The Keys to Your Web Kingdom

Keys to the Kingdom by Joel Bennet (jaykul on Flickr), released under BY-NC-SA

Keys to the Kingdom by Joel Bennet (jaykul on Flickr), released under BY-NC-SA

Some quick rules of thumb for those of you with a website and a website admin (someone you contact when you need something changed or updated on the site), based on my attempts to do some things with those websites:

Is it your domain name, or the website admin’s? This is the realm of the web registrars. When you want a domain name (like my own jhunterj.com, or like amazon.com or whitehouse.gov), a registrar has to get involved. The registrars provide the service that enables the domain owners (registrants) to specify where browsers should go when those names are typed in or clicked on. The registrant has a name & password on the registrar site. If you have those, it’s your domain name. If your web admin has them, it’s their domain name, and you may be renting its use. If you ever want to change web admins, you’ll need that name and password, or you’ll need a new domain name.

Is it your website, or the website admin’s? This is the realm of web hosting providers. You might have the same company providing both registrar services and hosting services, but you don’t have to. The web host is where the files for the content of your web site are stored. These files determine what gets sent to the web browsers when your domain name is typed in or clicked on. The web host customer has a name & password on the web host site. If you have those, it’s your website. If your web admin has them, it’s their website, and you may be renting its use. If you ever want to change web admins, you’ll need that name and password, or you’ll need to build or rebuild your website.

There is nothing wrong with renting a domain name or website, any more than there’s anything wrong with renting office space or fleet vehicles. You do need to know what your business arrangement is, and what your options are as your business needs change. Often, the small business owners I’ve talked to didn’t fully understand their web presence arrangements or know how to make changes.

You might have two domain names pointing to the same website. You might have a single domain name with subdomains, and the subdomains might point to different web hosts. All kinds of complicated mix-n-matching is possible, as long as you have the keys.

So those are the two big things, the two keys to your web kingdom. One more important piece of modern web content is your content management system (CMS). Rather than contacting your web admin, web developer, or other such technical resource, there are several very friendly CMSes out there that can make putting up new content easy even for non-technical users. WordPress is the dominant one (and the one I use), and there are Joomla and Drupal too. The content managed by these CMSes might be blog articles, “static” web pages, galleries, “under construction” placeholders, or anything else. There’s nothing inherently different about a blog website from any other website or about a blog article from any other web page except in the expectations of the speaker and reader—from the perspective of the Internet tubes connecting them, they’re exactly the same. So you don’t need a separate domain for your blog, and your blog articles can be stored on the same web host as your static web pages. Of course, you can divide up your web presences and pages among multiple domain names and hosts as desired.

Taking questions in the comments! Or see WordPress for Beginners for more on that CMS.

—jhunterj

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