Now, don’t start giggling! For many people, the nature of just what a website is, is shrouded in mystery. And we don’t mean just your technologically-confused grandparents. Millions of people use the internet every day without really understanding what a website is or how it’s made. Like many things in life, we just take it for granted that it exists.
Have you ever had grandparents (or even parents) ask you what a website is and how it works, and you’ve realised you have no idea how to explain it? Well, for the curious and confused alike, here is BSO Digital’s 101 on Websites!
What is a Website?
It might be easiest to think about a website as a kind of digital book. Like a book, a website is made of files and pages. The homepage is much like the cover of a book for a website – it is the first thing we see and judge a website on when we visit it.
A website, like a book, uses this collection of pages and files to convey specific pieces of information. This can be anything from a website dedicated to showing you the funniest dog pictures, all the way up to sites that give you important legal information.
What is a Web Designer?
Websites begin with web design. The web designer creates the “look” for the website. It is their job to make the website look appealing and enjoyable to visit – which makes you stay longer on the site to absorb more of its information.
What is Web Development?
After the web designer is finished, a website is given to the web developer. The web developer’s job is to work with specially programming languages – also known as code (which includes (X)HTML and PHP) – to create the structure of the website. They will create the pages to hold the information and design, as well as ensure that you can navigate from one page to another as easily as possible. This basically means they are creating the bones on which the web design sits. The website also gets a title, referred to as the “domain name” which forms part of the link you use to look the website up – much like looking up a book in a library or a bookstore.
Once a website is built, it has to be hosted somewhere. This is what a webserver is for. Imagine that the webserver is like a library – it holds all the code and files for hundreds of different websites. When someone wants to access a website, the webserver sends the files and code to that person’s computer.
While web development and web design means that very few websites look or act the same, each website is made up of a standard set of items. These include:
- The Home Page – the first page we see when visiting a website
- A Navigation Menu – the main guide to accessing the website’s content
- A Footer – this is found at the bottom, or foot, of the page and contains important links as well as copyright information
- Hyperlinks – special codes that allow you to navigate from one page to another with one simple click!
What is a Webpage?
A webpage is a document written in a programming or coding language (like HTML or PHP) that is displayable by a browser (a browser is what you use to look up websites – you might use Firefox or Chrome, or even Internet Explorer. Those are browsers). This is done using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol or “http” that is seen at the start of a website address. A webpage can use a variety of special codes in order to make the information on the page enjoyable to view and read. These include:
- Style Information – this controls how the page looks and feels to the user
- Scripts – these add interactivity to the page, allowing you to navigate pages, view videos and create special effects on the page (like changing background images!)
- Media – this includes the images, sounds and videos that bring a webpage to life
All these elements go together to make a webpage, just like ink, paper and illustrations come together to create a page in a book.
What is a Webserver and Web Hosting?
A webserver is a series of computer systems that store the information and pages for various websites. They are like giant libraries of websites. When you type in a web address, you are requesting a copy of the website to be displayed in your browser. The webserver sends the required pages and information to your browser so you can look through the site.
Web hosting is basically leasing space on the webserver to different websites – like leasing a parking spot for your car. More than 90% of the websites on the internet lease space on webservers in order to host their websites! Webservers are expensive to create and maintain, which makes web hosting so important. Without this leasing service, most websites would cease to be as the cost of a webserver is well out of most people’s and business’ budgets!
What is a Web Builder?
If you have heard of web development you have probably heard about website builders as well. Website builders are online programs that let you create your own website. These are known as “content management systems” or CMS. Originally CMS were designed to work with big website projects. But online CMS now cater to people making smaller, personal websites.
A web builder allows you to create a basic website without programming skills by using free templates. This does mean your website will look the same as many others. But they are good if you are looking for a very simple personal blog or website!
Remember, with a website builder, you do not own the design of the website. You are basically renting the design from the website builder. If you choose to change host you will not be able to take the design with you.
When you get a website professionally designed and developed, however, you can take the design with you no matter what webserver you choose to host on!
Hopefully now you know a little bit more about the enigma that is the website. If you’re looking to create a site for your business, why not give us a call today?