Web Hosting, Domain, Servers – The dummy’s guide to all the web design jargons you need to know

By January 24, 2020 No Comments

I noticed that a lot of clients I meet are not very familiar with the technical terms and jargons used when it comes to embarking on a website development project. Usually the first things I do is slowly explain the terms we will be using, in a way that would be easier to understand. Here are some of the more common ones you need to know in order to communicate effectively with your web designer or developer!

First, let’s understand how a website works, how is it ‘online’, how does it get displayed to people who look for it? Let’s take a look at the picture below.

Think of the internet as an infinite-sized neighbourhood. A neighbourhood has many houses, connected by streets. Each house rests on a plot of land. How would you tell your friend where your plot of land is? Say, your property is at 4 Privet Drive – this is the address you would give your house. With this piece of information, your friend can directly go to your house.

So to get started, you will need a plot of land to build your website on. Now, think of the plot of land as your website server or web server. There are several choices:

  1. Buy it from a hosting company eg. GoDaddy, Vodien
  2. Buy a subscription from a SaaS (Software as a Service) provider like Shopify, SquareSpace. These companies have built a software that they collect monthly subscriptions/sales commission from in exchange for hosting and maintaining your website.

It’s kind of like buying an empty plot of land vs renting a property.

A web server is a piece of hardware that is constantly turned on and hosts all your website’s files, and handles all requests. Just like you can build anything you like on a plot of land, you can build anything you want on your web server. Each web server’s address is an IP address made up of a bunch of numbers. Now, isn’t it hard to tell your friend to go to 42.392.129.291? That’s why Domain Names are a thing! So we buy alphabetical domain names and link it to our server, so it’s just easier to tell people your website. Domain names are thus just like your house’s address.

So now that we’ve got a plot of land, we build out house on it. This house will be your website, that sits on your web server. You can build a website as big or small, or as nicely as you want on your server.

Now your house is built, you’ll need to decorate the inside with furniture, wall paint, lighting, flooring and rugs. This is where your images, copywriting, javascripts and CSS comes in!

Do I need to get BOTH web hosting and a domain name?

Yes. If you only get web hosting, you are buying a house without an address. And if you get only a domain name, you’re getting an address but not a physical house!

Which is better? Getting from a hosting company like Vodien, or Squarespace/Wix/Shopify?

It depends on the technical level required.

  1. Buying web hosting from Vodien/GoDaddy, installing software, setting up and building a website might be extremely technical for most people and you may require hiring a web designer for this.
  2. Sites like Shopify and SquareSpace, are built exactly to be DIY-able. This means everything from setup, is built to be extremely simple and seamless for the average joe.

Saying that, there’s obviously pros and cons to both choices. Option #1 would be cheaper, while option #2 can be up to 3 – 5x more expensive.

Can I get multiple domain names that go to 1 website?

Yes of course! Unlike real residential addresses, you can actually buy multiple domain names or URLs, and point them all to go to 1 website. Most people buy domain names with different extensions for different countries for marketing purposes, but they all point to the very same website.

Have a question? Comment on this post and I’ll get back to you soon.

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