Understanding Websites - Part 1

In this article (Understanding Websites - Part 1), we will explain how domain registration, hosting, and web design all fit together to create websites. In Part 2, we will show you how the various files that make up a website come together to create website pages.

The diagram above shows the various systems that work together to create a website and make it accessible to the public. Each box represents a different computer or server, all interconnected across the Internet. We will discuss each of these systems and each interaction between them.

The Domain Name Registrar is a company capable of registering a domain name, such as abc.com or xyz.org. They assign ownership to that name. The best known registrar is GoDaddy.com.

Name Servers are servers distributed throughout the Internet that can translate a domain name into the IP address of the server on which that website resides. Your own Internet provider will have a name server, so when you go looking for a website, this server is close by to tell your web browser where to go find it.

Internet User is just as it sounds, the end user who is viewing a website.

Webmaster is the person who creates and maintains the website.

Hosting Server is the publicly accessible server on which the website is stored and made available to the public. Hosting servers are not much different than a regular PC; the main difference is that they are connected to the Internet with a very high speed connection capable of uploading large amounts of data.

Now let's examine how these various pieces interact with on another. Here is our diagram again, just to keep it in view:

In Step 1, the host server communicates its fixed IP address (the number sequence by which it can be found on the Internet) and its server codes to the name servers. This step is actually only done once, and would normally be done well in advance of the other steps we are discussing here.

In Step 2, the webmaster logs into a domain name registrar, selects an available domain name, and registers it. The webmaster needs to retain access to the registration account, as he will later come back to the domain registration, and add the name server codes for the hosting server.

In Step 3, the webmaster creates a hosting account for the the new website by logging into a hosting service. He obtains login credentials with which he can transfer the website files to the host server using FTP (File Transfer Protocol). The webmaster normally creates the website and all its component files on his own computer, then uploads it to the hosting server when ready to be viewed by the public.

In Step 4, once the webmaster has added the hosting account's name server codes to the domain registration, the domain registrar distributes the domain name and associated hosting account to all name servers. Updating all the name servers in the world takes several hours, so linking the domain name and the host account is not instantaneous. However, within a few hours, any user computer will be able to type in the domain name and be directed to the correct hosting server.

We are finally ready for our user to view the website.

In Step 5, the user types the domain name into a web browser. The web browser goes to the nearest name server to translate the domain name into the IP address of its host server.

In Step 6, the user's web browser calls the IP address of the host server and requests the files needed to display the website.

In Part 2, we will show you how the various files that make up a website come together to create website pages.

Last Updated November 13, 2013