How Does a Website Work?

Let’s build your home.

You’ve probably heard by now that having a website is a good idea. And so you’ve started searching for the best way to make that a reality. But, everything is so unfamiliar that you are now questioning whether it’s worth it in the first place; hosting, themes, wordpress, plugins, e-commerce, wix, and domain names are all floating around your mind like the great pacific garbage patch. While it’s true that many of these things play a role in your website, it doesn’t have to be so confusing.

I’m going to propose a question to clear things up: what is it exactly that makes a website work? In this post, I’ll employ an analogy to help explain the various components of a website and show you a simplified view of its innerworkings. Even if you’re not the one building the website, I assure you that you’ll find this helpful.

The Analogy

As elaborated on in other posts, your website is your “home” on the web, the place where you exhibit your authentic self, and the place where you feel comfortable achieving your goals.

This analogy can be extended even further to help explain its functionality. Basically, using homebuilding terminology, I’m going to explain website-building terminology.

Your Website: Location

Similar to buying the land on which a house will sit, the very first step in actually building a website is finding a place for it to live. This is where hosting comes in. Websites do actually take up space by living on servers, and these servers are controlled by hosting providers. You can buy hosting (server space) from these providers, which will give your website a place to live. Hosting providers like SiteGround, Bluehost, and GoDaddy are all digital real estate brokers.

I have some pretty strong feelings about the different hosting providers, based on my experience with their services, customer support, and overall integrity. Right now, and for the last couple of years, SiteGround has been my favorite for a number of reasons.

Your Website: Address

So, your website now has a place to live. But, it needs an address so that people can easily navigate to it. This is the purpose of a domain. Essentially, your domain is your digital address. Having a good domain name is important in the digital realm, because it makes it easy for people to find you.

Domains can usually be purchased from hosting companies. And, these companies will often provide you with a free domain when you sign up for their hosting service. There are some exceptions to this that I’ll explain in the next section.

Your Website: Platform

The website platform is analogous to the framework of a house. It contains all of the files, folders, and functionality to allow a website to show when someone navigates to your domain. Essentially, it is the structure for which all of the pages of the website sit on. And it usually contains the features necessary to customize the design. Examples may include simple html websites, WordPress(.org), and Joomla.

However, each platform is very different, and each one has its limitations. Some are infinitely customizable, while others will limit you on how creative you can be. In another post, I’ll explain the pros/cons of each platform.

The Exception: All-in-ones

While this analogy does provide a simplified view of many websites, there are some exceptions. All-in-one website makers, such as Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, and include the website Hosting, Domain, and Platform all together in one package. Their biggest advantage is their simplicity, but unfortunately, this is also their greatest downfall.

In my 15+ year experience, all-in-one website makers are usually not the way to go. They often limit the ability to grow and scale. And, they may come with a hefty price tag.


I hope this post helped you grasp a general picture of how a website works. If you have any questions, or still need some guidance, I’m always happy to help.