Do you know, when you look at a web page, what you are really seeing? Do you wonder how this site got here? I want to share what I’ve learned lately about making websites and give a roadmap for people who, like me, want to have their own sites for business and pleasure.
The inner workings of computers, software and the internet fascinate me. Two years ago, I thought I understood the web, went to buy a domain name, and found myself bewildered by all the choices which I am still sorting out. Mind you, this came after 20 years in the software business, a computer engineering degree, and an interest in programming that dates back to 5th grade. But most of this stuff didn’t exist for most of that time, so my experience just provides the background for exploring what’s new in Web 2.0.
While shopping and exploring, I found a variety of things from individual scripts to complete solutions, but I didn’t come across a site that spells out what parts make up the whole of a web site. I think this is the first step to understanding so I am going to write it briefly here. I’ll give an overview and then talk about each of the parts in more detail in other posts. Keep in mind this is from the point of view of a person who ultimately wants to put together a business or professional site.
The domain name is the simpliest, most basic part of the the web site. Its just a unique name like www.ownmountain.com. If you do the ala carte thing, you pay someone like GoDaddy to register the domain name for you, which gives you the rights to set up a site with that name.
The next thing you need is web hosting. The host is a computer (aka server) sitting somewhere, could be anywhere in the world, constantly connected to the Internet, “listening” for your domain name to be “called out” so it can present your web site. In theory, you could host from your own computer as long as its always connected to the ‘net. In practice, most of us buy hosting service and let the pros handle the uptime and bandwidth concerns.
The web site itself I divide into two parts: the website builder and the content.
The content is the message of the website. Its stuff you create or get license to put on your site. For example, this post is my content. The videos are the content on You Tube. You might also consider advertising as content.
The website builder is software that makes is easy/possible for non-web-programmers to concentrate on creating content without having to worry too much about how to get it in web format. This is a build vs buy decision that is not either/or but a spectrum of opportunity. At one end are the very skilled or very well-funded who write their web entirely from scratch. At the other end, are the cookie-cutter site builders that allow you to chose a header and upload your content into their pre-formated page. In between, is software that provides a customizable foundation coupled with templates that give pages a certain look and feel.
To sell a product from your site, you need a shopping cart. The cart may come with along with the hosting or site builder or somesuch. Or you may want or need to purchase one separately. One more piece to the puzzle is credit card processing.
So, to answer the original question… What you are looking at is: A domain registered by 1&1, hosted by Host Gator, built by WordPress, using a modified Quickpress template, displaying my content plus advertiser links.