If you’re a small business owner or a creative person or just someone who loves to cruise blogs- you’ve probably thought about setting up your own blog or website. You’re likely to have even gone further than that and set one up already.
But here’s the thing: the web can be a really confusing place if you don’t know some basic terms to get you started. Trust me, I’ve been there. When I was in college and just discovered blog world, I had no clue whatsoever about how the internet worked. In retrospect, that’s kinda crazy. What were they teaching me school? (I’m sort of kidding- but I do wish that I had learned more about the internet and computers in general in school.)
When I get client inquiries, sometimes it’s hard to know if we’re on the same page with what terms we use to describe the web. I thought it would be helpful for all parties if I laid out some basic terms that will help you if you’re thinking about setting up a website, already have one and are ready to take it to the next level, or if you just want to know a little bit more about how your internet space is set up.
Domain. Let’s start at the beginning. Your domain name is the address that you type into your browser. For example, my domain name is katelynbrookeblog.com. You’ll notice that this is slightly different from my URL, which is http://katelynbrooke.com/. See the difference? Here’s a tip: don’t buy your domain name from GoDaddy. Just don’t do it. I’ve heard good things about Name Cheap, but to be honest I like to just buy my domain names through my hosting company (see below). I just think it’s easier that way.
CMS (Content Management System). I refer to this a lot of times as your blog’s platform, but CMS is really the better term. This is what you will use to compose and publish your blog posts. Some of the most popular for blogs are WordPress and Blogger. Typepad, Squarespace, and even Tumblr are some other examples. You might have also heard of Joombla or Drupal- those are more frequently used for corporate websites. (This infographic shows you examples of different company websites and what CMS they use.)
Web hosting. Your website is made up of a series files. Those files have to be hosted somewhere on a server in order for it to be accessible on the internet. That’s where hosting companies come in. You pay a hosting company for space on their server so that your website can exist. If it’s a good hosting company they’ll provide a little bit of support in case you come across any issues- this website stuff can be complicated! I use RFE Hosting, and I totally recommend them!
Theme. It’s hard to define a theme, because they all vary so much for each other. I want to say that themes are like the paper clothes for your paper doll, but more advanced themes (like the Genesis Framework, which is what I use) are so much more than that. Themes can add functionality to your site, and different themes require varying levels of coding skill to control.
Sometimes people purchase themes with a premade design to give their site a makeover without having to hire a designer, which is a great option if you have a lower budget. However, if you plan on hiring a designer in the near future, hold off on purchasing a theme because chances are they’ll want to design your site the way that they want to, and the money that you spent on your theme will essentially be lost.
See also child theme. A child theme is a theme that you install on top of another theme. Genesis uses child themes. When I design a site, I’m actually not touching Genesis- I use a child theme to style the site while still using the basic framework. This makes it so that updates can be made to the overall framework without affecting the design of a site. You can read more about child themes on the Studiopress site.
Wireframe. I don’t really use wireframes much except for my own personal use, but a wireframe is a rough sketch or diagram about how a website will flow. It’s not about the styling, it’s about the spatial positioning of elements on a page.
Mock-Up. This is when you lay out how the website will look as closely as you can to what it will actually look like, in Photoshop or Illustrator. Basically, it’s the design of the website without having to code it. I only use mock-ups sometimes- it really depends on how clear of an idea the client has about the layout of their site. Sometimes I skip the mock-up and go straight for the test site!
Responsive design. This term gets thrown around a lot, and it’s easy to assume that this means that you can view your website on a mobile device. This isn’t true- you can view your web design on mobile devices without it being responsive (in fact, there are some circumstances where I think it makes sense to not be responsive.) A responsive web design is one that changes based on the size of the screen that it is being viewed on- it is not specific to any particular device. You can test to see if a website is responsive by dragging the edge of your browser inward and seeing if it changes (mine does- try it out!) Edit: mine used to, but is no longer responsive as of January 2014.
Responsive design is complicated because it means that the designer has to anticipate all browser sizes, and detect any issues that may arise. Some designs are more responsive than others- you’ll notice that my blog has to get to a certain width before it will start to change. It all depends on the needs of your website and who will be viewing it. If you want to learn more, check out this article.
Did I miss something? Ask away in the comments! Also- when I was writing this post I Googled a lot of these and Wikipedia always had a great answer. I forget to look stuff up sometimes- there’s always so much information out there!
Also, I’m making an announcement tomorrow, and my email subscribers will get some behind the scenes info- make sure you’re signed up!
This post contains affiliate links, meaning that if you purchase web hosting or a theme through my links I get a small commission. Please rest assured that I only recommend products like this that I use and love myself.