While business owners in general completely understand the importance of establishing a presence on the web, many of them are still somewhat foggy on the specifics.
When you buy a website, what exactly are you getting?
What’s the difference between a “web designer” and a “web developer” (aren’t they the same thing?) Is “hosting” required, or an uneccessary upsell? What about a domain? To help put it into perspective, here’s a short breakdown of some basic terminology and what it means to you as a future website owner.
The Components of a Typical Website Project
A web designer creates the look and feel of your website — color, layout, imagery, etc. This is a visual only, sometimes offered as a standalone service or as part of an inclusive website package. Designs are usually created in specialized software like Adobe Photoshop, and the deliverable is one or more images showing exactly what the website will look like. The source file of the design is also included, usually in .PSD format.
On its own, a website is nothing more than a collection of documents (essentially, text and images mixed in with code). You still need a way to make it available on the Internet, and that’s where hosting comes in.
Think of it like your home network: in order for other computers on the network to view documents on your computer, you first have to publicly “share” them. Likewise, in order to make your website accessible on the Internet it’s necessary to purchase a web hosting plan, which will “share” your site with the Internet 24/7.
Hosting plans may be offered by your chosen web development professional, or it may be necessary to purchase them from a third party company.
A domain is the address visitors see when they access your website, e.g. YourSite.com. Domains cannot be “purchased”, but rather registered from third party companies called registrars for your exclusive use for a specified period of time, usually in 1 – 5 year increments. At the end of that time you can renew the registration or let it expire, in which case the domain is once again available for anyone else to register.
A typical .com domain costs between $10 – $15 per year to register, with discounts generally available when you register for longer periods of time.