Websites: The Ins, Outs, and Everything In-betweens...
Cost is invariably the first thought that crosses your mind when you think about a website, right? Then come the questions of "How do I get one?", and "Can I even handle it?". This page is going to give you a crash course into what a website really is, to take the mystery out of it. Then you can make informed decisions about what your site should do.
Let's start with what a website is...
...and we'll go into particulars in later pages.
The best way to explain these components is to compare each of them to something similar that we all understand...the car.
The car is a very complicated machine, made up of many parts, just like a website. And as you can't say, "A car should cost $1,000, have 4 cylinders, and be perfect for all types of driving", you also can't say, "My website should cost $1,000, be 4 pages long, and do everything I can possibly think of". In both cases, one-size-fits-all translates into, "This never does what I need!"
The website domain name or URL, (like thunderstruck
In order for everything to work, you need to have a domain name for people to access your site, just like you need a license plate to drive on the highway. That new Corvette is gorgeous, but without that plate, you aren't going anywhere!
Domain names are very easy to get. It's just a matter of purchasing one when you buy your server space. You will most likely have to renew your URL yearly, just like your license plate.
The server is like the engine, and without it your site cannot run. You can view your site on your computer, just like you can push a car around your driveway, but that's pointless, because no one else can see it!
For start-up websites, server space (or hosting) is realitvely cheap. For example, the hosting for niknakswapshop.com is about $100 per year. You can frequently get your hosting and domain name at the same time, and we will be happy to help you with that.
This file is like the key that opens your car doors. With this file, you help everyone into your site, whether they typed your URL with the www in front, or not. Without it, your customers would only be able to access your site IF they typed it exactly as you have it registered. And no one types "https://www"...unless they have to, like we do!
You know that little chip in your car key? You may be able to unlock the door with a fake, but you can't hi-jack the car. That's what SSL does for you. Hackers can't pretend they are you, and lure your customers away to other sites.
SSL is sometimes included in your hosting package. If not, you can purchase it seperately. It is a good idea to have SSL, because it gives your customers confidence, and ranks you higher in the search engines.
HTML files are the chassis of your site. Without them, there would be no words, pictures, links, etc. Everything else you can do to a site would be pointless, because there would be no chassis to hold it all together.
CSS files are the body shops, doing magic to your site to make it beautiful. Without them, everything would be there, but it would look so ugly you wouldn't be able to stand it!
While we are talking about CSS, you can see some magic right here. If you place your mouse over the Twitter Icon in the top right corner, the bird will do a backflip!
PHP (or Other Scripting) Files
Scripting files such as PHP are like the electrical system in a car. They work behind the scenes, and make everything else work.
Forms are one of the main uses for PHP, but due to its inherant security issues, we always leave sensitive scripting to a dedicated PHP specialist. The forms we use from FormTools.org are top of the line, and great for any website.
Web databases are necessary for form submissions, contact storage, login information, etc, and securely store anything you need for your website to work. They are somewhat like the fuel that makes your engine run. However, they are not always needed. It depends on what you need your site to do.
MySQL is generally run with PHP to make the information easily accessable. Usually, the less interaction your customers have with your site, the less database you need. Think Twitter vs. a single informational page. Twitter needs a lot of database!