Back to Basics: What is a Website?
What Is A Website? No, but really, what actually is a website? Does anyone know? Anyone? Bueller?
In today’s world, many Internet users don’t actually know how the Internet works. You type something into Google, and then some results pop up on the screen, point, click, repeat. In reality, websites and the interconnected digital universe can be quite complex. We can better understand websites and the internet at large by thinking broadly about what a website is, and how it relates to what you probably already know about computers and technology.
So let’s break it down.
You may know that websites are made up of files… somehow. But how does a finished website show up on your screen? How does it all work? Something about ones and zeros, right…? Does the matrix have something to do with it?
Let’s dive in with a quote from Wikipedia, still one of the internet’s most popular and useful resources.
A website, also written as web site, or simply site, is a set of one or more related web pages typically served from a single web domain. A website is hosted on at least one web server, accessible via a network such as the Internet or a private local area network through an Internet address known as a uniform resource locator (URL). All publicly accessible websites collectively constitute the World Wide Web.
First, we have, “…a set of one or more related web pages…”
A website is made up of web pages, and web pages are made up of files. You can think of these files as just like the files that make up your Word documents, your spreadsheets, pictures, videos, and apps, like games and software. The files are made up of code, which collectively acts as a set of instructions for your computer or device to follow. This concept is called programming, and it allows for everything we love about modern technology, including creating and displaying websites.
Next we have, “… typically served from a single web domain.”
Here we really have two pieces. The first being the word “served.” This is referring to the hosting server. The files that make up your website have to be stored somewhere, just like the files on your computer are stored on your computer’s hard drive. The hosting server is nothing more than a computer with plenty of storage space, that stays connected to the Internet at all times. When a user is viewing a website, their computer has retrieved the websites files from the hosting server, and then displayed a web page according to the instructions, or code, in the files.
“From a single web domain” refers to the website’s web domain, or domain name, which is the website’s base location within the Internet, and every single one has to be unique.
Our domain name is spysie.com; this is also the URL or web address of our home page. You can store and display many web pages from a single domain, through subpages (spysie.com/about) and subdomains (portfolio.spysie.com). Each page will have its own unique URL.
The URL (uniform resource locator) for each page, is simply the domain name, spysie.com, followed by a slash, and the page’s URL title, also known as a slug. For example, our Blog page’s URL is spysie.com/blog. It’s that simple, any secondary pages such as individual blog posts, would be the same thing with another slash and the blog title added to the end (spysie.com/blog/what-is-a-website). Notice that multi-word titles are separated by hyphens, and there is no punctuation. These “permalinks” can come in handy when using certain keywords for content marketing purposes… but more on that in a later blog post.
Web addresses function in the same way as real-world physical addresses, they tell your computer where in the world your website is located (although there are sneaky ways to mask this). On a basic and not-very-technical level, this is how the internet is organized. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN for short, is (among other things) the international governing body responsible for overseeing the domain naming system. ICANN grants organizations with registrar status, and these registrars have the ability to register domain names to end users, that’s you!
There are many companies out there offering domain registration and hosting services, many that offer one or the other, and many that offer both. Who you choose is up to you, and we always recommend reliable, affordable vendors to our clients.
Fees: Average domain registration fees can run anywhere from $3 per year to $20 per year or more, but if you would like to obtain a popular or highly-sought-after premium domain name that is already registered to somebody else, you may also have to pay an additional purchase fee to the current owner, sometimes in the thousands of dollars with the top domains going for millions. Hosting fees usually range between $50 and $100 dollars per year, and offer various amounts of bandwidth and included features.
So that’s it. A website is just one or more pages, made up of coded files, stored on a hosting server, with a web address, or domain name, registered in a system overseen by a governing body known as ICANN.
Congratulations, you now understand the internet (on a very basic level). To learn more or to get started on your new website, contact us today!