How Your Website Works

How Your Website Works

Globe with inside wheels showing Being involved in Internet development for over twenty years now, it’s easy to make the mistake of taking some things for granted. One of those things is assuming that people I’m talking to know the fundamentals of how a web site works,and what is involved in getting your web site “live”. That isn’t always the case. Why should it be?

For this reason, I decided to write a quick primer on the three fundamental parts of the mechanism. This isn’t a technical explanation, just a high-level overview so that it can be understood that—more than anything—there are indeed three different parts to the equation, and each is handled separately.

The three parts of getting your web site online are:

Let’s take these three things individually:

1. Site Creation

This is the part that your web developer will do. He or she will create the HTML Markup, any images and graphics, any programming, and database creation. All of these things end up simply as a set of files. For all intents and purposes, that is the total of their job. However, a full-service developer will talk you through the other two stages, and will often help with the process.

2. Hosting

Now, this set of files isn’t much good to anybody at this stage. They need to be hosted somewhere, so that your customers can visit them on the Internet. For this, you need a Web Host. The web host will keep your files on their servers, and serve them to anybody who comes to your web site.

Note: Web hosting is a different service to web site development. As such, it can be arranged separately, and will certainly be charged separately. This is an ongoing service, for as long as you wish your site to be visible. It is most often charged yearly or monthly.

Again, most developers will explain fully what is needed for you to obtain hosting, most will help with you with setting up your site on the host’s server, and some full-service developers will even offer web hosting themselves. If you are obtaining hosting yourself, be aware that the original developer won’t and shouldn’t be involved in the payment of this. You need to keep control of that yourself. Your developer doesn’t want access to your credit card!

3. Domain Name Registration

The final part of the puzzle is the all-important domain name. This is the part that starts with “http://” or “www.". This is what your site visitors will type into their browsers to get to your site.

Just like hosting, domain name registration is a separate service, and is paid separately—usually per year, or multiple years. It is important to remember that your domain name is only linked to your web site through your domain name registrar. The host your domain name points to can be changed at will. The process goes as follows:

At this stage, your site will be live (there is often a delay of up to 24 hours for your domain name to propagate through the Internet).

Very often, you can purchase both your domain name registration, and hosting at the same company. This sometimes makes the setup easier.

Important: Make sure that you own your domain name, and that it is registered under your name. In the past, unscrupulous companies have been known to register your domain name under their name, and effectively hold it to ransom when clients have decided to go elsewhere.


I hope this helped in understanding the processes involved in getting your web site up and running. There are technical details involved in the three stages, of course, but your developer or someone who has more experience will usually be happy to help in those details. My main objective was to outline what those three stages are.

Incidentally, when it comes to choosing your domain name, you may wish to take at my blog post, How to Choose a Domain Name for some tips.

As always, if you need any development work, or assistance in getting your web site up and running, feel free to contact me.

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