The technologies that go into making your website are complicated, and the terminology that comes with them can seem equally so. But just as having a website is important for any modern business, there are some important things to know about your website. And the good news is, it’s probably easier than you might think.
Let’s start with a term that can sound intimidating, but is actually quite simple: domain. When we talk about domains in the context of websites, we simply mean the name of your website in its most basic form. For example, our domain name is “alariedesign.com”
Your domain name will usually consist of the name of your business, a dot, and then something called a “top-level domain” (for example, “.com”, “.org”, “.net”, etc.). These are predefined endings to your domain, and although there are hundreds to choose from, it’s usually best to stick with one that is popular (like .com) so that your customers can easily find your website.
So how do you get a domain for your business? You need to purchase one from a “domain registrar” (that’s a fun word, right?). Since domain names have to be unique, you’ll need to make sure that it’s available. If it is, you can purchase one typically for about $18 per year.
Another one of the most important things to know about your website is its host. You probably know that your website lives on a server, which is a computer that can be accessed from anywhere. Your host is the entity that manages that server. Often, your host will provide other services, like email, domain registration, or what we will cover momentarily SSL certificates.
We at Alarie Design are not technically a host, because we do not run any servers at our office. Instead, we coordinate with our host of choice, MediaTemple, on server administration, and other technical issues. It’s important to work with a reputable company with excellent customer service like MediaTemple in order to have a performant and reliable web presence.
While there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of the term “CMS” before, there’s an equally good chance you already know an example of one. CMS stands for “content management system”, which is software that your website runs that makes adding, deleting, and editing the content of your website easier.
For example, our preferred CMS here at Alarie Design is WordPress. We’ve been using it for many years and we absolutely love it. In fact, a lot of people love it, because WordPress is used on 63.6% of websites that use any CMS, and it’s used on 38.2% of all websites (according to the latest data available at the time of this writing).
Why is WordPress so popular? Because it’s well-supported, easily extensible, and is adored by both users and developers. Simply put, we love building WordPress sites as much as you’ll love using your WordPress site.
Finally, one of the most crucial things to know about your website is whether or not you have a valid SSL certificate. Have you ever noticed the lock icon in the URL bar; for example, at the top of this page by “alariedesign.com”? Or have you noticed that many websites now start with “https://” instead of “http://”.
As you probably guessed, these features are related to the security of your site. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and an SSL certificate ensures that all data passed to or from your site’s visitors is transported securely and encrypted. This means that hackers cannot steal information that a user might enter on your website (like a credit card number).
Now, maybe you don’t accept credit card payments on your site, but you probably have contact forms of some kind. SSL protects things like login forms (passwords) and contact forms (private, personal information) too. Seeing that little lock in the URL bar has become an expectation of many web users because it represents a feeling of trust that can be associated with your brand.
You can normally purchase an SSL Certificate ($75/year) from your Domain Registrar or Server Host. However, these can be tricky to install so it would be best to enlist the help of a developer to assist you.
We know that the list of things to know about your website can seem long and confusing – trust us, we build them! – but knowing the basics of how your website works can empower you to more effectively run the online side of your business. More often than you might think, your website is your potential customer’s first impression of your business and brand, and it’s always important to make a great first impression.
Got more questions about how to grow the online presence of your business? LET’S GO!