To make a website you must own a domain name and web hosting.
A domain name is the address of your website (www.yourcompany.com). Your domain name can also be used for email addresses (JohnDoe@yourcompany.com).
A domain registrar is where you purchase the right to use a domain name (like Namecheap, GoDaddy, Google Domains, etc.). Your registrar uses something called DNS records (or zone files) to provide the information that tells servers how to handle requests for that domain. Your DNS records (which you can add to/change through your registrar) can tell internet browsers how to access your website, tell email clients how to send/receive emails, and more.
There are two main services that your domain will be used for: Web Hosting, and Email Hosting.
Hosting is the process of renting or buying space on a server to house a website on the World Wide Web. Your website host (like AWS, DreamHost, GoDaddy, Fastly, etc.) is the place where all of your website files and data are stored, including the files that make up your Content Management System (CMS).
A CMS (like WordPress, Wix, Shopify, etc.) is what helps you create, design, edit, and manage your actual website. This is what makes your website look and act the way it does!
While it’s usually included with a web hosting package, email hosting is a separate service that operates email servers and allows you to set up a custom email address using your domain. Once you have an email address hosted somewhere, you’ll still need an Email Client (like Gmail, Outlook, etc.) to easily send and receive emails.
Quick Tip: A lot of domain registrars also provide web hosting services, and some even provide a content management system built-in. Depending on your company’s needs and expected traffic, combining these services can either be a really great or really terrible idea. So be sure to do your research or talk to an expert before making a decision.
So the whole process looks like this:
- Someone types your domain name into a web browser
- That browser sends a request to your domain registrar
- Your registrar accesses the instructions in your DNS records that point to web host
- The browser then reads the files provided by your web host, including the files provided by your CMS
- The code in the files created by your Content Management System is then read by the browser
And that’s (essentially) how your website works!