Every business needs a website, just like every person needs a home.
Have you ever wondered why programmers are often referred to as web architects or engineers? Have you ever tried to build your own website with a ‘no code’ platform only to become irate when it’s unclear how to do something as simple as left align a button?
Technical endeavors, such as coding, often feel intimidating and impossible, especially if you do not come from a technical background. When you begin to consider web development in tangiable terms, however, the entire process begins to make sense. For instance, every builder needs a set of architectural blueprints before breaking ground, just like every web developer needs a graphically designed sitemap prior to deveoping a website.
While the metaphor (that building a website is like building a home) is not new, it recurs throughout my day-to-day. This is especially true when I’m working on a project with someone brand new to the world of making a website.
This metaphor also requires continual emphasis and reinforcement because a good website is the 2020 equivalent of a traditional storefront. Without a website, a small business (or any business for that matter) may as well not exist. With eCommerce becoming increasingly important, an online store can make or break a business’ revenue stream. A disorganized website will yield as many happy customers as a dirty gas station.
Furthermore, if a website isn’t maintained and constantly inhabited or looked after, then it will soon become derelict as passersby find other options.
Throughout this article I will use terms like structure and refer to systems, which refers to the structure of both a building and a website and the systems that constitute our daily environments.
The first step to building a home is acquiring the land and location on which to build. The first step to creating a website is to acquire a domain, or a web address, which is really no different than a physical street address. Your domain will be located at a specific URL, or a ‘unique resource locator’, that uniquely locates your website and its content.
This introduces a few key concepts:
Domain Name System (DNS) is the system in place that routes users to a specific web address or URL. Click here for more information on GoDaddy’s site.
Domain Registrar is the accredited organization that sells domains to the public. Click here for more information on GoDaddy’s site.
Web Hosting is the server location where all of a domain’s content and its resources are stored. Hosting enables users to access your site via the internet by typing your domain name into a browser. Email also requires a host. Some website hosts allow you to host email with them and others you have to do it separately. For web hosting, I highly recommend SiteGround.
Therefore, the domain registrar aligns with a traditional phonebook and the hosting server acts as the plot of land on which you build your structure.
Before a single brick is laid, architects create a blueprint for the home. The blueprints outline the structural components and specifcations of the structure so that a builder can turn the architects vision into reality. The architect-builder dynamic bears a lot in common with that of graphic or web designers and developers.
Similarly, designers create wireframes to guide the entire web development process. This important step defines the information hierarchy of the site and the layout and styling of all web elements.
The initial planning stage through wire-framing is the key to a successful project.
Once the design is finalized, construction (or development) begins. A content management system (CMS) is critical to the success of some of the most popular websites in the world. Similar to a kitchen, a CMS is where you create and store your content and assets, which if cooked up and configured properly, will determine your value and position in the market. Examples of popular CMS include WordPress, Webflow, and Drupal, all of which allow users to edit and manage a website with minimal coding.