What Exactly is a Website?
Let’s start by acknowledging that, at this point, the majority of us generally know what a website is, in the sense that we know that we can type a web address into a web browser (like https://www.intechnible.com) and press enter so that we can access a specific website. Then again, what does that really mean? Is that knowledge useful enough to be able to use your own website to your advantage? We think not. So, we’re going to go just a little bit deeper.
Some Relevant Terms
We realize that some of the terms we use may prove to be a bit confusing for those of you who are unfamiliar, so we’re going to define a few of the most important related terms.
- IP Address: An internet protocol or IP address (IPv4) is a numerical address that is generally designed with 4 subsections of up to 3 digits each and separated by decimal points (i.e. 127.0.0.1). The IP address is used to locate a specific network-enabled computer. In this case, these computers are used to host the files and software that are used to comprise and display websites.
- URL: For our purposes, a uniform resource locator or URL is a text-based representation used to represent a specific IP address and connect to a specific resource on the web. Most commonly a URL is referred to as a web address.
- Web Browser: is a type of software that accesses, displays, and allows users to interact with the files found and/or referenced on a webpage.
- Server: A server is both a software and a hardware. The server hardware refers to the physical hard drive and managing computer system that houses the files rendered and displayed via a web browser. On the other hand, the server software refers to the series of applications used to read, process, and logically display the files found on server hardware.
- Server-side Scripting Language: Server-side scripting languages consist of programming languages that are installed on the web server and are used to interpret, compile, and deploy dynamic content found within a client-side web document by a web browser. Some examples include PHP, Ruby, Python, and Node.js.
The Structure of a Website
One of the best ways to understand how a website is structured and navigated is to think of it like your personal computer system that is always powered on. To find a specific document (find a web resource), you open your laptop (go to a website), find the folder you want(use the menu to find the specific webpage you’d like to see), and finally click on the file you were interested in (click on a link, or simply read the page you’ve landed on). Not so complicated, is it?
So…how are we defining “website”? Well…a website is a collection of files within a specific folder and found on a web server and displayed by a web browser (i.e. Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Opera, etc.). Generally speaking, websites are located and accessed via a unique web address.
Websites consist of a few common components:
- Web Address – this is the text-based address that your visitors utilize to locate your webspace on the internet (i.e. https://www.intechnible.com).
- Webhosting – this is the physical server space where your web files are stored, and where your web address points.
- Content – this includes the individual web pages that comprise your website, as well as the navigation/menu, graphics, and often include more complex interactive content like contact forms.
Common Types of Websites
- Blog – The term “blog” is actually the more common shortened version of the term “weblog”. A blog is a common part of many websites and often consists of a series of short or long-form posts about a variety of topics. It can be considered an extension of the primary focus of the website, but may vary in content. In some instances, the blog is the primary focus of the website.
- Brochure – Brochure style websites are often used by small businesses as a way to promote or educate their potential customers/clients on the services their business offers. Brochure sites are often also used for lead generation by including contact forms, pop ups, providing contact information, or attempting to promote proactive contact.
- Dating/Social Networking – Dating and social networking websites are dynamic websites that may combine functions from several of the listed types (i.e. forum, e-commerce, directory, blog, etc) and are designed to allow users to communicate and share personal/business related content.
- Directory – Directory websites are designed to create an indexable (and thus, searchable) list of information. The information may be sub-categorized and will often include social components in the form of user ratings, targeted advertising, or other user-generated content.
- E-Commerce – An e-commerce site is a dynamic site that focuses on providing a platform for website owners to sell various items or services and accept online payments.
- Forum – A forum site often consists of multiple topic-focused discussion boards that allow multiple users to engage in group conversation. The sites often manage the content uploaded to the site by limiting user privileges and/or assigning moderators.
- Landing – A landing page is a single webpage that is primarily used as the target page for a digital marketing campaign. It is typically designed with web copy intended to move visitors into the top of a sales funnel and potentially drive them toward a purchase.
- Personal – A personal website often is designed to focus on a specific person, helps to communicate that person’s brand, and is used as a vehicle to keep their fans and potential clients up-to-date on their professional activities.
- Portfolio – A portfolio website is primarily used by photographers, graphic designers, web designers, or other professionals/organizations that would like to display categorized examples of their work for potential clients/customers.
Static vs Dynamic
Websites are generally considered to be either static or dynamic based on how the site is built, not based on the style of site it happens to be.
- Static websites are considered to be “static” because the coding and resources it uses and displays are fixed. The site isn’t designed to require communication with a database, and the content on the site doesn’t change based on how a user interacts with it.
- Dynamic websites, on the other hand, require communication with a database and utilize server-side scripting languages that can update and change the information shown to website visitors based on various conditions (i.e. whether logged-in or not, whether a specific link has been clicked, etc) and often includes features like contact forms.