The construction of your website – a beginner’s guide to the technical terms

19 Aug, 2023

Hey there! I’m Carina, a professional web designer based in Sydney’s Inner West. When meeting with my clients, I’ve noticed that there’s quite a bit of confusion around technical terms associated with building a website. To help demystify the process, this blog post will provide a beginner’s guide to the technical terms associated with building a website. My work with clients is all about transparency, so even if you don’t need to know all the ins and outs of how a website is built, I want you to feel confident in the process.

These are the terms I will go through and thoroughly explain how they fit into the building process:

  • Web hosting
  • Domain name
  • CMS (WordPress)
  • Site Structure
  • Themes
  • Design Process
  • SSL Certificate
  • SEO
  • Maintenance

Let’s compare the process of building a website to the process of building a house. I am no expert on building houses but I love this metaphor as it puts the online-techy-world of websites in a real-life context.

 

1. Web hosting

Your web hosting is your block of land. We need to purchase that first before we’re able to start any building work. When purchasing a block of land, you’ll want to consider how big it needs to be to fit your dream house on it. Comparably, we need to consider the size of your web hosting package. For a straightforward small business website with 5 – 10 pages, we can consider a smaller hosting package with around 10GB of web space. If you require a bigger ‘house’ i.e., a website with additional functionality such as an online store, or an extensive portfolio with large files (such as a professional photographer) we should consider a larger hosting package with more web space.

When choosing your web hosting, a small factor to take into account is where the web hosting company’s servers are located. I generally use and recommend SiteGround, a hosting company that provides good value for money, offers good service, and has a data centre located in Australia. They also often include a free domain name with their web hosting, which brings us to the next step.

 

2. Domain name

The domain name is your website’s address, let’s compare this to your home address. Your visitors need to know how to find your home (your website), so registering your domain name is like registering your home address. I’ve written a whole other blog post on choosing the right domain name for your website.

If you previously had a website or have thought about building a website, you may already own a domain name. That’s no problem at all. We can transfer the domain name to the hosting company we’ll use, or keep it with the company you’ve purchased it from and point it to the new website when it’s ready.

Now, that we’ve purchased the block of land and registered the address, we move on to the build – the foundation of your house.

 

3. CMS (Content Management System)

A content management system (CMS) is a software application or set of related programs that are used to create and manage digital content. In our metaphor, it is the foundation of your house. It needs to be solid, but your visitors don’t notice it when they visit you.

WordPress is an incredibly versatile CMS that is widely used and trusted by website owners all over the world. It is easy to install and use, allowing you to quickly create a website with all the features you need. WordPress is open source, meaning that it is free to use and customize. It also has a large library of plugins and themes to choose from, allowing you to easily customize your website’s appearance and functionality.

There’s a difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

WordPress.com is a hosted platform that provides the basic version of WordPress, while WordPress.org allows you to download the full version of WordPress and install it on your own web server. The former is best suited for basic websites, while the latter offers more customization options and allows you to take full control of your website.

 

Let’s summarise the first three steps:  

Next, it’s time to design the site structure of our website, which is our floor plan.

4. Site Structure

First, we decide on the number of pages we require. On our floorplan, that would be the number of rooms. It is the basic draft of our final website. When creating a floorplan, we don’t just consider the number of rooms, but also how they connect – hallways and doors. Our hallways and doors on the website are links and calls to action. For example, if we want to send our visitors from the homepage to the contact page (where we want them), we create a call-to-action.

During this step, I will start adding pages in WordPress, just like our trades would start building the walls on our solid foundation. Once the walls are up and the structure of our house is completed, we can move on to the design stage.

 

5. Themes

I wanted to explain WordPress Themes and how I use them, as this tends to be a common source of confusion.

Themes are not templates.

A WordPress theme is the foundation for the overall design of your site. It is operated through a CSS stylesheet which is then applied to the whole website. Using a theme means that I can build your website without writing the code myself or hiring a web developer, which saves a lot of time and therefore saves you a lot of money.

This is the reason I use themes, however, I don’t use templates. A template is a pre-designed layout of a single page. I design your whole website from the ground up, and fully customise it to suit your business and attract your customers.

Let’s compare the process of installing your theme to the next step of designing your house – laying the floors and painting your walls. It is the base of your final interior design, and choosing the right floors will affect how your whole house comes together.

I love working with the Divi theme, as it is completely customisable and easy to use, which is important if you want to manage your small business website yourself.

 

6. Design process

This step is what will make your house feel like a home – the interior design. Just like furnishing and designing your house, you could do this step yourself, but if you want it to be AMAZING, you hire a professional designer. There are so many factors that go into the look and feel of your website – the layout, your branding (colour schemes, fonts, graphics), the content, user experience, and much more. Working closely with you, I can create a website that is truly your own and represents your business and your personality.

 

Let’s summarise once again where we are during our build:

Once your design is finished and you’re 100% happy with it, there are a few more things to do to protect your home and keep it safe.

7. SSL Certificate

An SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate is a digital certificate that provides a secure connection between the website and the user’s browser. It encrypts data transferred over the internet and authenticates the identity of the website, proving it is from a legitimate source.

SSL certificates are important because they help to ensure that any sensitive data sent over the internet is kept secure. Websites that accept payments, store customer information or process any type of sensitive data must have an SSL certificate installed. This is to show customers that their data is safe and to protect the website from potential hackers.

We can compare your SSL Certificate to your home security. You have just completed a beautiful build, and want to protect it, so you hire a security company. Now I generally install the SSL Certificate right at the start of the website build, but just for metaphor’s sake, I’ve added this at this point of the post. 😉

 

8. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

Search engine optimisation is an important tool for any business, especially small businesses. By using SEO, you can ensure that your website ranks higher in search engine results and make it easier for customers to find you online. This can result in increased website traffic and a larger customer base.

There are a few different aspects of search engine optimisation, including on-site and off-site SEO. All my websites include initial on-site optimisation, and all my copywriting services include extensive keyword research and SEO-friendly content.

If you wanted visitors to find your home, you would probably just tell them your address, but SEO can be best compared to listing your address in local directories. This way, visitors who don’t know your location can still find your home (or in this case, your business).

 

9. Maintenance

Just like your home may need changes and maintenance, your website needs to be updated from time to time. How much maintenance is required depends on your business, for example, if you have a blog, or would like to advertise events, your website needs to be updated more frequently than for instance a trade business.

Depending on your budget and available time, you may choose to maintain your website yourself, or you might choose a maintenance package. These include regular backups, updates, and any changes you require.

 

Let’s sum up these last 3 steps: 

Voila! Your home is completed, built on a sound foundation, with a beautiful and functional design and all necessary security in place.

I hope this beginner’s guide to the technical terms associated with building a website has helped you understand the ins and outs of the process. As a professional web designer, I love it when my clients follow the process and know exactly what’s going on.

Meet Carina

I’m a Sydney-based Web Designer who loves helping small business owners build a beautiful, functional, and consistent online presence that will attract new customers.

What I do

I work best in collaborative relationships with passionate small business owners. Communication and transparency are my biggest priorities. 

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