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Digital Basics: What is a Website?

What is a website featured image
You probably already have a picture of what a website is, but how does it really impact your business? Image credit: Ben Kolde

Today it’s more important than ever for small businesses to get online. However, many business owners aren’t tech whizzes. To help, we like to strip things back to the absolute basics. So what is a website?

Websites are an essential tool for reaching new customers and maintaining competitiveness. Since websites have become an essential for modern business, let’s take a closer look at these vital building blocks of the online world.

Let’s take a closer look at the essentials…

What is the Definition of a Website?

Technically, a website is nothing more than a collection of text files hosted on a server somewhere. However, for business owners, it’s more helpful to think of your website as an online platform for your customers to interact with you.

To define a website it’s helpful to consider what types of people would have a website.

Anyone and everyone can have a website, including businesses of all sizes and types, non-profit organisations, charities, governments, religious organizations, individual people, celebrities, musicians, entertainers, entertainment venues and more.

How many web pages a website includes varies based on many factors, such as the topic of the website and how much content it covers.

Business websites also generally have additional features beyond just information. This can include a system for users to make a purchase or book a service, as well as interfaces for them to sign up to your email list.

However, business owners don’t generally need to get bogged down in how their website works. Rather, it’s important to have enough of a basic understanding to make informed decisions about the web development process.

Creating a website can be a fraught process, especially if you don’t have a great knowledge of the technical side of things. With that in mind, let’s take a quick detour.

Quick Fix Websites – A Warning!

In the early days of the internet and web, creating a website was complicated and expensive. Essentially, you had to know how to build it yourself using computer code, and then upload it to your hosting server.

Now it is much simpler and more user-friendly for even nontechnical people to create a website. However, businesses should beware ‘quick fix’ websites as these can be badly set up for user-experience and search engine optimisation.

This might prevent you from reaching your goals. You’ll then have to engage an agency to create a proper website for you. In the long run this is a waste of time, and potentially even money.

As such, it’s crucial to do your research and invest in the right website from the outset.

Additionally, while it’s possible to create a site which looks great using a website builder, there are many functional elements which you may have insufficient knowledge of. For example, it will take you a long time to get your head around metadata and internal linking.

Some links lead the reader of a website to another website.

There are tools now available that make it quick and easy to get a website set up and running, but it remains an important consideration to choose the right one, or decide if you’d be better off with a professionally developed website.

Types of Information on Websites

A website contains a variety of types of material. Often, this takes the form of written content. Some websites include a feature that translates the content into another language or multiple languages.

A website can also contain graphics such as artwork and photographs, as well as audio, video, animation, and more.

Business websites also contain essential information about the business itself, like it’s location, services and history. They also contain information for job seekers, such as career information, job listings and a digital job application form.

Purpose of Websites

Websites serve many purposes, such as to:

  • Entertain users,
  • Persuade website visitors to buy a product,
  • Convince visitors to agree with certain ideas and causes,
  • Encourage visitors to contribute to a charitable endeavour or project,
  • Market or sell a product or service,
  • Inform website visitors about a cause or particular issue.

The purpose of some websites is primarily to sell products or services. So much shopping takes place through websites. Shoppers can easily move, or navigate, through online stores and make purchases.

They pay for those purchases with various forms of payment, such as credit or debit cards. Websites have security features built in to them that make shopping on the internet secure.

Promotional Websites

Some websites are somewhat similar in content and purpose to paper brochures, as they contain some informational and promotional content..

However, a website is much more than that, and one of the beauties of a website is that it can be updated much more readily than any paper document can be. You might even update your site on a regular basis.

Many websites feature blogs, which include articles like a magazine. Blog posts can be varying lengths and can be posted to a website as often as desired.

Those are just some of the possible purposes of a website. A website can serve any purpose that the creator of that website has in mind. These days, most websites have a combination of all of these features.

How People Can View and Access Websites

A person first needs access to the internet, to be able to get to websites. They also need to type in a particular website’s address, also called a URL, into the address bar in an internet browser.

Alternatively, users can find your site through search engines or links from other sites.

People use a variety of electronic devices to view websites. These include:

  • Desktop computers,
  • Laptop computers,
  • Tablets,
  • Mobile phones.

The experience a person has in viewing websites varies based on what device they are using. A desktop computer with a large monitor allows the website visitor to see much more content at one time than a visitor using a mobile phone with a tiny screen.

Digital Basics: What is a Website? 1
Users can access websites on a variety of different devices, not just computers. Image credit: William Iven

Most websites today respond to the size of the user’s screen. This allows them to get the best possible experience.

What are Website Cookies?

A cookie is a piece of information that your computer or other electronic device receives from a website you visit. Your computer stores that information. Then your computer sends that same information back to the website you visited.

Cookies can be both a blessing and a problem, depending on what they are doing at any given time. They both make it more straightforward for a computer to access websites and can be a challenge if they are not properly dealt with by a computer user.

Why does all of this happen?

Basically, the website you visit uses cookies to monitor your activity in browsing that website. Cookies can come in handy for many purposes online. For example, if you’ve ever shopped for anything online, cookies make your shopping experience more enjoyable, easy and efficient.

Cookies for Logins

Another helpful task that cookies perform is keeping track of a user’s visits to the website where a person would log in, thus making their logins more seamless and quick.

There are various kinds of cookies that serve different purposes online, but those purposes can provide for better and more efficient browsing on websites on the internet.

Different computers are different from each other, but there are ways to go into a computer’s setting within an internet browser and view the settings for cookies. From there, it is possible to modify those settings based on your preferences.

Although some cookies can be harmful, many are helpful. The latter make the browsing experience better, so it is a wise idea to enable certain cookies. It is possible to delete cookies later if needed and desired.

Understanding Websites for Business Owners

These days, pretty much every business needs a website. In the digital era, this is simply the most effective way to reach your customers. However, the majority of business owners are not computer geeks.

Understanding the digital world means understanding websites. Before thinking about building the presence of your business online, taking these few minutes to go ‘back to basics’ can make for a great starting point.

Having a basic understanding of what websites are and how they work is also vital for making an informed decision about investing in a site which will help you reach your business goals.

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