Websites make the internet interesting. Building a website is a good digital skill to have. This post will look at what websites are and how they work.
Chances are, you are reading this post on your computer or smartphone. You are reading from a website. Enabled by the World Wide Web (WWW), a website is a technology that allows easy access of information using the internet.
A website is usually ‘served’ to your device from another computer (called a ‘server’) that could be located somewhere around the globe. Thanks to the power of the internet, a website you’ve requested renders on your screen in less than a second.
There are jigsaws that piece together to make a website work — a Domain Name, a Host, a Browser, and of course an internet connection.
I guess you may have stumbled upon a domain name hundreds of times already. In its simplest definition, a domain name is the name of a website that humans can understand. The format looks something like www.example.com.
A domain name is a website’s ID on the internet. It is what we humans can easily use to access the websites we want to visit.
When planning your website, one of the first things to think of is the domain name for your website. Usually, entities use their own names as their domain. For example, Google becomes google.com and Facebook becomes facebook.com.
After deciding on your domain name, you need to register it a Domain Name System (DNS) registrar, let’s say Name Cheap. DNS registrars will check that the domain name you want is available. If so, they charge a fee to register your domain name on their DNS server.
Essentially, a DNS is a global database that stores domain names. One of the core functions of the DNS is to assign domain names to servers where websites are hosted.
Now that you have the domain name for your website, the next step is to secure a server to ‘host’ your website. This is just a powerful computer that can run 24/7 in order to have your website available and accessible.
There are numerous hosting companies available on the internet. What they do is offer a ‘slice’ of their hosting infrastructure to anyone who wants to host with them.
Hosting charges can range from around USD3 to a couple of hundreds of dollars per month — depending on server computational capacities.
Vultr is my host of choice because their service is very user-friendly, especially when setting up the hosting server.
Building your website
With hosting secured, you can begin the step of building your website. There are simple ways and very sophisticated ways to build a website.
On the simpler end, there are services like Squarespace, Weebly, and Shopify. These services can help you build a website on the fly. They handle the hosting for you and even help register your domain. They already have well-designed sets of templates to choose from. All you have to do is feed in the content you want to put on your website.
This needs basic to semi-advanced skills in website design and development because there are lots of customizations to do.
First, you acquire a domain name and hosting. You then configure the server with the CMS, followed by designing your website and customizing it with your content — aka building your own website.
More advanced methods of website development involve hardcore stuff that uses very advanced development methods. This means lots of coding, use of Frameworks, Libraries, APIs, etc.
At this level, oftentimes, it requires a team to build a website. Such is referred to as web applications because they are purposely developed to solve complex problems or provide demanding services.
All these require some investments in terms of annual subscriptions for the services and components required for your website.
The browser is part of the parcel as well. Without it, no one can be able to access your website. Usually the browser reside on the computer of the person accessing your website.
The browser renders the website on your computer using the underlying ‘codes’ that are used to build your website. It makes it possible for users to interface and interact with a website.
Once your website is up and running, you can access it with one of the browsers on your computer. Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Edge and Safari are some common browsers that may already be on your computer.
In this age of smartphones, web content can also be rendered on to Apps. Web giants like Facebook, Twitter and others have mobile apps alongside their websites. Despite being Apps, they serve the same purpose that a browser does — to render web content for users to consume.
Finally, the World Wide Web cannot work without the internet. Unless of course if you plan to host your own website on your computer for your access only.
The Internet is the infrastructure that makes all the interconnectivity possible. It makes a website that sits on a server on the other side of the globe reach your browser in microseconds.
The big picture
So the big picture! When you decide to have a website, you choose a domain name and register it. You find a hosting provider and build your website on it. When it’s online, you can start letting your audience know you have a website that they can visit.
As a professional entity or person, having a website is vital. It helps validate the existence and reputation of a genuine entity or person in this ‘online age’.
In the follow-up series of posts on the same topic, I will dive more into the details. First, how to register your own domain. Second, how to set up your host. And third, how to actually build your first website. Three different posts for me to write there.
Contact me if you need to have your own website and you still don’t know where to start. Happy to help.