This article is meant for beginners with little to no technical experience.
I think what most beginners are confused by is how all the key components of a website fit together to create the many millions of sites you see on the Internet. Once you understand the concept of how websites work, then you will begin to understand the different ways that a website can be built.
What are the key components of a website?
There are 4 key components to a website and they are:
- Domain name
- Website files
- Database (if applicable)
- Web hosting
You can do without a database, but the other 3 components are necessary for a live website.
A domain name is a unique website address on the Internet. Domain names are special because just like your finger print, each one is unique. A domain name is important because it is a reflection of your brand and identity online.
Website files are a group of files and folders which hold all the codes and instructions for your website. Within the files are codes which tell your website what to do and how it should be displayed to the public, via a browser like Internet Explorer or Google Chrome. A website can be coded in HTML, PHP, ASP, or any of the other programming languages. Unless you have a one page website, your website will most-likely contain multiple files, folders, and images.
A database is a storage or repository of electronic data. Databases are often used in today’s web development for sites that require storing and retrieving of data.
When the Internet was a newborn, most websites were coded in simple HTML and didn’t require a database to run. Today however, things are very different. My guess is that most sites do have a database these days. If your site runs on WordPress or stores customer info, then your website requires one or more databases. A database is not required for all websites but it makes managing a website much easier. The decision to include a database depends on how your website will be created and what you need your website to do.
Web hosting is the service that connects your website to the Internet. Without web hosting, your site would not be visible to a user located in a different country or city. Web hosting is what ties in all the key components and then makes your website visible to people everywhere.
How’s it all tie in together?
- Domain names do not have to be registered with the same company as your web hosting. That is your decision. I personally use different domain registrars and web hosting companies. However, you do have to point your domain DNS to your web hosting NameServers.
- Your website files will have to be uploaded to your web hosting servers to make it function.
- Your websites database(s) will also have to be uploaded to your web hosting servers in order for it to work. Again, this is only applicable if your website runs with a database.
As you see, web hosting is the central piece that puts everything together and then presents it to the world via the Internet.
How do I build a website?
There are so many options when it comes to building a website these days that I can see why someone new to online business can get confused.
These are the 4 main ways to build a website:
- Build a site from scratch. You can either use an HTML editor like Notepad++ or DreamWeaver and code it on your own. This option takes the longest time because you have to learn how to code. It can take months to learn the basics, but programming is something that you keep learning because technology is constantly changing.
- Hire a web designer. This is the easiest option but can also be the most expensive. One thing you do not want to happen is get “trapped” in by a designer because you have no technical experience. Preferably, you have them build a site that you can manage on your own after they’ve completed it for you. If you don’t mind paying for future changes and updates, then that is your decision.
- Use a CMS (Content Management System) program. CMS programs are ideal for people who have no technical experience, but want to build their own website. There are hundreds of CMS programs out there, offered as free or paid products. WordPress.org and Joomla.org are examples of free CMS programs. Once these CMS programs are installed onto your web hosting plan, you can use them to create professional looking websites with minimal know-how.
- Use an online website builder. Now, anyone can build a professional looking website without any programming experience. Most online website builders offer an easy-to-use drag and drop user interface packed with features. Online website builders are similar to CMS programs in the sense that they allow any beginner to easily build a website. The main difference is that a CMS is a software that you would have to install on your web host server, while online website builders are provided strictly as a web-based service (SAAS). Another key difference is that with an online website builder, you have access to even simpler website building tools and the level of customer support is superior.
These are the basics of how a website is built and how all the components come together. If you need advice on building a new website, let me know.