website and how much involvement you want with it. If this is quick and dirty and you don’t mind re-doing everything again in a years time.. then host where you buy our domain. If you are putting more time and effort into doing things right, talk to a developer, they will help you and make sure your hosting will support functionalities you might want on your website.
DNS, or Domain Name Servers, is the name of the place where you above box is stored. You can think of this as a physical address, or a phone number. It is a computer identifier to locate your website files. If you purchase your hosting from the same place as your domain this info will be set for you. If you host elsewhere you will have to change the address that your domain looks for your webfile box at. These are your DNS settings, or NS for Named Servers. You usually list 2 of them, although you could potentially only have 1 or 3 or more. Changing your servers normally points to your box of internet goodies plus your email (associated with your new domain name). We aware of this before you change things to quickly.
The A-record of your site is related to your DNS settings, where the DNS address is where your server is located, (say a building), then the A-record is a room in a building where that box of stuff sits. This is the funny number you would see behind your website address. 126.96.36.1991, you see these numbers with your ISP (Internet Service Provider too). You could choose to let someone else hold your website in this room, but keep your emails going to the DNS lobby. The main thing to understand is that the DNS lobby and your website room can be in 2 different towns. If you decide to change these settings yourself, take the time to read a little more about this to make sure you know what you are changing and how it will affect your site and emails.
Just as the A in A-records stands for Address, the MX in MX-records stands for mail exchange. If you use the anaology above again, you can see that your mail and website and can be in 2 completely different places. You just need to be sure of which one is where. How to set up your domain email addresses on your local computer will be another dicussion later.
6. FTP, do I need to know
FTP – for file transfer protocol is how you send files from your computer to your website box. You will need a program that can handle this on your computer, and you will need specific login details to your website box to send to. You can do this securely using SFTP, regular FTP (which although secure is not 100%). I recommend that this detail be left for your developer. Unless you are a budding designer/developer you do not need to worry about this. If you are interested here is a great tutorial to give you a better idea.
7. Databases, will I need them
Even the most basic websites would benefit from a database. This is chance to store details of your site such as page copy, menus, pictures, and make them easier to access to change. This is entirely down to how you build your site, but almost all sitebuilders that take out the heavy lifing for you will need a database to work from. WordPress is the classic and most popular, and you will need a database for this. I don’t know of any hosting providers that don’t give you a database, but it’s always worth while checking this detail out before buying anything.
8. How much website involvement do you want? And what to do with this info…
This is the big question. I’ve always been the type of person to jump in and figure it out as I go. I work best this way, and I learn a lot! Not everyone likes this, or wants the stress. Using the information above should give you an idea of the very start of getting your website up and running. You may be say, hey no problem, or you may be running away as fast as you can. If your natural reaction is to run, pause, re-read the info, get your head around it somewhat and call in a trusted developer. A good one will hold your hand and smile the whole time. Regardless of your feelings, it is important to understand in a very general sense the above information. If your website grows, needs upgrading, needs a design overhaul, all of the above info will be asked for and discussed at some point.
Good luck! And come back for my discussion on setting up your local email client like Mac Mail and Outlook.