The Web Explained for Dummies
Don't understand the web? Don't know how to get yourself or your business on the web?
No problem. You have come to the right place. By the time you have read this article, you'll be an expert.
I need a Car
You decide you need to buy a new car. There's lots of manufacturers. Should you get a Ford Explorer, a Lincoln Navigator, or Hummer Safari? Well, they all share similar features, i.e. tires, seats, steering wheel, windows, etc. But you say it's what's under the hood that matters.
Yes, the Ford uses a different engine than the Lincoln. If fact, on closer inspection you discover that although there are a lot of similarities between the two vehicles, there are a lot of differences as well. The Lincoln may offer heated seats while maybe the Ford doesn't.
The bottom line is that the vehicle gets you to places!
What do you use the automobile for?
For transportation to other homes or businesses. You use streets and highways to get to your destination. How do you find a business or home? By the address. Wouldn't it be terrible if some business or home shared the same address? You would get lost.
Fortunately, every building and home have a unique address that only they possess. If it's an apartment building or office building, they may share the same physical address initially, but they have an apartment number or suite number that differentiate them from others who share the same physical address of the building.
So what's your point?
The web highway is similar to the highway or streets you use everyday. It is like a virtual street that allows you to get places. Where? To businesses and homes.
On a real street you use a Ford Explorer, a Lincoln Navigator, or a Hummer Safari to get you to your destination. In the virtual world, you use a vehicle as well. It is called a 'browser.'
Just like automobile models, there is a number of 'browsers' (vehicles) from which to choose. There is the Microsoft Explorer, the Netscape Navigator, the Apple Safari, and others. Though similar in function (they get you places), one browser may have some features (under the hood) that another browser does not.
Unlike automobiles, browsers are free. Which one you decide to use is up to you. Some people have all three browsers installed on their computers at the same time. It's up to you to decide which browser you want to take out on a spin.
Cruising down the highway...
So you are ready to go somewhere in your vehicle, to a business or home. You reach up to grab the old dusty phone directory from the shelf. You note that you have a couple of different directories on the shelf for the same area, but printed by different companies. You choose one over the other (maybe because you like the design or layout better). Then you search for a category. "Let's see, I need to find a place that sells auto parts." You go to the category heading, find the store, and write down the address. The address is necessary if you plan to find the store. Then you drive to the store based on the address.
In the virtual world, our 'phone directory' is called a 'search engine.' There are number of companies (directories) that have "published" a web page with their own search engine that you can use (google.com, yahoo.com, etc.). Which one to use is a matter of choice (maybe because you like the design or layout better). The most popular search engine is Google.
In our example above, we would enter the search term, "Auto Parts" into the request box.
Press the 'Google Search' button, and thousands of results are displayed. Here's an example of one of the listing results:
The title of this link is, "Advance Auto Parts." Notice that it is underlined, which means if we click on the title with our mouse arrow, we will automatically be taken to the store's website, which is circled in red.
However, the actual website name is 'www.advanceautoparts.com/'. We call this a 'domain name.'
If you were actually driving a car, what would you need to know in order to drive to this store? That's right, the store's address. Knowing the name of the store isn't helpful if you don't know where it is.
It's the same in the virtual world. The computer actually needs an 'address; to find the store or destination site that you have entered.
The name 'www.advanceautoparts.com' is just an alias, or a name that makes sense to us. Imagine a telephone directory that only listed addresses, but not names. It wouldn't make sense to us.
Likewise, the name in the listing doesn't make much sense to the computer. The computer doesn't look at the name listed in the search engine. It looks at an address that is attached or 'linked' to the name.
This address is called an IP address, Internet Protocal Address. It looks something like this 192.168.0.2
Generally, we never see this in a search engine, just the company's name, or 'domain name.' But the computer sees the IP address. As a result, it knows exactly where to drive on the internet highway and retrieve that web page, no matter where it is in the world. That's because every web site has a unique address, shared by no other web site (just like our house or business).
We used our 'browser' to cruise the internet highway. We used a 'search engine' to locate places we wanted to view. We clicked on the 'alias' (Title in the search find) that was linked to an actual 'IP address' (address linked to the domain name). The internet highway used this address to locate the web site based on the IP address, went into the web site, asked that some form of text- or graphic-based web page be sent back to you, hopped back onto the internet highway and delivered that information to your screen.
Make sense now? You're not a dummy anymore.
Let's now turn our attention to the actual store or home website.
I want to open an Online-Store:
To explain this, we are going to use a real-life example first, just like we did in the previous section.
What would you need to do in order to open a 'bricks & mortar' store?
First, you'll need to find some empty building or office suite to move your business into. You approach the landlord of the building that has empty space and ask to rent from him. The cost will vary depending on the size of the space you want to rent. You know that the cost to rent a 1-room office is a lot less than renting a office building with dozens of rooms.
You ask the landlord, "How much is it to rent this space?"
"Well," the landlord begins, "it depends on whether or not you only want the space on a month-to-month basis or want it on a longer term, say 12 months. It's going to cost you more on a month-to-month basis. But, if you want to sign a contract and guarantee you'll rent this space for 1 year, and pay up front, I'll give you a discounted price."
You decide to rent it for a year and pay the landlord. You now have a storefront. However, it's not much of a store. It's an empty building. The landlord only rents space, he doesn't set up your store for you.
You need to move the products you plan to sell or display into the space, so that when people come to the store they actually see something, not just empty space.
You have two choices: if you're artistic and so inclined, you can design your store and build the cabinets and shelves to display your product or services, and then stock it with inventory. If you're not artistic, you can hire a designer and a moving company that will set up the store for you.
Now you have a store with content inside it. However, no one knows you're there because you don't have a name for the store, you haven't posted a sign with it, and you're not listed in the telephone directory.
"Hmmm" you mutter to yourself. "What name am I going to call my business?"
You run through several possibilities. However, you discover that some of the names you picked out are already being used by other businesses. You decide on a name for your store, but realize in order to operate your store, you need to 'register' your name with the state.
The state receives your request, informs you on whether or not your name choice is already taken by someone else, and then registers your name. Once the name is registered, you're a legitimate business.
You now can send out advertising. You contact the telephone company and asked to be listed in the telephone directory. They say you can have a free listing. However, if you pay more money, they can draw more attention to your ad by putting your name in bold type, or for even more money you can have a larger ad, e.g. 1/4-page ad or bigger.
Let's summarize what it took to open a 'bricks and mortar store."
You secured and registered our store name
You rented a place to host our store
You moved our company into the store location.
You contacted the telephone company and made sure you were listed in the telephone directory.
Now how is that analogous to a virtual store on the web?
Your store name (domain name) needs to be registered with a web 'Registrar' who verifies that the name is not being used by anyone else. If it's available, the registrar secures the name exclusively for your use.
We need to find a host server company (landlord or ISP, ie. Internet Service Provider) that is willing to rent space on their computer server (the office suite) for your new web site (store). As with a real office suite, the more space we require, the more it costs. Generally, if you sign a contract with the ISP for one year, the cost will be less (a discount) than paying for the space one month at a time.
The components of your web site (i.e. web pages) need to be moved (known as uploaded, accomplished by using software known as FTP, which stands for "File Transfer Protocol.") onto the server (the store location). This is usually done for you by the designer of your web site (which could be you).
Your web site designer or you contacts the various search engines (analogous to telephone directories) and makes sure your site is listed in their search engines so people can find you when they perform a search for your kind of business. You may increase your chance of being seen (prominence) in these search engine web sites by paying them extra money, so that your name appears closer to the top of search finds (like getting a bold listing or 1/4-page ad in the telephone directory).
Let's summarize what it took to open a virtual store on the web:
- You registered your domain name with a 'Registrar.'
- You contacted an ISP and rent space for your web site.
- Your designed web site is uploaded to the ISP's server.
- You submit your site to search engines so that they will list you in their directory.
digitalTDS can assist you in every step above:
- We are a certified Registrar.
- We are an ISP and can provide you web space on our web servers to host your web site.
- We can design your web site from scratch or move your existing web site over to our server.
- We can submit your web site and its pages to a large number of search engines to help give you a competitive edge over your competitors.
- And best of all, we are competitively priced.
For more information, contact us or review other articles under the web navigation buttons on this web site.