Trying to learn about website development but lost? Check out this beginners guide full of the information you need to start learning to code.
If you’ve decided to develop a simple looking website, a complex platform or a webshop, there are some important web development terms and concepts you should know.
Websites – the pillars of the Internet as we know it
First, what is a website? It can be said that it is simply an array of files stored on a server and accessing them is possible via the Internet. While there are certain things you can do to prevent someone or a group of people from accessing your site, it’s mostly in your interest to leave it for the whole world to see.
Browsers – the tools that display your content to the end user
It is through a browser that a website can be displayed correctly on someone’s computer. These are computer programs, so naturally you will have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to choosing your favorite (examples include Firefox, Chrome, and so on). To describe the relationship between you and the global web, your computer is the client, and the website you are trying to connect to is the server.
IP address – your online identity
In order to distinguish between a multitudes of devices connected to the Internet at any one time, each of them is assigned an IP (Internet Protocol) address. No IP address can be the same – that would defeat the whole purpose of the system. To access a website development agency, you generally have two ways to go. You can enter your IP address or your domain name, the latter of which is much more commonly used.
HTTP – a standard that defines how messages are displayed online
Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (or HTTP for short) is a standard that defines how data sent through the server is interpreted by the client device. Since each site has multiple webpages, this is how you navigate through them. To understand its true functionality, imagine it as the missing link between you and the site – a translator, if you like, the one who receives the message through your own computer and sends it to the server you’re communicating with (and vice versa).
Coding language – the building blocks of the website
Like a standard language used to establish communication between two living things, a coding language is how website developers can issue a set of instructions about how a website should load. It’s not just the websites that use it, though – just like the programs. Of course, there are all kinds of coding languages, the choice of which depends on the specifications of the project you are undertaking.
Front-end – what users see
Front interaction is what users see. When a set of instructions is sent from the server to the client’s computer, that’s what happens on the screen – even without a constant stream of new instructions from the server. In other words, when you’re playing a video, browsing through images, highlighting text, and so on.
Back-end – what happens behind the scenes
CMS – putting the content in order
A content management system (CMS) is how website developers assemble developed content in a rational order. Note: these are not to be confused with website builders. Both eCommerce store owners and bloggers use them as they make content organization much easier.
Reasons to learn web development
We live in a world where technology is the norm, and sooner or later, you’re likely to find the need to develop a website; whether for your own projects or if someone hires you to do it, your web development skills are bound to see many opportunities to shine. Since its inception, the Internet has become a central center for research, education, entertainment and connection.
It is estimated that there are today more than 4.2 billion Internet users. Putting it in perspective, that’s more than half of everyone living on the face of the planet! As such it is easy to see why web development is a rapidly expanding industry.
There is no tested process when it comes to making websites. Based on what you plan to create, the development process can be very different. However, if you know the tools of the trade, you can create pretty much anything you want, just as you imagined it to be.
The first part of the process is to create a plan. There’s no need to complicate things – just a simple starting point from which to channel your ideas.
Before starting with development, there are essential questions that need to be answered:
- What kind of content will be published on the individual pages?
- Can it be organized into categories?
- How will pages be referenced or linked?
- Are there any sections you can finish?
The next step is to write the code.
Writing code is not talking; is walking. At this point, the web developer will assess the project’s needs and choose one or several coding languages to do the job. These define interactivity and functionality. To get a glimpse into the developer’s mind, here are just a few of them that they often choose to work with:
HyperText Markup Language (HTML) has been around since the early 90’s. Essentially, this is the foundation of your website. While you could add other elements to support it, this is the foundation of your skeleton. If you want it to look modern, though, it’s probably a good idea to combine it with other tools in a web designer’s arsenal.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) was also released in the 90’s. Unlike pure HTML, it is focused on making your website look beautiful and giving you much needed stylistic elements. With it, you can adjust various properties, such as colors and typography. All browsers can understand it, so it really is a universal way to make your website graphically attractive.
Building the backend
Writing code is an aspect of web development, although it’s far from the only one. But no matter how you put it, it’s more than likely that you spend a considerable amount of your developer time doing just that – writing code.
But first, it’s important to have a solid understanding of what this entails. Looking at an example from Facebook, it’s easy to see how photo management can work in two phases. First of all, you need some kind of backend to store them. So, you need a front to be able to navigate them. This is achieved through the following:
Databases store data so that server requests can retrieve it on demand.
Servers process requests. In a way, they are the middle cog between your browser and the database that sits in the background. Through a browser, a user sends a request to display certain information, which the server then interprets and proceeds to fetch the necessary pieces of data from a database.
The three backend goals
While there are always some subtle nuances, in essence, the backend struggles to deal with the following:
The logic of the website. Think of it as a predetermined set of rules by which your site will process requests and allow web design elements to interact.
Database management. No matter how you put it, data is one of the most crucial parts of a website’s architecture, and it’s up to you to write the rules for how it will be handled through SQL databases and such.
Infrastructure. In other words, the way your website will be hosted. The more expensive the server, the more load it can handle.
The final word on the backend
If you design a small business website, you may not be storing any data in a database. If this is the case, you may not even need it. But even if you only require the most basic functionality, like having the option to log into a website, there’s no way to do that without having some sort of back-end up and running. Only purely informational sites can work and not have a backend.
Building the front end
If WordPress or Squarespace rings a bell, chances are you’ve already got in touch with a website’s front end in one way or another. Since the front end is an elemental part of web design and is the experience visitors get, you simply cannot afford to downplay it.
Since the front-end aspect of a website can quickly become out of date, working with a CMS can be the preferred and quick way to do this.
A CMS will make things much simpler and easier to use
If coding something from scratch isn’t exactly what you think you’re doing, using a CMS is a great way to get the job done without writing code. On the other hand, it’s not as flexible, and you won’t have as much control over the end result as you would if you hired a Website Design Company.
As many of you have probably already heard, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. So unless there’s something really crazy you want to do with your front-end, thinking of a CMS that already has the functionality you’re looking for built into it is definitely worth your consideration.
For example, let’s say you set out to build an online store. Working with a tested CMS or plugin, you will have a lot of the work already defined for you. The same goes for the back-end functionality – after all, the main thing you need is to allow your e-commerce customers to login and securely enter their credit card details. There’s no need to build all of this from scratch if you can use pre-built solutions.
A Quick Word about Purchasing a Domain Name
Before being able to start your website development project, you will need a domain name. Since you can’t expect people to remember your IP address, a domain name should always be part of the plan, so take your time to decide on it. While some domain name extensions are more expensive than others, generally speaking, any domain you decide to buy will last a year before you need to renew it.