What Is a Website, Really?
A Website is Like a House
You may be "visiting" many houses everyday, to get information, to shop, to play, etc...
You go through the different "rooms" in those houses, but you will never see how it was built, how much it cost, what it took to make it someone's "home" or what is involved in the maintenance of it and who does it.
The "Rooms" of the "House"
- Home page: This is where your visitors enter your house. But because you are not there to give them a personal tour, you must give them a clear navigation map so they can find their way around and go the the specific room they need, as easily and quickly as possible. It is good also to briefly introduce yourself to them and show them the basic purpose of the house. No need to go into details here, just to grab their attention and make them want to stay longer.
- Services/Offerings page: This could be the equivalent of the kitchen, where the visitors would find out what specific kind of food they should expect, see how experienced the Chef is and what kind of equipment he uses. And of course, learn why the food is better than in other houses and how it can benefit them.
- Testimonials, picture gallery, about us, or similar page: That's like the dining room, lounge or family room, where visitors may see other guests and how happy they are, maybe they can look at dishes you already made in the past or at awards you earned, or you can tell them more details about yourself, what you do, how it can benefit them, etc...
- Contact Us page: This is the area, the den with the back door, where the visitors may go when they are almost ready to leave. You want to give them your business card and complete contact information, and of course take their contact information down as well (if they want to give it) just so you can reach them later when something new in the house may interest them. From there you can even give them the opportunity to go take a last look at one more room, or at the garden, to make them stay longer or get more information about what they really need (info form or quote request form.)
- Disclosures, policies and other legal stuff: This does not have to be a page by itself, it can be a downloadable document. It is basically the bathroom in case something happens and the visitors need to see the facilities. You don't have to show it to everyone who come to your home, but you want to make sure they know where it is and that they have easy access to it from anywhere in the house.
Other rooms: You may want to build a big house, with many other rooms/areas: gym, patio, balcony, library, recreation room, or even add a small shop if you have anything to sell so people can buy before they leave, and even come back on a regular basis. These rooms are obviously optional and often with additional costs, customized to your own home and for your own activities.
Just like for almost all houses that have the same basic rooms, entrance hall, kitchen, dining area, bathroom and bedroom, almost all websites have the same minimum basic pages:
What a Website Really Is
The Domain name: This would be the name plate on the house. Domain names are purchased and ownership is renewed every so often. If a specific name you want is already owned, you can look for a similar name or with a different suffix that is available (.net, .info, .org, etc...) Shorter names and names for popular concepts are more expensive than long names or those that are truly unique.
The Web/IP Address: This is the street address of the house, the exact point where it is located at any given time. The address may change and all you have to do is move the house and its content to a new location. Any location where you want to settle your house will charge a hosting fee. Your "host" will generally take care or the basic hook-up of the utilities you need and should maintain that part. Some hosts are small, taking care of only a few houses, and may go out of business for various reasons. Other hosts are much bigger, have better maintenance and update programs and even provide all the tools to build your house.
The Site Content: That is the actual house, with all the rooms and all the furniture inside each room. Designing and building a whole house, taking care of all accesses, amenities, making all the furniture, placing it in the right spots and making sure the visitors will navigate around easily and quickly requires some very specialized knowledge and skills. Building everything from scratch in a reasonable time frame is impossible for the non-professional.
There are a number of tools that will provide a "shell" and base structure, as well as help and directions on how to size the rooms, build the furniture and put the finishing touches to match the closest your needs. Some of those tools are easy, others do require some level of knowledge as well.
A few of these platforms also provide the IP address location therefore eliminating the need to find a host that may or may not be able to guarantee top service. However, these platforms will not allow you to move your house to other hosting locations.
Site content can vary greatly according to the owner's goals. Many options are available depending on the number of pages and their purpose/functions. Third party providers may be required to setup and keep these additional pages working.
The Site Maintenance: As in any home, utilities have to be paid and updating the furniture, redecorating rooms and/or changing fixtures is necessary to maintain a safe and appealing house for all visitors. Maintenance can be done by the owner, to lower expenses, but it requires time and specific skills depending on the job to do. Some maintenance must be done frequently (like mowing the lawn) while some other is only required on an as needed basis (like getting a newer TV or replacing a broken appliance).
A basic functional website rests on four elements of foundation