How do Domains, Hosting and Themes work together? A simple guide.
A SIMPLE GUIDE. How do Domains, Hosting and Themes work together.
Let me guess, you have recently Googled questions like, ‘What is the difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org?’ and ‘How do I buy a domain Name?’. These are all very common questions asked when you are starting to put your website together. And it can feel overwhelming, confusing and like a cacophony of techie terms that make your headache.
So I will explain (hopefully simply) how everything works together. And yes, I will be using a house analogy.
Domain. This is sometimes referred to as ‘your URL’, ‘your web address’. It will look some like this: thepistahcioclub.com. A domain is your digital home address. It’s the place to find you on the internet.
When you type a domain name into a browser, you may or may not see the padlock symbol next to the domain name. So, the padlock symbol in essence means your web address has a secure way of sending information, which is super important if you are taking payments on your site. Google likes secure websites, so Google will down rank your site if you don’t have this.
You can get the padlock symbol next to your domain name in a browser by having an SSL Certificate attached to your domain. It turns your address from http to https. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. Most hosting companies (more about them in a moment) offer free SSL certificates as part of their offering. And there are some third parties who also supply this for a price.
So you have an address, next you need a plot of land. Think of this as a place you are going to build your digital house. This is called Hosting. This is the place where all your database records/files will live. There are various hosting plots of land. You may start out by ‘sharing’ your plot of land with others (Shared Hosting). If you are just starting out, this is the place most people start. Or you may wish to have your own plot of land accessed from the main street or shared access (VPS – Virtual Private Server). Or you may wish to have a plot of land far away from your neighbours which is accessed via a private drive (Dedicated).
Next, the structure of the house needs to be created, e.g. walls and roof of the building need to be built. WordPress is the main structure people like yourself use to build a website. The percent numbers change all the time, but 50% or more of the websites on the internet are built with WordPress.
So with WordPress.com, the structure files are kept within WordPress. Within this option, using the free version of WordPress can be limiting. You can’t access the files or the backend code. Also, on the free version of WordPress your domain will look something like this mywebsite.wordpress.com. With WordPress.org, you use the WordPress software and the files are stored with a hosting company, which means you can access the files, customise code and upload Plugins (more about plugins later). And you can use your own custom domain name, such as mywebsite.com.
So we have an address (Domain), plot of land (Hosting) and have constructed the walls and roof (WordPress). The next step is to make the house look pretty to your guests aka visitors. Similar to how you might choose a range of furniture from one store such as Ikea, when you want a similar look and feel you choose a Theme. Similar to Ikea’s flat pack, self-assembly style furniture, there are many Page Builders on the market which help to style your style using a drag and drop build block style. Popular ones are DIVI, Elementor and Beaver Builder. These are also called Parent Themes. In the same way you might want to purchase your furniture only from a certain collection to make sure it looks completely put together, you can do the same for a website. This helps a site look professional, put together and easier for a visitor to view and explore. These ‘collections’ are called Child Themes. Which means they are related to (i.e. uses the same coding) the Parent theme, but they have their own style.
So we have an address (Domain), plot of land (Hosting), constructed the walls and roof (WordPress) and have created a stylish home (Theme and Child Theme). So next, some final touches to help the house work well. As with a house, you have plugs so that you can power different elements of your home. A Plugin is a package of code bundled up together. The purpose of a plugin can vary greatly. Some sit there working in the background and others are actively used by you. Typically, you use Plugins to help with security and spam, but there is a wide range of plugins free and paid for which do a whole range of tasks. Widget is another often used term when building a website. A widget is a drag and drop content area, typically these are used within sidebars in your site. They are used to do things such as display the categories with your blog.
So yes, there are a lot of new terms to understand when creating a website. And with most things in life, it is great to read about the theory but when you use that knowledge in practice that is when the real learning begins.
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