Building a new website can be a bit daunting if you've not done it before. Don't know your IP address from your DNS? Don't worry. We're in the fortunate position of having done this many, many times. We're here to help you navigate this and make it as straight-forward as it can be.
One important thing we have learnt is that most of the pitfalls and delays can easily be avoided if we get the right information together at the beginning of the project.
That's where this glossary and checklist comes in.
// Helping to explain the geek speak
Your 'domain name' is simply the website address that is used to access your website. For example mywebsite.com. You can buy a domain name for your website from a domain registrar. Their cost varies depending on whether they are a .com, .co.uk, .org address. Usually they are about £10-20 for a year.
Behind the scenes all websites on the internet are actually accessed through a numeric address called an 'IP address' (for example 127.0.0.1) but that's not very memorable or user friendly. Instead, you buy a domain name, which we can then link to your website's IP address. This means that when someone types your domain name into their browser they're sent to the server where your website files are held. This destination is often referred to as your 'hosting' or 'hosting package'.
Your 'hosting' is the server space where all your website files are held. Your hosting usually also includes a database and can sometimes be where your emails are stored (unless you use a different service for email, such as Microsoft Exchange or Google for non-profits).
Hosting packages vary a lot and so does the cost. A bit like buying a new computer, the amount of disk space, memory and how your server is set up will influence the speed and resilience of your website. Some hosting packages also offer additional benefits such as website backups, copies of the live website for testing, security features and enhancements that speed up the website.
In order for your domain name to know where to send requests it looks up a thing called the DNS records. This list of records, which you can access through your domain name account, determines where requests are sent. It can differentiate between website traffic and email messages, so you can send email messages to one IP address and website traffic to a different IP address. Usually your DNS records need to be updated if you move from one hosting provider to another.
An SSL certificate enables your website to send and receive information over a secure connection. This is essential when that information contains personal data, but it is also just best practice and is pretty standard for websites. Most website hosts will be able to provide an SSL certificate for an additional cost. Premium hosting, including our own, usually comes with SSL certificates built in.
Of course, we all know what email is... but you may not have realised that you need to consider it when you're creating a website. If your current email is linked to your domain name (eg. email@example.com) and the emails are stored on your current hosting then those email accounts, and all the emails, may need to be migrated to the new hosting if you would like to change to a different hosting provider.
In many cases email is set up to be stored and managed separately from the website server. Usually through a providers like Microsoft 365 or Google Mail.
We usually recommend that a separate solution is used for email, and there are great options out there, such as Google for Nonprofits. Rather than storing your emails on your hosting server. This would then allow you to move your website freely from one hosting provider to another without having to migrate all of your email accounts at the same time. It also gives you access to great features for your email, such as using the Gmail app on mobile devices.