How Web Sites Work

Things You Need To Know About How Web Sites Work

This class won't turn you into a web site designer. It's purpose is to give you just enough background information so that you can understand the business implications of the technology.

Web Pages

  • A web page is just a type of document that can be displayed on a computer screen
  • The software used to view web page documents is called a browser
  • To make sure that all computers can understand a web page and display it correctly, web documents are written in a standard language, called Hypertext Markup Language, or HTML
  • HTML includes tags that tell the computer how to display the page contents. Tags have triangular brackets, like this: <h1>. For example, <a href="">This is a link to the New York Times's web site</a> produces a link to the New York Times web site that looks like this: This is a link to the New York Times's web site.

Hosting a Web Site

  • A web page is not visible to other computers on the web unless it is stored on a computer that can send web pages to users who request them. Such a computer is called a web server.
  • You can use your own computer as a web server, by installing web server software such as Apache. Here's one way to do it.
  • The good thing about using your own computer as a web server is that it's free
  • The bad news is that you computer needs to be on and connected to the internet 24/7, so people can access your web site. And you need to manage all the software upgrades and inevitable technical problems yourself.
  • That's why most businesses use a web hosting service. They lease space on a computer that lives in a data center and managed by people who take care of all of the technical things. Web site hosting services include
  • If you want your own web site, you need a domain name, like You can register a domain name online using one of many domain name registration services.

Creating a Web Page

  • You can create a web page by typing HTML into a text editor like Notepad, but it's tedious.
  • There are many web page design tools. Some, like Adobe Dreamweaver and Microsoft Expression Web, are sophisticated.
  • Wikis are implemented with software that allows you to create and edit a web page online, without using HTML. Google Docs, Google Site and Wikidot are examples. Wiki sites also host the site you create.

Creating Graphics for a Web Page

  • Graphics need to be created with graphics editing software such as Adobe Illustrator

Web Pages with Changing Content

  • It's easy to create a web page that never changes. Such a page is called a static web page.
  • But many businesses need web pages that change based on what the user wants.
  • Further, many businesses have content information that changes all the time, such as product descriptions and price lists
  • Web sites can be designed with dynamic content, but that often requires some computer programming
  • All the information available needs to be stored somewhere. In computers, it's stored in a database
  • The web site needs to be programmed to search the database, retrieve the information and display it

Turnkey Solutions

  • There are companies that offer "turnkey eCommerce solutions", which are packages of web site creation tools and tools that allow you to enter product descriptions and prices. These companies will even reserve the domain name and host the web site for you, for a fee.


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