Alright, so you’ve created a website you’re happy with, now it’s time to launch it and show it to the world! The first thing you need to know is that Focal provides website support, but not domain support. What does this mean? Well, if you think about your website like a house, Focal will provide you with the land and the physical house, but we can’t create an address for you. If you don’t have a domain yet though, don’t worry. They usually only cost about $12 - $18 a year. We recommend google domains, but Godaddy and Squarespace are also popular options.
Once you’ve acquired your domain name, or if you’ve already got one, you can seamlessly integrate your Focal website and booking system under it. To set up a custom domain for your Focal site, the first thing you’re going to need to do is to access your DNS settings for your domain - don’t worry, I know the acronyms can be intimidating when it comes to this stuff, we got you!
What is DNS?
DNS stands for the Domain Name System, think of it like the internet’s phone book. Your DNS converts your very readable domain name into a more computer friendly IP (Internet Protocol, how’s that for a fun fact!) address. In a nutshell, when you enter your domain name, amazingphotographer.com, your DNS converts it to a string of numbers like 184.108.40.206, which tells the computer where it can find your website. If your domain is your name, your IP is your landline. Just like when you move, we need to update your number.
So, how do you make this change? Easy! Log into your domain through your provider and you should be able to navigate to your DNS settings, sometimes called your advanced DNS settings (it’s not as scary as it sounds, we promise). Most providers make it pretty straightforward, but if you find you’re having issues locating your DNS settings - which is not entirely uncommon - just drop us a line. We’re always here to help!
Now that you’re in your DNS settings you should see a table of records. If you have just purchased the domain the table is probably empty (bonus!), and if you have a current website there will be a collection of records. What we’re going to do is replace some of those records so your domain points visitors to your new website.
In the panel found on the left side of your Focal account you should see a ‘Domain’ tab. Open up your Domains page and you’ll see three fields, one for your website subdomain, one for your website domain, and one for your custom domain. Let’s get to work!
Step 1. Your Preview Subdomain
This one’s easy! Enter in your name or your business name and you will generate a unique URL where you can view a preview of your site. The URL will look like yourname.website.bookfocal.com and you can use it to check out a preview of your new website on various devices, like right now!
Step 2. Your Domain
Here’s the big one, it’s time to get your domain connected! Enter in your full domain name (www.yourdomain.com) and you’ll see a dropdown with all the necessary records to point your domain to your new website as well as detailed help guides for some of the more popular providers.
Now there are three important pieces of information we need here: The host, the record type, and the data (the field names might vary depending on your provider but they all mean the same thing). Keep this tab open and head back to your DNS settings, it’s time to get this show on the road!
Open up your domain’s DNS settings and the first thing you want to do is take a screenshot of your current DNS, just in case you need the records again later. After that, you should see an option to add in new records. First we’ll add in the A record. Add in a new record and set the type to ‘A’, the host name field needs to be either ‘@’ or left blank, depending on your provider, and in the value field you will paste the nine digit number found under the Data column.
Next we’ll add in our CNAME Record. Under the host name you can enter “www”, set the record type as CNAME, add in the address found under the Data column.
A CNAME record, or Canonical Name if you want to get technical, points an alias (in this case your subdomain) to the root domain. It’s like taking different directions to the same spot, with your host being the starting place and your target being the destination. It doesn’t matter where you start from, your CNAME will make sure everyone gets to where they’re going.
Once your records have been added you can save the changes to your domain settings in your Focal profile and that’s it! It can take a few minutes for the changes to be reflected, so if you don’t see your new site on your domain immediately don’t panic - you’ll be live soon!
Step 3. Backend Domain Settings
Last one! We’re going to create a custom URL which will point clients directly to your Focal profile and shows off your brand!
In the Custom Domain field you'll be prompted to enter in your chosen custom domain, which will look something like booking.yourwebsite.com. Once the domain is entered you will see the screen below.
Open up your domain settings again and add in the CNAME record, with “booking” listed in the Host Name field and customer.bookfocal.com listed under data.
Now head back to your Focal profile and hit save changes. Once they are saved successfully, you can also check the connection and view the live site. You may need to clear your cached cookies or open the new site in an incognito window in order to load it successfully. And that’s it. You’re done! Now sit back, relax, and feel free to show off your internet savviness (we take no responsibility for any increase in the number of IT questions you get from your friends and family!).