What is a Website?

Written by

Leo Koo

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A website is a comprehensive collection of interconnected web pages with the same domain name. It serves as a virtual representation of its owner, providing information, services, or products to users across the globe. A web page is simply a hypertext document (HTML document) hosted on a web server (otherwise known as, ‘server’).

Websites (or simply, ‘sites’) are important to search engines like Google Search and will be around for the foreseeable future. A web application can also be a website with at least one publicly accessible webpage. The World Wide Web refers to the collection of publicly accessible websites stored on servers.

Types of Websites

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As the digital realm becomes increasingly intertwined with our daily lives, the definition of “What is a website?” changed drastically. From a simple hypertext document created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee called the “World Wide Web,” websites have now become the primary gateway to connect, engage, and thrive in the virtual universe.

Since the beginning of the World Wide Web, websites have advanced greatly. The evolution of websites was due to significant technological, design, and functionality advancements. One notable progression has been the shift from static websites to dynamic websites and web applications (aka. web apps).

A) Static Site

A static site comprises individual HTML pages that are pre-coded or hard-coded and do not change based on user interactions. Each page represents fixed content and layout, and any updates or changes require manual coding and uploading of new files to the web server. Static websites are simple and easy to create but lack interactivity and real-time updates.

B) Dynamic Sites

Dynamic sites revolutionized the way information is presented and managed on the web. These sites use programming languages such as PHP, JavaScript, and CSS plus a database to generate content on the fly based on user requests and interactions. Unlike static sites, dynamic sites have templates and scripts that retrieve and display data from databases, allowing for personalized and interactive content.

Key Features of Dynamic Sites

  • Database Integration: Content and data are stored in databases, enabling real-time retrieval and updates.
  • Personalization: Dynamic sites can present customized content to individual users based on their preferences or interactions.
  • Interactive Elements: Dynamic sites can incorporate forms, search functions, user registrations, and other interactive features.

The Content Management System is a form of a dynamic website and is the most popular form of dynamic site.

Understanding Content Management Systems (CMS)

Content Management System (CMS) allows the creation, modification, and management of content for websites, simplifies the process of web development, and allows website owners and content creators to focus on the content.

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A popular CMS is WordPress, which enables individual website owner(s) to easily set up a dynamic site, ecommerce store, or landing page without needing a web developer. WordPress comes with easy-to-use page builders and website builders. You can easily install a plugin to add new features to your WordPress website.

WordPress is popular for small business owners due to its flexibility and easy-to-use interface.

In-depth Read: What is a Content Management System?

What else do you need for a website?

1) A Domain Name

A domain name is the human-readable web address of a website on the internet, such as www.example.com. It is memorable for people to access the website without remembering the IP address.

2) Web Hosting

Web hosting makes websites accessible on the internet. Hosting companies provide server space where website files, data, and content are stored. When you type a domain name into their web browser, the browser sends a request to the web hosting server, retrieving the website’s files and displaying them to you.

WordPress hosting is a popular option for WordPress site owners.

3) Web Design

Website design is important to your website’s online presence. Nowadays, you can easily find a website builder application or plugin that allows the creation of an attractively designed personal website or business website.

A good web design will help visitors with their user experience, turning a potential customer into a paid one. If you are on a budget, you can save on the web designer’s fees by going for pre-built designs.

4) A Web Browser

Web Browsers give users access to and viewing of websites on the internet. Examples of popular web browsers include Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge (former Internet Explorer), and Safari. When a user enters a website’s domain name or clicks on a hyperlink, the browser sends a request to the server hosting that website and serves the site.

What are the types of websites available?

1) Informational Websites

Serving Knowledge: Informational websites are designed to provide valuable and authoritative information on a specific topic or range of subjects. They serve as reliable sources of knowledge, presenting content such as articles, research papers, tutorials, and reference materials. These websites aim to educate and inform visitors on various topics.

Examples: Wikipedia, National Geographic, HowStuffWorks.

2) E-commerce Websites

Online Shopping Made EasyE-commerce websites enable businesses to showcase and sell products or services to online customers. They facilitate secure online transactions and often offer various features like product catalogs, shopping carts, payment gateways, and customer reviews. E-commerce sites aim to simplify the shopping experience and expand a company’s reach to a global market.

Examples: Amazon, eBay, Shopify.

3) Blogging Websites

Sharing Ideas and Insights: Blogging websites serve as platforms for individuals or organizations to publish regular posts or articles on various topics of interest. Bloggers can share personal experiences, insights, expertise, and opinions, while readers can engage through comments and discussions. Blogging sites help build communities around specific interests.

Examples: WordPress.com, Medium, Blogger.

4) Social Media Websites

Connecting the World: Social media websites provide platforms for individuals to connect, interact, and share content with friends, family, and a broader network of people. They foster communication through text, images, videos, and links, promoting social interactions and networking on a global scale.

Examples: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

5) Non-profit Websites 

Promoting Causes: Non-profit websites represent charitable organizations, NGOs, or community groups. They provide information about their mission, events, projects, and how individuals can contribute or volunteer. These websites aim to raise awareness and support for particular causes.

Examples: UNICEF, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), American Red Cross.

6) Business Websites 

Corporate Presence Online: Business websites act as the digital front for companies and organizations of all sizes. They offer information about the company, its products or services, contact details, and other relevant details. Their main purpose is to generate leads, build brand identity, and provide essential information to clients or customers.

Examples: Apple, Microsoft, Coca-Cola.

7) Personal Websites 

Digital Identity: Personal websites are owned by individuals who wish to have a presence online. These could range from simple landing pages with contact details to more elaborate websites showcasing personal projects, resumes, or life events.

Examples: Personal blogs, online CVs, and wedding websites.

8) Portfolio Websites

Showcasing Creativity: Portfolio websites serve as online showcases for individuals in creative fields, such as artists, designers, photographers, and writers. These websites exhibit their work, projects, achievements, and skills, allowing potential clients or employers to evaluate their talents and styles.

Examples: Behance, Dribble, DeviantArt.

9) Educational Websites

Learning Resources Online: Educational websites provide various learning resources and courses on diverse subjects. They offer structured lessons, video tutorials, quizzes, and interactive exercises to help individuals acquire new skills, knowledge, or certifications.

Examples: Khan Academy, Coursera, Udemy.

10) News Websites 

Delivering Current Events: News websites provide the latest updates, reports, and analysis on events happening worldwide. They offer articles, videos, and multimedia content to inform the public about political, social, economic, and cultural events.

Examples: BBC, CNN, The New York Times.

11) Entertainment Websites 

Engaging Audiences: Entertainment websites provide content related to movies, music, television, celebrity news, arts, and more. These sites captivate audiences with trailers, reviews, interviews, and the latest in the world of entertainment.

Examples: IMDb, Rolling Stone, Rotten Tomatoes.

12) Community Forum Websites 

Discussion and Interaction: Community forum websites allow users to start discussions, ask questions, and engage with others on specific topics or interests. These platforms are community-driven and provide an avenue for shared knowledge, troubleshooting, and networking.

Examples: Reddit, Stack Exchange, Quora.

What is not a website?

Your social media page or profile isn’t a website, rather, it is part of a social network. If you are on a budget, you can consider using free website builders like Wix and Google Sites.

Final Thoughts

There is more to a website than just a collection of web pages. It is a digital gateway connecting individuals, businesses, and information globally. From informative platforms to e-commerce hubs, websites have become integral to modern society. Understanding the basics of websites and their evolution empowers us to navigate the online world confidently.

As you explore the vast landscape of websites, remember to focus on user experience and design, ensuring seamless interactions for your visitors. Whether you’re a business owner looking to expand your online presence or an individual eager to share your passion, a well-crafted website can make all the difference.

A website is an online entity that houses information, facilitates transactions, and connects people. It has evolved from static pages to dynamic platforms, significantly impacting businesses and individuals. Embrace the power of websites to leverage the digital landscape effectively.

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