Websites 101 (FAQ)

What do all these terms mean??

The computer business in general, and the Internet in particular, has as many 'buzz words' as any industry, maybe even more. This is a small attempt to define the more generally used terms.


Bandwidth — As it relates to website hosting, the term 'bandwidth' is used to describe or measure the amount of data that is transferred to and from the web server for your account (your website). Every time a visitor requests one of your website pages, it takes X amount of bandwidth to deliver the result to the visitor's browser. 'Bandwidth' in our context refers to the quantity of data transmitted, not the speed at which it is transmitted.

Broadband — Broadband can be used to describe the type of Internet access that you have or the speed at which you can access Internet sites. The most common Broadband Internet accesses available to most of us are DSL (digital subscriber line from your phone company) and cable modem (from your cable television company).

We could refer to 'dial-up Internet access' as narrowband which we all know translates to 'slower'.

Browser — Also referred to as a 'web browser', this is a software application on a personal computer or mobile device that allows you to display a web page and possibly interact with that page. The most common browsers are probably Internet Explorer (Microsoft), Mozilla Firefox, Safari (for Macintosh), Opera, and Netscape, although there are literally hundreds of others.

Database — A database is a collection of records (data) stored in a computer, usually the web server, in something called a 'database server.' A visual concept of a database 'table' could be compared to a spreadsheet with columns and rows, or even to a ledger page. A database can house many 'tables.' Modern databases allow scripting languages to 'query' or ask questions of the database and format web pages 'on the fly' with the resulting answers. Website pages built in this manner are usually called 'dynamic' web pages.

Design — The look and functionality of your website. The site's Design should be agreed upon before any development is started. Your expectations should be addressed in the Design. The Design can be a document (paper proposal) but may also include graphic (picture) examples of pages or prototype pages.

Domain Name — A Domain Name is the registered name of your website, or any website. There can be only one unique registered occurrence of any domain name. For example, www.valleyoaksweb.com is a domain name. The registered domain name is 'valleyoaksweb.com' and the URL for this domain name is http://www.valleyoaksweb.com. *See URL below.

DNS — DNS is an acronym for Domain Name System. Without going into a lot of explanation, think of it as a 'phone book' for the Internet. When someone types in your URL, your domain name is translated into an IP address (like your unique phone number) which is used to find the files that make up your website. IP, by the way, stands for Internet Protocol.

Homepage — When you enter a URL in your browser without specifying a particular page, the web server is programmed to give you the page designated as the site's 'default' or Homepage. This page is usually an introduction to your site, the first page seen by visitors.

Hosting — Every website on the Internet is on a web server, somewhere. A server is just a computer much like the one on your desktop but it's built specifically to answer requests from web browsers. The most significant difference is the 'public access' that a web server allows. When your site is 'hosted' on a web server, it's made accessible to the public. This is not something you would want for your desktop computer!

HTML — HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. Hypertext is regular, normal text that has been marked with special (HTML) tags to format the text (bold, italics, colors, font size, etc.), display images, create links, and much more. The tags are not visible on a web site but are used by the browser to render the text in the format designated by a tag.

Internet — The Internet is made up of a network of publicly accessible computers, all over the world. Requests and data are routed through these computers to find and return the data you request in your browser.

Link — Link is really a shortened term for Hyperlink. Links are navigation elements on a website that allow you to select the link and be sent to another page or document or data section. Links can be plain text, fancy (colored, underlined, etc.) text, images. Links can be created in an e-mail message, allowing you quick access to where the link leads

Name Servers — or Domain Name Servers are computers that translate domain names (like a text URL you entered in your browser) to a unique IP address (like your unique phone number) that queries a database to find the machine that carries that IP address. That's the machine that houses your website!

Registrars — A domain name registrar is a company that has the authority to register Internet domain names. Be sure to look for "ICANN Accredited" when selecting a registrar. You will pay an annual fee to the registrar to 'own' your domain name. Be sure to keep your contact information current on your registration. If it expires, someone else might buy your domain name! (ICANN is the organization that globally coordinates the Internet's system of unique identifiers.)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) — This has become a profession in its own right as search engines on the Internet become more and more important as the Internet grows. SEO, in its simplest form, is the process of increasing the amount and quality of traffic to your web site via search engines.

Thumbnail — A small version of an image, usually a photograph, usually a link to a larger version of the same image. The oak leaf at the bottom of this page could be considered a thumbnail. Alas, it doesn't link to anything bigger.

URL — An abbreviation for Uniform Resource Locator. Non-technically, this is the address to a website such as http://www.valleyoaksweb.com.

Website — (often spelled Web site) is the collection of files, images and other media that makes up a location on the Internet. When you enter a URL in a browser, you are accessing a website.

World Wide Web (www) — stands for the system of interlinked documents that make up the Internet and are accessed via a web browser.

Need a crash course in owning a website?

The terms defined on this page should help get you up to speed.
If you find a term that you would like added to this list, please send us a note.
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