Ready to learn more? You don’t need to know a lot about website construction. Your designer/developer can take care of the nitty gritty. Still, it’s helpful to know a little background, since you will have to pay for or provide some of the basic components.
What is a website, really?
A website is a set of files running on a computer that can be called by other computers over the Internet. When these files are served up to your viewers, they are put back together in their browsers on their desktop, tablet, or phone according to the design you and your developer create. The parts and pieces reside in several layers; many are behind the scenes where even your Web designer doesn’t see. We’ll outline the ones you will have on your WordPress site.
Often referred to as the URL, this is how the Internet identifies your content. Your domain name is unique. No other website can have exactly the same domain name as yours. You buy the rights to use a domain name for a year or more at a time. If you give up a domain name, after a waiting period, someone else can take it over.
The files that comprise your site must reside on a server that is built to handle lots of Web traffic. It must be available 24/7. This means that someone has to make sure it’s running, that it’s secure from attacks by hackers, as much as possible, and that it is repaired quickly if something breaks. You may contract directly with a Web hosting company, paying a monthly fee to use their servers and services, or you may get the service through your developer/designer. There are many hosts to choose from.
Content Management System (CMS)
Developers used to code websites by hand. Some still do. However, other developers have created content management systems as platforms for your content. These are software programs that handle storage and display of content on the Web in consistent ways.
They allow easy changes to structure and content, separate the code from the content, and free us from having to “reinvent the wheel” for each Web site. They collate and organize your pages, posts, and pictures in databases behind the scenes. A CMS can be free, like WordPress, or cost thousands of dollars, as some enterprise level systems do.
Your site structure, page layout, look and feel, color palette, navigation, and font styles are all parts of your design. Your designer will use a theme and its templates inside WordPress (or another CMS) to create everything from page relationships to automatic and custom menus. For fine tuning, the designer may do some hand coding to tweak the appearance. There are many free themes and others that require purchase.
Special add-on modules increase the functionality of your site. Some are considered essential; others provide more sophisticated “bells and whistles.” Plugins can include things like contact forms, subscriptions, product catalogues, connections with social media, slide shows, or e-stores, depending on what you need. Just like themes, there are many free plugins and many that provide additional functionality at a price.
Last but most importantly, your pictures, products, logos, banner, brand, articles, and ad copy form the muscles on the bones of your site. You may already know exactly what you want on your site and have it ready to upload, or you may need writing and graphics assistance to create your content. WordPress websites hold all your content and keep it organized.