How a Website Works | The Technical Stuff
In this bonus info page we are diving a little deeper into the technical stuff underlying your website and how it all works. We are going to cover things like getting your own domain name, hosting services, website building platforms, and how it all works.
Note: This document is a bonus feature included in the Call In Your Dream Clients learning series. If you have received this page separately, you’re missing a bunch of the magic! Get the whole package here ↓
Dive in a Little Deeper…
In the learning series: Call in Your Dream Clients we have been learning all about creating a stunning and aligned online presence where your ideal clients or customers will immediately know you’re the one they’ve been looking for.
We’ve covered the steps to planning, creating content, website design, and launching that baby. Here we dive deeper into some of the technical stuff behind your website, for those who want to understand it more deeply.
Although most of us visit and use websites everyday, a surprising few actually understand how it all works. The internet in general can be a bit of a mystery, and all the jargon and moving parts can be totally intimidating. But you don’t have to be a professional web developer to understand the basics of how a website works. No matter your level of experience, or how “techy” you are, if you’re investing in creating your business website, you should know a little about how a website works.
So let’s pull aside the curtain and see what lies underneath the veil of the world wide web.
What is a website? Aside from the obvious answers such as your website is a place to publicly provide information about your services and products, and sometimes to collect information or make sales, at its very heart your website is actually a jungle of HTML code that wouldn’t make any sense to the average viewer.
HTML code is a programming language that allows a web developer to plan and create a web page. All the beautiful images and brilliant sales copy you add to your website are actually just a rat’s nest of coding language. That’s a little unsettling, right? Why does it look so nice (we hope) to the viewer?
Your browser, be it Chrome, Safari, Firefox or Duck Duck Go (the latter which, incidentally, does not track your browsing activity or censor your search results) is the magical looking glass that translates all that code into the gorgeous website your dream clients will see and love. This is why occasionally the same website will look slightly different in two different browsers. So, by looking at the heap of HTML code via your browser, what you see is pretty images and text that makes sense. By the way, i’s important that your browser is up to date, or it won’t be able to translate the coding in newer websites.
2. Website Building Platforms
If you want to DIY your website, don’t despair. You no longer need to learn how to read and write coding language in order to make a lovely website. All you need is a Content Management System (CMS). There are many options these days, commonly referred to as website building platforms or ‘builders’, which translate the HTML code in real time, allowing you to create the thing of beauty your dream clients will see while the builder does the heavy HTML lifting for you. This is sometimes referred to as “WYSIWYG” or “what you see is what you get”. With coding, what you see is definitely not ‘what you get’.
Some examples of website building platforms include WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace. Plus, within WordPress there are extra building tools available, referred to as ‘Themes’. Some of these themes, including my favorite: Divi, make it easier for you to create a super stunning website with extra fancy and unique elements to make you stand out from the crowd. When I create websites for my clients I include Divi ($300 value) in the package so they can have fun making changes or additions to their website in a what-you-see-is-what-you-get format.
Which CMS/Web Builder Should You Choose?
The answer to which builder you’ll like best is: the one you become familiar with.
Some of them have more options and features that your business can grow into, while others have some limitations, particularly when it comes to creating on online courses, an e-commerce shop, or a dynamic program calendar. WordPress is widely known as the most versatile platform with no ceiling or limits to what it can do as your business grows.
Both Wix and Squarespace advertise themselves as being easy to use and they promise that you’ll have your website built in no time. That will be true for some people. But honestly, the outcome of your website project depends mostly on how quickly you learn to use the platform, or how comfortable you are with it already. Because I build exclusively on WordPress, I would be able to create a complete and gorgeous site for you much faster there than if I tried to learn how use Wix.
So, as you can probably tell, I recommend choosing WordPress so that you do not run into limitations later as your business grows. Pairing it with a builder theme such as Divi makes it just as easy to DIY something simple and beautiful as it would be using platforms like Squarespace or Wix. Plus, because Divi is my jam, I can jump in to help you at any time, really quickly and easily, if you need a little help.
Important note: you cannot transfer your website from Wix or Squarespace to WordPress later. It would have to be rebuilt from scratch.
Let’s go back to the fact that your website is actually a big tangle of HTML code! If you are building a website, where do you store all that coded information? Does it live on your computer?
Well, technically you could keep it on your computer if the site was small enough. But you would have to leave your computer on constantly, have a very stable internet connection, and make sure the power never goes out. It would be expensive. The site would be slow. And if enough people tried to access it at the same time it would probably crash your website.
So if the website doesn’t live on your computer, where is all that data stored?
The answer is, on a server. Servers are giant computers that store a ton of information and can pull information out of databases for your dream client’s browser. You can use a server to store all the information for your website in a way that makes it available at all times by working with a hosting provider. Your hosting provider is like a huge hotel where you can rent a room long-term (for your website).
Hosting services are sometimes free, but those platforms tend to be very limited or have restrictions associated with them. (For example, Facebook provides free hosting for its users’ profile pages.) If you want the freedom to create a dreamy site that looks like the one you’re picturing in your mind’s eye, you’ll need to pay a hosting provider for that.
How to Choose a Hosting Provider
When shopping for a hosting provider, you’ll notice that there is a competitive marketplace with a ton of options. Factors like the technology used, monthly rates, and customer service are going to help determine which provider is right for you.
Here are a few things you should look for in a hosting plan:
- No setup fees
- Includes enough storage space and bandwidth for your needs
- An SSL certificate included
- Free website building tools and a control panel for site management
- Popular CMSs like WordPress should be fully supported
- High performance reliable servers to ensure your website is reliable.
- Email and phone support; friendly and helpful customer service that will communicate with you in plain English if that’s what you need, rather than using a lot jargon and expecting you to figure it out.
Clients who work with me to create a stunning custom brand and website will often opt to have their site hosting with Physis Publishing as well. With the Physis Publishing Hosting & Maintenance package you get all the hosting features at a super competitive rate PLUS it includes regular security scans and website backups, done-for-you updates, and 30 minutes per month of design work so you can have us make little changes, swap out some images, or load up a new blog post.
Lynn did a fantastic job on my logo and website. They reflect my personality perfectly.
She was always quick when I needed her to be, and patient when I needed time. She also gave me lots of guidance with my website content, which I really needed. Then she even made a detailed video walking me through the backend of my website, showing me how to edit things myself (although I usually have her do my updates, since I’m also using her hosting services).
Wonderful service and experience, all around. Highly recommend!
4. Domain Names
Okay, so you understand that your website, a jumble of HTML code, lives on a host’s server. Anyone who visits that website can assume that their web browser is going to magically decode that jumble and present it in a pretty, readable, informative package. But first their browser has to find it.
Just as if they were to send a letter or travel to a business storefront, they are going to need an address. In the same way, your website needs an address. The address at which your website can be found is registered specifically to you, and it directs your viewers’ servers to know exactly which jumble of HTML code to decipher and present to them. That address, of course, is your “domain”.
We all see domains all the time, and they all follow a specific format: www, ‘dot’, physispublishing, ‘dot’, com. You will need your own domain name so that your visitors can find you.
Sometimes people who are new to all this will confuse the domain name with the hosting services, thinking that if they bought a domain name they can store the website information there, and people will be able to see it. In reality, your domain name is more like the mailbox or house number, whereas the hosting servers are the ‘house’ where your website actually lives.
You may have also heard the term ‘URL’, which is similar but not quite the same. URL stands for ‘uniform resource locator’ and it is the entire address, including the domain name, for a specific set of information, such as a specific page on your website.
How to Get a Domain Name
To buy your domain name you can use any of the common providers such as HostGator, GoDaddy, or BlueHost. For my Candian friends I recommend a Canadian company called HostPapa.
I recommend that you begin by taking time to think about your business name (and be absolutely sure about your business name), take your time deciding on your ideal domain, and come up with a couple alternatives in case it isn’t available. Type it in a document so you can see how it will look when you share it with people.
You will start by searching for the name, to see if it is available for purchase. Domains should only cost $5 to $20 so if you see one for sale for hundreds of dollars that means somebody owns it already and they are trying to ‘flip’ it (re-sell it at a higher price).
Triple-check that you have spelled all the words correctly and have not dropped a letter or made any typos.
Go ahead and purchase that puppy! You probably don’t need any of the extras they might try to sell you, and you can always add things on later, so if in doubt just get your bare-bones domain name.
Congratulations! That part is so fun!
You’ll need to retain all your login information so that you (or your website designer) can “point” your domain to your hosting server.
A couple notes:
- Once you own a domain you are likely to get some ‘phishing’ emails telling you to buy this or click that link and telling you that your domain is in grave danger of being cancelled or some such nonsense. Examine the source carefully and critically before clicking anything or paying anything.
- Try not to succumb to ‘domain fever’ or you’ll end up spending a small fortune and sitting on a bunch of unused domains.
I am so glad that I chose Lynn to design and create my website. She is professional, talented and patient. I was overwhelmed and confused about how to lay things out and write professional copy. She simplified the process with her free guides and wise advice.
My new website perfectly represents my counselling and sleep consulting practice. I can’t recommend her highly enough. She creates magic!