While scouting for a Web designer or creating a Web site, a flurry of unfamiliar terms and concepts inevitably come up. HTML, hosting, domains, IP’s, Web traffic… What does it all mean, and how concerned should you be about knowing?
Having a Web site developed can be closely compared to the process of having a literal house built. In both cases, there are many choices to make and new concepts to learn along the way. However, in tackling the project with discernment, you can be confident the results will be satisfying.
While you cannot (and should not) be as knowledgeable on the subject as the person you’ve hired to bring your vision to life, having well in mind some fundamental terms and concepts will allow you to make informed choices. Additionally, using proper terminology will help you clearly express your ideas and concerns when communicating with persons in the industry.
Location, location, location
Imagine you want to construct a new home. You enlist an architect to design the blueprints, and soon you are able to envision how the structure will look and function. However, there is still much to do before you can move in.
To start, you need to find a good piece of land on which to build.
Put simply, the Internet is like a giant city, with electronic “buildings” connected by virtual “roads”. Your Internet construction zone is your Web server — the literal space where your Web site is actually built. It is located in an actual place using space on an actual server connected to the Internet by physical cables and connections.
When choosing your prospective location — whether within a literal city or on the Internet — accessibility must be a prime consideration. You want to get the best use out of your new site. More importantly, you want to make it easy for visitors to reach it.
In the case of a literal building, the ability to get to your house quickly and smoothly encourages visitors. Building your home near a well-maintained, multi-lane highway with wide on and off ramps will make it easier to make the commute regularly. In contrast, you will discourage visitors if you build your house in an obscure location, accessed only by cramped, twisting roads that are already congested with many vehicles.
This is often the scenario encountered when using very inexpensive (or free) hosting services; you get what you pay for. Servers located in parts of the world which are far away from your site’s users require more connection points, taking physically longer to reach. Some are connected to the Internet using low-bandwidth connections. Page load times are slower, or connections may completely drop out, making your site inaccessible.
If a literal house is constructed on swampy ground conditions or a poor foundation, this could spell disaster, regardless of how beautifully the building is furnished.
Just the same, when a visitor arrives at your Web site, you need to be confident that the structure will be standing erect, not sinking in the mud. So server reliability is crucial. If the Web server is down, no one can see your site. If your information is not viewable, then your hosting service has somewhat eroded the site’s value, regardless of how great the site itself may be.
Yes, choosing an accessible and reliable hosting service is critical to the success of your site.
Your individual building lot (your specific hosting account on a Web server) is obtained through a hosting provider, like us. Many Web sites are identified by a special set of numbers called an IP (Internet Protocol) address, much like a fire number or lot number identifies each piece of property in a city. If you type an IP address into the address bar of your Web browser, it will allow you to view a Web site the same as typing a domain name would.
Each main Internet connection also has an IP. So when you browse the Internet on your computer, you are using an IP from your ISP (Internet Service Provider) to connect.
The amount of storage space you purchase for your site depends largely on the size of Web site you would like to build, as you cannot fit a huge Web site on 5MB of space any more than you can build a sprawling country estate on a 20 x 40 foot building lot. Each file on your Web site uses space, with larger files, like audio and video, using more space than plain text. Of course, there are many additional considerations, and your Web professional is in the best position to suggest what size of hosting account you should obtain.
The bricks and mortar
Now it’s time to bring your concept to life. If you have hired a Web designer/developer who does custom work, he will begin to create your site piece by piece.
A Web site is an organized structure of Web pages. But Web pages are much more than what you can see on-screen.
Web pages typically have their foundation in XHTML (Extensible Hypertext Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) code. Depending on the purpose of the site, Web pages may also utilize information stored in an online database; they may perform functions using various scripting languages; or contain other elements, like images and audio. To get a taste for what makes up any Web page, just right-click with your mouse and select “View Source”. You will see some of the complex elements that have gone into that single page.
As with a literal house, once you have made complete payment for your Web site, it becomes your property to do with as you wish. Each business is responsible for the accuracy and completeness of the information that is published on its Web site. Your site does not belong to the person who designed or developed it. Therefore, you always have the freedom to change hosting providers or designers if the need arises.
Can I have your address?
So, the dust has started to settle. Next, you will want to tell people your new address so they can find you. In the real world, no one likes to say that they live at house number 12345678. So cities assign creative and descriptive street names and numbers. That way, your house has a unique address that also conveys a personality, like 22 Cherry Blossom Lane.
The same purpose is served by a domain name. Instead of referring to your Web site by IP address, a domain name identifies it in a pleasing and memorable way. When you register a domain name, we tell the DNS (Domain Name Servers) [which functions much like a literal public phone book or directory] that your domain name is pointing to your particular IP. Then when people input your domain name in a Web browser, they will be sure to see your beautiful “home” and know to drop in for a visit.
E-mail addresses are based on the same principle. Just like traditional letter mail, where you may write to John Smith at 22 Cherry Blossom Lane, an E-mail address is sending to one particular person at that domain name, such as email@example.com. The DNS has recorded to which E-mail server to send the mail. This is why an actual E-mail address cannot function unless it is created using an existing domain name that is associated with a hosting account on an actual E-mail server.
At last, your plans have come to life and your friends and clients start pouring in! How many visitors are you getting?
E Media Architects clients have access to their live traffic statistics through the Help section of our Web site.
Perhaps you have heard people talking about how many hits a site receives. In technical terms, hits can be a deceptive measurement of traffic, because one hit is registered for every file served on a Web site. For example, a Web page containing 3 images would register 4 hits — one for the page, and one for each of the graphics. In our building analogy, counting your Web site’s hits would be as inaccurate as counting someone as a unique person over and over again every time he touched an item in your home.
Typically, it is best to deal in terms of visitors (also called unique visitors), as this is a more realistic and useful count of actual users. Visits are also recorded, which is a count of the number of visits a visitor made to your site within a time frame, based on the user’s originating IP address or other unique identifier.
So now you’re site is finally complete and buzzing with activity! What else is there to do? Now your house must be maintained to keep it working properly and ensure a pleasant experience. It also needs to be updated and expanded as you and your customers’ needs change. Failing to properly take care of your Web investment would be as wasteful and detrimental to your business as poor building maintenance.
After publication, we continue to work side-by-side with our clients to help them maintain and expand their online presence in a structured and progressive manner. We help them decide where and when to allocate their Web budget for the most effective return on investment. We also offer tips for success each month via our client E-newsletter. Through this partnership, you never need to feel on your own.
Getting the right help
As you have seen, Web site creation can most closely be compared to having a literal house built. In both cases, there are choices to make along the way and new concepts to learn. Likewise, in both cases, you will only have good results if you hire someone who is qualified, trustworthy, who takes their work seriously, and who is the best match for your unique business.
At E Media Architects, we offer reliable hosting and E-mail services. We are known for personally helping our clients each step of the way — answering your questions, listening to your needs, and offering honest suggestions about how to create the most effective online presence for your customers. Explore our Web site to get to know us and learn what we can do for your business.