How Websites Work

Despite their often glossy and polished appearance, a website is essentially a collection of files and folders held on a computer, somewhere in the world.  Whenever you visit a website that computer – known as a server – makes those files available to your PC, or mobile phone, for display on your screen.  All of the text, pictures, and videos you see are stored on the server, in the same way that you store files on your hard drive at home.

To access these files, your computer must connect to the website server through the internet.  A Uniform Resource Locater (URL) – which includes a domain name – allows your computer to find the correct server with which to communicate.  Domain names, e.g. google.com, are cheap to register, and when you type one into your browser the company that registered the domain points your computer to the correct server in order to download the website content.

Website users do not expect to pour through endless archives of files to find the pictures or information they require.  Instead, a website displays the information in a predefined manner using a language known as Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).  HTML and CSS tell your web browser which information to show, and how it should be displayed.

It should be apparent that a website is essentially a facade or frontage, behind which lies an endless list of ugly directories and files.  The skill in website development is to produce a final product that looks great, functions well, and is efficient in its operation.

To have a website of your own, you technically require just three things:

  • Some information to display
  • A computer
  • A connection to the internet

In theory, you could store your website on your own computer which would act as a server to other computers that try to access your site.  The problem with this is that the upload speed of your Internet Service Provider is almost certainly too slow, and your computer would have to remain on 24/7.  To get around these problems, we host websites in large data centres comprising many computers, the sole function of which are to serve up websites.  These servers are on all of the time and have the ability to provide information to other computers far faster than your PC at home.

The person who builds the website – known as the webmaster – may live hundreds of miles from the data centre that hosts it.  A backend management system is required so that the webmaster can add, delete, and control the files on his or her allocated server space.  cPanel is an example of an interface that is used by webmasters to control the backend of their website.

You can control the front end (i.e. the facade) of your website in a number of ways.  The most basic method is to code the HTML and CSS  line-by-line using the notepad on your computer.  Thankfully, a number of software solutions exist to make the job of web building easier.  One such program is a Content Management System (CMS), known as WordPress – the very platform on which we created this website.

WordPress and cPanel are used extensively in the web development industry to create stunning and effective websites for a variety of purposes.  At Web Page Today, we use these systems almost exclusively in our work.  We also offer hosting in a secure UK based data centre at competitive rates.

In summary, you require the following in order to have a website:

  • A domain name
  • Hosting
  • A Content Management System

Think of a domain name as your address, hosting as the land and raw materials for a building, and the CMS as the engineering and architectural plans.  If you have all three, you can have a beautiful and functional building that people can find.  Of course, land, materials, and designs all cost money.  You may be surprised to learn that having your own professional website costs far less than you might think.  Click the button below to learn what costs are involved in setting up and running a website.

Website Costs