When you’re looking to get started with your own online presence, you’ll need a website. But what exactly is a website? What does it do? And which components made a website?
In this post, you will learn the basics of
- Web servers and domain names,
- What they do for you and
- How to find what you need to get started.
Let’s start with the basics:
What is a website
A website is your business’s home on the Internet. It’s where potential customers can come and learn about your business and what it has to offer them.
Let’s say you decide to open a bakery in the real world. First, you’d have to rent a space to house it, right? A website is no different. Only you’re not renting space on a high street—you’re renting space on a server.
There are plenty of services out there that take care of this automatically:
A web host like WordPress, or Amazon web service takes care of all the technical bits so that your site runs smoothly when someone clicks on it or opens it up in their browser window (called an app). They also keep track of who visits your site and how often they do so (called statistics). They’ll also create an account with search engines like Google so that people can find your site when they search for information about baking or whatever else it is that you do.
Read also: Things to know before hosting a website
A server is a computer connected to the Internet, with software that allows it to store or ‘host’ the pieces of your website: the code, the images, the video clips, and anything else that makes up your site. It’s called a server because it ‘serves’ up the right content when requested — that is, when someone wants to view a page on your website.
Many companies and services will rent you space on a server and host your website. Just like a brick-and-mortar shop, you pay an ongoing hosting fee, which is a bit like paying rent, leaving them to take care of the technical aspects of running a server so you don’t have to.
Every single server in the world has its own address. This is called an IP address, which is short for internet protocol. All you need to know is, that it’s a long string of numbers that means any device connected to the internet can talk to the server and find it. Luckily, you don’t need to understand what they’re saying to each other; all you need to do is choose a nicer name to reference that numeric IP address.
A web address popularly known as a domain name is what people type into their browser window or app when they want to visit your site, it is how potential customers will find you, the same way people would find our real-world bakery: — for example Peelar.com. It’s simply the thing you type into the browser window to get to any website.
Let’s take a minute to break it down. Everything after the ‘WWW dot’ is actually what’s known as the domain name. It’s the part that lets people find your website, so it’s pretty important. Any device that searches for this address — a tablet, a smartphone, a laptop — is communicating with the server. The server then sends that device all the correct pieces it needs to display the website — things like images and code — so that whoever is on the other end of the device can view your pages. When someone types your web address into their browser, here’s what basically happens.
- Their browser figures out which server holds the content, and heads over to that server.
- The browser then says, “Hey, would you mind giving me all the elements I need to show a person this web page?”
- The Server replies, “Sure, I’m sending along 5 images, 2 scripts, and a few additional files.”
- The browser puts all the pieces together, and the person sees your nicely formatted web page.
And that’s pretty much it, except they’d be talking in really confusing bits and bytes, not English. But that wouldn’t make any sense to us, so…
Read also: How to create an online presence
In summary: Deciding to build a website for your business starts with understanding how it all works together: a server ‘hosts’ your site, and a domain name helps people find it.
To launch a website you need to get what’s called hosting space. Think of it like a plot of land for a house. Sometimes you have to pay a fee. In some cases it’s free. So do shop around before making your choice.
This ‘plot of land’ is one of many within a server. Think of a server as a street where many companies rent out space for websites. A bit like sharing the same postcode.
Each server has what’s called an IP, or internet protocol, address. This is made up of a string of numbers that can be located by any device that has internet access.
Every website has a domain name. This is everything after the www. or World Wide Web part. You can think of this as the physical address of your house.
But what if someone wants to find you, or in this case your website? They’d use a browser like Google Chrome. This locates and retrieves the website information, and then displays it. How long a website takes to load depends on things such as the amount and type of information, and internet speeds.
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