What is a Website?
A website is a collection of digital “pages” of content (text, images, video, etc.) that is published by an individual, business, school, government, or other organization, and is made available on the Internet for public or private use and are accessed using a web browser like Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer.
Anytime you browse the Internet, you are exploring different websites. The Internet is full of billions of websites from all over the world. If you click on an advertisement, you’re taken to a website. If you look up recipes for what to make for dinner, that’s a website too. Even some apps on smartphones are built using websites.
Examples of websites:
What Do Websites Do?
Websites have 4 primary uses: inform, educate, entertain, or to serve.
No matter what website you visit, it’s going to fit in one of these 4 categories. A news website for example will exist to inform. A social network website like Facebook exists to entertain. An online course exists to educate. Your email service like Gmail exists to serve.
This is where people are given information about something. It may be a simple website that has information about an upcoming event or series of events, a business or organization, or an individual. For example, a company website that describes the products or services and talks about the company and how to contact them.
This is where people are taught about a topic or series of topics. Generally, they are going to learn how to do something, why something works, why something happened, or how something came to be. A website that teaches people how to cook, would be an example. Or one that teaches how to work on cars or how to play the guitar. People go to such websites with the intent to learn something new.
This is where people go to experience some sort of emotional response. They may experience joy, fear, sadness, laughter, or other emotions depending on the content that they view. Social media websites, for example, are designed to entertain and keep you browsing. Whenever you post something and people “like” it, you get an emotional boost. If you’re watching cat videos, you’re being entertained.
This is where a website performs some action or function. When you place an order on Amazon, check your email through your web browser, or manage your bank account online, you are using websites that are designed to serve you and perform those actions.
While websites may do more than one of these, they usually have only one primary reason for existing.
Your website is going to fit in one of these 4 categories.
So let’s explore these a bit more.
What Can a Website Do For You?
It can potentially:
Help you attract new customers
Increase your sales with little overhead
Expand your reach beyond your local market
Create awareness and build your reputation
Serve your customers outside normal operating hours
Build trust and a lasting relationship with your customers online
There is a lot of potential, but just having a website does not guarantee success. There’s a lot involved and it’s an ongoing effort to market and maintain it.
How Much Does a Small Business Website Cost?
For a custom-built website, most web development firms typically charge $2,500 or more.
The reason for this is the amount of work involved in planning, designing, and programming it. It can usually take a couple of months or longer for it to be completed.
There are a lot of advantages and disadvantages of having a custom-built website.
For most people, a custom-built website is unnecessary and it is far more cost effective and efficient to utilize the numerous existing tools and resources available.
Thanks to significantly advancements in technology and the plethora of tools available, building a website can be done for a lot less and in a lot less time.
You can even build your own website, in some cases, totally free! There are of course advantages and disadvantages. We will discuss those in more detail later.
I know that for a lot of you, this is going to be one of the hardest sections of this lesson to remember and understand. So to simplify it I’m going to use an analogy.
Building a website is similar to building a house.
Domain Name – A domain name is like your house address. It tells people where they can find your website. All professional websites need a domain name.
Website Hosting – Website hosting is like the plot of land that you build your house on. A web host is simply a company that sells chunks of “virtual land”, with each having their own rules and conditions. Some web hosts offer pre-built “houses” that you just have to customize, but like an apartment complex, you are limited in what you can do and how much space you have.
CMS (Content Management System) – A content management system is like a house that has different rooms and places to put your stuff. There are a lot of different types and sizes with different features and limitations.
SSL – When you see a host or service that includes SSL, that’s great and it’s a feature you want to have. If you think of a website as being your house, if you don’t have SSL it’s like leaving the curtains open and anything private that you do inside is visible to anyone looking. If you have SSL, it’s like closing the curtains. It helps keep things private. While it won’t stop your house from being broken into, it at least makes it much more difficult. Every website should have SSL and it may even increase your search engine ranking.
Bandwidth – You can think of bandwidth as being how many people can you fit into your house at a time and per month. Most web hosts will advertise this as being “unlimited” but it’s not actually unlimited, it’s just not metered. If your website has excessive traffic or they suspect you’re abusing their service, they will shut you down temporarily, or possibly permanently depending on the terms you agreed to when you signed up.
Storage – This is like the size of the plot of land that you build your house on. The amount you need will depend on what you are building. If you are just needing a simple website, you probably won’t use more than 1 GB, but it depends on the size and types of files you use. You will need more space if you plan to host your email with your website.
If you have videos you want to put on your website, you should use YouTube, Vimeo, or another video site and embed the videos into your website. If you have a lot of high definition photos, you should use a service that specializes in hosting that kind of media and then embed it in your website. This will speed up your site and use less space.
Web Server – A web server is like the continent that your plot of “virtual land” is sitting on. It is owned and maintained by your web host. The web host ensures that your plot of land is accessible 99.9% of the time. There will be times when they need to do special maintenance or repairs.