What the heck is the difference? YOUR WEBSITE, HOSTING, AND DOMAIN EXPLAINED
“What is this fee for? What services are included with it? Isn’t that [insert any of the above website terms] my WEBSITE?” I get asked this question a lot! All this web stuff can be really confusing if you’re not a developer or IT specialist. If you’re a current client, you may have heard me explain it like a car and a parking spot. But I think this analogy is more in-depth, relatable, and easier to understand. I’m here to give you a quick lowdown, in terms you may be a bit more familiar with!
First, it’s important to understand a website needs three parts to work and be accessible to its visitors. Your website, hosting, and the domain are all parts that make up a website. Each one is important and useless without the other.
So let’s think of your website like a house.
IT STARTS WITH: HOSTING
The hosting is where your website lives. Websites are just bundles of data that live on a server – out on “the cloud” or the World Wide Web (this is where that www. part comes in). Think of the server like land or a lot. The space on the server is where you’re allowed to store your data. The hosting provider is like your landlord. Hosting providers are all landlords renting you space unless you decide you want to have your own actual server set up in your actual house. In which case, you can own your digital storage space outright - but that’s much more complicated and expensive. And, if you had the know-how to do so, you probably wouldn’t be reading this. It’s much easier to purchase the space from someone else. In the case of most of my clients, I handle the servers and that’s why I charge the hosting fee.
NEXT UP: YOUR WEBSITE
If the server, where your website is hosted, is akin to the land where your house sits - then the data is like the furniture inside of it. The data (all the images, the words, the programming, etc.) that make up your website are all packaged together nicely to create a beautiful website that your users can view and interact with. To go even further, you could consider each room as its own space, for example, the kitchen is your ‘Home’ page. The dining room is your ‘About’ page. The living room is your ‘Contact’ page. etc. All that wonderful stuff (data) inside each of those spaces, are what makes your website and your home yours. They represent your business and your ideas – all displayed to your site’s visitors!
LASTLY: YOUR DOMAIN (OR URL)
Your domain is your site’s address. Just like your actual home or business, this is how people know where to find you! It’s like punching in a physical address in Google Maps and then driving to that location. Every address is 100% unique. Subtle variations in things like the .com or .net ending, can make them seem like they aren’t all that unique, but they are. If there is a 123 Design Dr., in North Dakota and a 123 Design Dr. in California, they are not the same address, because the states and zip codes are different. That would be like the difference between Design.com vs. Design.net. P.S. Your domain also needs somewhere to live and often that is through the same account that you purchase your hosting OR on a domain registrar like Go Daddy or Google Domains. Of course, there is a lot more that goes into developing a website like brand-specific content and style, images, all the fun interaction stuff, etc. And on the more technical side of things, your email, for instance, would be the same as addressing an envelope with a person’s name and address (you know, electronic + mail = e-mail).
I hope this little analogy helps you to better understand the differences between your website, the hosting, and the domain. Now you can just think of it all like a house!