Basic Website Fundamentals
We Can Build On
Web Server, Website, Website Builder, WordPress, WordPress Page Builder. So many W’s – but what do they all mean? Let’s get down to the basics.
What is a Website?
The Problem: You want information
The Solution: Use a web browser to ask a website to give you that information.
A website receives a request for a resource, and sends back the resource. A resource might be a page, an image, a video, an audio clip, etc…
Where does the website get the resources from? It could be from any number of places. For example:
- Files on a hard drive
- A record in a database
- A response from another website
When you request a web page in a browser, you may actually receive multiple resources from the website, such as:
- A file with the text for a blog post
- One or more images
- A file telling the browser how the text and images are to be displayed
The browser receives all the resources, and usually knows how to put them all together to create the “page”.
The computer running the website runs a program that pulls together all the resources being requested by the browser. That program is called a “web server”. The web server may call other programs to help it collect the resources. One of those programs might be WordPress.
Sometimes the term “web server” refers to the program running the website. Sometimes the term “web server” refers to the computer running the “web server” software. Confusing, right?
In common use they both mean the same thing to you and I. When a request is sent from the browser, it is the “web server” that sends back the resources. Do I mean the computer? Yes. Do I mean the software running on the computer? Yes.
It doesn’t matter – I just want my web page to display.
What is a Website Builder?
The Problem: How do I manage all the files and images on my website?
The Solution: Use a website builder.
Let’s face it – running your own website is complicated. You need to create content. That content includes files with text and images. You need to get those files off your computer and onto the web server. You also want some of your content, let’s call them pages, to point to other pages. What did you name that page? Oh yeah, page1.html Wait, doesn’t page47.html already link to page1.html? No, that was page45.html. Oh you want BOTH pages to point to page1.html.
Enter the Website Builder. A typical website builder will let you:
- write content
- build a web page from many sources using drag and drop
- store images in a library so you can use it in the content
- store content in a library to make it easier to find
Why do you need a website builder? Let’s create a simple web page
Without a website builder:
- Write content in a text file
- Put the text file on the server
- Find an image
- Put the image on the server
- Get the text file from the web server
- add a link to the image
- put the text file back on the web server
There is actually more to it than that, but you get the idea.
With a website builder:
- Write the content in the website builder
- Upload an image
- Drag and drop the image into the content
- Click on “publish”
A week later you want to make a change to a web page. Would you rather do it with or without a website builder?
And don’t get me started on managing who can or can’t add content to your website.
That is why Wix offers a free website builder. And SquareSpace. And GoDaddy. And…
Those hosting providers are selling website “space”. They each have their own website builder.
The Problem: I want to move my content to another hosting provider, but the content on host 1 isn’t compatible with the format needed on host 2.
The Solution: WordPress.
What is a WordPress?
WordPress is a Website Builder. It started out as a simple blogging platform, and has grown into a full fledged Content Management System. Where other website builders tie you to a specific host, WordPress is hosting agnostic.
WordPress can be expanded. Need to add a photo gallery to your website? There is a plugin for that (hundreds, actually). Need to add an ecommerce store? There are plugins for that.
There is a lot of training material available for WordPress. Books, videos, blogs.
And because of all the plugins, WordPress can do things the developers of WordPress never even thought of.
What is a WordPress Page Builder?
When I started writing this article, I wanted to compare WordPress with WordPress Page Builders. I didn’t expect this article to be a sales pitch for WordPress. I expected to explain what WordPress was, and how it is different from Website Builders, but as I was writing that section, I realized WordPress was a Website Builder. Personally I think it’s the best one out there.