If you’re looking for a “website terminology for dummies” article, this is it!
For the small business owner, creating a website can be a daunting task. You hear that every business has a website. Your competition has a website, so therefore you feel the need to get one too. Heck, even the Super Bowl is laden with advertising messages promoting the need to get a website through GoDaddy.
In order to have a business, you need customers – you don’t necessarily need a website. After all the Industrial Revolution and every commerce transaction prior to the birth of the World Wide Web (circa 1990) was proof that businesses still flourished without a website.
Creating a website that demonstrates how your product or service solves customer problems and adds value definitely helps to attract potential customers and grow your business. Unless you have a background in technology, the process of setting up a website can be confusing. Many business owners smartly delegate this task to their technology consultant or the kid next door who is “handy with computers”.
Unless the business has an established consulting relationship for IT support, the business owner starts panicking when the hosting account expires or the website address needs to be renewed. Even worse, the business owner simply accepts charges from the website provider without understanding if they are even using those services any more.
It doesn’t help when the techies explain the problem with geek-speak and the business owner is left even more confused. The reality is most business owners don’t want to understand it, they just want the problem fixed. However, if your business is a 1-person start up and you are a do-it-your-self bootstrap-kinda-guy, it helps to have some basic understanding about website terminology so you can communicate better with your fellow geek.
(It also helps to understand what the consultant is providing so you don’t feel overcharged for services)
Website Terminology for Business Owners Chart
Below is a wall chart and some basic website terminology to help business owners understand what they are getting when a consultant works with them to setup a website.
A domain name is simply a user friendly name for a website. Technically, the World Wide Web is comprised of addresses similar to every mailbox in your neighborhood. Geeks call them an IP address. However, instead of going to a website called 192.168.12.16, its much easier to remember a website by a name.
Marketing guys will highlight the importance of a name that people can remember. The domain name usually implies the brand, product, service or market the business serves. A domain name may be the company name or a website that targets a specific market problem (howtotrainyourdog.com).
(In other cases, the domain name is just the first initial and last name of a guy who writes a great blog on technology and marketing with a little humor thrown)
What’s the WWW for?
The dubya-duba-dubya (www) stands for World Wide Web and is a common prefix for all domain name. You can still type cnn.com without the “www” and still get to the site as along as the website has been configured correctly.
Domain Name Registrar
All those easy to remember website names need to be stored somewhere so the World Wide Web knows what address to send the you to when you’re surfing the web. Technically, you could type the numeric IP address but that isn’t as easy as entering cnn.com
There is no such thing as a free lunch so you’ll need to spend a few dollars registering your domain name for a couple of years. I recommend using GoDaddy.com as your domain name registrar mainly because their customer service is great and their registration process is easy to follow.
Registering a domain name will cost you $12.99 per year but if you register for multiple years (at least 2), you can get cheaper rates.
A hosting account is your own folder on a large computer (called a web server) that is connected to the Internet that actually contains the pages of a website. There are a lot of hosting companies available to choose from including (Godaddy, BlueHost and HostGator). If I had to pick one, I’d recommend using HostGator or BlueHost over Godaddy. I’ve consulted with a lot of different clients and for those that use GoDaddy, I found their control panel difficult to use. Both HostGator and BlueHost allow you to manage the hosting account with a software product called cPanel which makes it easy to work modify the site.
As the business owner, you don’t have to worry about cPanel or the way the techies make the website changes. However, it sure makes our job easier with cPanel.
Name Server Setting
When you register a domain name, you need to tell the domain name registrar (i.e. Godaddy) where the actual website files are being hosted.. Remember, GoDaddy only knows a website name that should be forwarded to a specific numeric address (called an IP address). You associate the Godaddy domain name with a hosting account by specifying the Name Server setting in the GoDaddy website.
Once you’ve told GoDaddy the name of the computer that has your website (i.e. your hosting account), your domain will be connected to your website pages.
What is a web page and HTML?
The pages of a website are computer files (similar to your Microsoft Word or Excel spreadsheets) that when displayed in a web browser (Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Apple Safari) format the information in an easy to read and navigate information. Web pages are written in a special language called HTML – Hypertext Mark Up Language. As a business owner, you just care about how the web page looks while the techies write the code to make the page look the way you want it.
What about CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)
CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is a web technology that ensure all the pages on your website have the same look and feel and are presented the same way within a web browser. As a business owner, you should never have to worry about this term, but its helpful to understand your web designer needs to change it to make your website look the way you want it to look.
What is a URL?
A URL (say it U-R-L, no yurl) is a Uniform Resource Locator. A URL is set of letter and numbers that reference an Internet resource like a domain name or a page within a website.
You’ve all used URLs before, you just may not have know the technical name for the “thing” that you bookmark in your web browser.
A payment gateway is simply a computer that processes credit card transactions. As a business owner, you may want to sell stuff online. People want to buy stuff online securely and know their credit card information will not be compromised.
Many small businesses start with a payment gateway like PayPal, Authorize.net or 2Checkout to handle credit card processing. Business owners can also host their own payment gateway but that requires an additional investment. If you’re just starting online, using services like PayPal, Authorize.net, 2Checkout or Google Checkout will help your process online credit card transactions for a small percentage fee.
Payment Gateway Processing Fees
2.9%+$0.30 per transaction
$20.00 per month +$0.35 per transaction
$10.99 per month + 3.99% + $.045 per transaction
2.9%+$.30 per transaction
I hope this small primer has helped to demystifiy some of the terms that you’re likely to hear from your technology geek. Remember, if you don’t understand a term, ask your consultant to explain it again. I know you won’t be writing the code behind your website, but it helps to at least understand the terms being used to bring your business to the World Wide Web