You know what a website is. And if you are reading this article, you likely know that you need a website of your own. But if some of the stuff around the website is confusing (like hosting, domains, and yearly costs)… you aren’t alone. And don’t worry, because we’re here to help!
In this guide, I distill the relevant concepts into their simplest form, introduce a tiny-but-mighty metaphor, and have created some friendly graphics to help illustrate it all. I’m confident you’ll end this post thinking “Ah yes, I get it now.”
Story time: The tiny house metaphor
You know those tiny houses that have had a surge of popularity recently? They are usually tricked out, beautifully designed and unique to the intended inhabitants. A good portion of them are on wheels rather than a permanent foundation. These movable tiny houses are then “parked” in a location where the owner wishes to reside for a decent amount of time.
We’re going to use a tiny house on wheels as our website metaphor today. Let’s start with just the tiny house story, and then we’ll layer in the website stuff afterwards.
The 3 pieces needed to make a website (that people can easily visit)
I’m guessing you walked with me through that tiny house story just fine. Well, give yourself a high five and keep reading! Because you’ve also already grasped everything you need to know to understand this website stuff, too.
In order to have a (self-hosted) website out on the internet, we will need to think about 3 different foundational pieces:
- the website itself,
- its hosting,
- and its domain name.
If we take our tiny house story as a metaphor here, we’ve already thought about all of these elements! We’ve mentioned them above as our tiny house, our plot of land, and our address.
None of these pieces are very useful by themselves, but all together they will set you up for website success.
So… how do those 3 pieces make for a website that our ideal visitors (or anyone) can easily get to? Let’s walk through them together! We’ll break down getting our imaginary website up and running in another story (that will feel very familiar).
The best place to begin is with our website itself.
A website, at its most basic and good, is simply a collection of files, arranged in a pleasing way that makes sense to the user and communicates a message.
The files of a website are the pages and code and images and other media that make up your site. Depending on how your website is built, these might include .html files, .php files, .png, .jpg files, and databases.
Structuring and designing all of the content, and implementing any functionality or features you want, is what creates the website!
Parts & considerations of a website
You can build your own website if you know how, or hire a designer/developer to do this for you. A website can be coded from scratch or utilize a template or content management system (such as WordPress). A website can have as many or as few pages as you want or need.
2. Web hosting
A typical web hosting company owns large web servers that are exposed to the internet (and thus, are accessible by the world). These servers are set up to host internet traffic to and from them. The hosting company also does the work of maintaining the servers, keeping them online, performing updates, etc.
You can rent space on these servers for your website to live on. This is called a web hosting plan for your site, and you generally pay per year for this. (It’s like when we rented a plot of land to park our tiny house on. The plot is the hosting!)
3. Domain name
A domain name allows people to visit a website by typing a relevant, easy-to-recall string into the address bar of their browser. The domain name is then pointed to your website where it is sitting on the hosting server.
Domain name are usually purchased from a company called a domain registrar. You generally pay them, per year, to retain the right to use that domain name.
And our second story is complete! We’ve gotten through all three pieces that you need to have a website that is easy for folks to visit: The website itself, the hosting, and the domain name.
A drill-down on costs
There are costs associated with each piece of getting your website out there, and they all work a little differently. Some of the costs are front loaded as you first build up your site; others are ongoing or recur on a yearly basis.
Note that you cannot launch your site and then ignore any of these three pieces of it! As your website is a tool, it needs regular maintenance to keep serving you best. It requires frequent checks to keep it secure and up to date. You may wish to continually improve and change your website as you grow, too.
Here’s some typical timing of website-related costs:
- Initial website build.
This is usually the biggest chunk of change that goes into launching a new site. It includes either the time cost of your own DIY efforts, or the project price of working with a professional designer/developer (like us here at Blustery Day Design 🙂) to make your site for you.
- First year of your hosting.
Usually, you start your relationship with a web host by signing up for a set time period (often a year) for which you are paying for hosting.
- First year of your domain name.
You generally procure a domain name at a domain registrar, paying for a set amount of time (often a year) to own that domain.
- Ongoing maintenance and improvements to your website.
This could be monthly, yearly, or as-needed. The costs here could include the time cost of your own work, the cost of enlisting a pro (like us!) to help you with this work, and any recurring costs for any paid plugins or features that your site utilizes.
- Each year of your hosting.
Your hosting will be up for renewal at the end of the period you paid for at the start (usually a year); you’ll need to continue to pay for hosting each year your site is up and running.
- Each year of domain name.
Your domain name will be up for renewal at the end of the period you paid for at the start (usually a year); you’ll need to continue to pay for your domain name each year your site is up and running.
You’ve got this!
And now you’ve gotten through our primer! With this tiny house metaphor and cost information, you’re hopefully feeling more confident in your understanding. You now know the three foundational pieces all needed to be out on the world wide web (and then stay there): your website itself, its hosting, and a domain name.
A well-built and well-designed website does a lot of work! It conveys your message, serves your visitors, and supports you in doing the thing you were meant to do. With these foundational pieces in place, you’ll be ready to welcome the world to check out the amazing work you do.