If you work in the online industry or own a website, you will likely have come across some scary sounding terms or acronyms, such as FTP, CMS, DNS, Nameservers and Registrars, to name but a few.
It can be frustrating when agencies or developers ask for these things and you don’t really understand what they’re talking about. In this article, I hope to explain some of these technical terms as simply as possible, so you feel more confident talking about them in the future.
Without further ado, let’s dive right in.
What is a Domain Registrar?
A domain registrar is where you would purchase/register a domain name for a website.
Some of the most popular domain registrars include 123 REG, Namecheap, GoDaddy and Bluehost, but there are hundreds!
Within a domain registrar account, you can manage your domain’s Nameservers, DNS Records, Web Forwarding and other general account settings. I will explain what these things are later on in this article.
It’s also worth noting that a domain registrar could also provide web hosting and email hosting services, which most of the large companies do.
What is a Domain or Domain Name?
A domain, also referred to as a domain name, is a website address that is designed to make it easy for humans to remember the location of a website on the internet.
For example, our domain name is cariadmarketing.com and people can easily find our website by typing it into their browser’s address bar.
A domain must be purchased from a domain registrar, like 123REG or GoDaddy.
Domain names are unique, so if someone already has the domain you want, it’s unlikely you will get it, unless you pay handsomely for it and they are willing to sell it of course.
Did you know: when a user searches for a domain, behind the scenes that domain actually references an IP address.
Think of a domain like a contact in your phone and an IP address like that person’s phone number. You know who you want to call, so you tap on their name and it calls their number. Similarly, when you visit a website, you search for a domain and it requests the information from the server at that IP address.
Domains will expire if they are not renewed by the owner and therefore it’s recommended to set it to auto renew on a yearly basis or longer. If you leave your expired domain for too long, be careful, as someone could swoop in and buy it!
What is a URL
You may think you know what a URL is, but there is a bit more going on under the hood.
URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator and is used to locate specific files on the internet.
A URL is made up of different parts. Which you can see below with an example.
Protocol: HTTP or HTTPS
Subdomain: usually www
Domain name: cariadmarketing.com
Path + page: /blog/page.html
GET parameters: ?utm_source=twitter
What is an IP Address?
An IP (Internet Protocol) Address is the unique identifying number assigned to every device connected to the internet and looks something like this: 220.127.116.11.
Each number can range from 0 to 255. So, the full range goes from 0.0.0.0 to 255.255.255.255.
A device’s IP address consists of two parts:
Network ID: The part of the IP address that identifies the specific network on which the device is located. In our example the network ID would be 18.104.22.168. It’s customary to fill in the missing final part with a zero.
Host ID: The part that identifies a specific device on that network. In our example of 22.214.171.124, the host ID would be 28.
Hosting companies are essentially just buildings with lots of super powerful computers, each with a unique IP address.
If your website is hosted on a specific computer it can be located by that IP address.
What is DNS?
DNS stands for Domain Name System. It’s basically a system that maps domain names to IP addresses and other records.
Within the DNS database there will be DNS Records associated with each domain.
There are different types of DNS Records and here are the most commonly used:
A Record (Address) Used to map a domain name to an IP address
CNAME Record (Canonical Name) Points one domain or subdomain to another domain name
MX Record (Mail Exchange) Used to map a domain to a mail server
TXT Record (Text) Mainly used for verification and security purposes
So, by configuring all or some of the DNS Records above, you can tell a browser/client where each service is located. For example, you can add the hosting IP (A Record) to tell browsers where the website files are located and add MX Records to tell mail clients where the mail servers are located.
What are Nameservers or Name Servers?
Nameservers and DNS are pretty much the same thing, or at least part of the same thing.
You can think of a Nameserver as the computer that has the DNS software installed on it.
Nameservers are referenced by what looks like a normal domain name and they typically have more than one for redundancy. Our website (cariadmarketing.com) uses the 123-Reg nameservers, which are…
When you enter cariadmarketing.com into your browsers address bar or click on a hyperlink containing that domain, the first step is for the browser to ask the root nameserver where to look next.
The root nameserver will then direct the browser to the .com nameserver as our domain ends with .com.
The .com nameserver will then check in its database to see which nameserver the domain belongs to. In our case it’s ns1.domaincontrol.com & ns2.domaincontrol.com.
From there, the 123-Reg nameservers will give the browser the IP address for where that resource is hosted and the browser can download the files needed to display the webpage.
See the infographic below of how this works…
What is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is a service that allows you to put a web page or website onto the internet.
Web hosting can be made up of one or many servers that store websites and deliver them to your browser when you search for a URL or click a hyperlink.
You can imagine web hosting to be a lot like a restaurant. Let’s say you’re a customer at that restaurant (the browser) and you want to order your favourite dish (website).
1. You give the waiter (HTTP request) your order and he takes it to the kitchen (web server).
2. The kitchen (web server) puts the ingredients together (files and media) and the waiter (HTTP request) then retrieves the dish and brings it back to you.
3. You can now enjoy your spaghetti and meatballs (website).
4. When you order a dessert (navigate to another page), the whole process repeats again.
What is an SSL?
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is a way of encrypting data that is sent between a web server and a browser, or a mail server and a mail client.
You can read more about SSLs and their benefits in this article I wrote a while back:
What is FTP?
FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and it is a way of sending and retrieving files from one computer to another.
If you built a website on your computer and you wanted to transfer it to a remote web server you would use an FTP program like FileZilla or CyberDuck to send (put) those files onto the web server. You could also retrieve (get) files from a remote server in the same way.
In order to use FTP, you must have an FTP account created on the web server which requires a username and password for the connection to be accepted.
What is a CMS, like WordPress?
CMS stands for content management system, which is basically a piece of software that can be used to edit and create content on your website via a graphical user interface.
Website owners using a CMS like WordPress can login and edit their site without having to write a single line of code or pay a developer.
You can read about the benefits of a CMS in an article I wrote a few years ago (the points are still valid)…
Or for a quick glance, have a look at this graphic…
What is WordPress
WordPress currently powers 38.8% of websites on the internet and is the most widely used CMS in the world. Roughly 500 new websites are built with it each day!
You can find out more about what WordPress is and why you should use it by reading this great article by Charlotte Wibrew…
What is a WordPress Theme?
A WordPress theme is responsible for the design, layout, templates, styles and the base functionality of a website.
Let me explain what a WordPress theme is with an analogy…
When you buy a brand-new car, you have the option to choose different specs. For example: basic, sport or luxury. Each spec comes with lots of customisation options for attributes such as colour, engine size, alloys, upholstery, air conditioning and so on.
In this analogy, the car is WordPress and the spec is the theme. Let’s say we choose the sport spec and from there we can customise it further so it is exactly to our liking. The customisation options for the spec are very much like the settings within a theme. Each setting allows us to customise a certain part of the website.
However, if this particular car was like WordPress, whenever we want to change the spec or customisation options, we can do that straight from the dashboard and it will modify the car instantly. If we want to change the paint job from candy red to jet black, simple, click a button and all of a sudden, we’re driving down the road like Knight Rider!
The beauty behind themes is that you can tweak the appearance, layout and functionality of a website instantly without having any programming knowledge.
Also, if you really wanted to, you could switch to another theme to try out a new look. Be careful when switching themes though as the settings will not carry across to the new theme. Always discuss such a large change like this with a developer first.
If you need help with applying a new theme or you’d like a bespoke theme created, get in touch with us today.
If you’re not sure if you need a new website, give this article a quick read, written by Alex Moody…
What is a WordPress Plugin?
A Plugin is a modular codebase that can essentially be plugged into your website to enhance its functionality or capabilities. Plugins usually provide features that WordPress doesn’t offer out of the box or they extend the features it does offer.
There are thousands of WordPress plugins available which cover pretty much every scenario you could think of. Therefore, the possibilities with WordPress are almost limitless, which is another reason for its popularity.
You must be careful that you do not have too many plugins installed on your WordPress website, as this can affect site speed, possibly cause conflicts and maybe even introduce vulnerabilities.
You must also make sure you are using reputable plugins that have a good support system and are being actively maintained by their authors.
There are free plugins and premium plugins available depending on your needs. Free plugins can be downloaded directly from the plugin repository within the WordPress admin area. Whereas premium plugins can usually be purchased directly from the vendor’s website or from a marketplace like codecanyon.net.
You can read about some of our recommended plugins in this article written by Alex Moody…
So, there you have it, the ultimate web development Jargon Buster. I hope this clears things up for you and you’re now able to speak about these subjects with more confidence.
If you would like any other topics simplified, drop us a message and we will include it in our next Web Development Jargon Buster blog.
Lastly, if you are having problems with any of the topics that I’ve mentioned above, just get in touch and we will be more than happy to help.