How to understand all the pieces of your website tech
Website tech can be really hard to figure out when you’re first getting started. So many terms! This analogy will help you understand all the tech pieces that go into building a website.
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If you find yourself frustrated with hosting and DNS and domains and plugins and themes – all of the tech that goes into building your website, then this is for you. I’m going to help you understand it. I’m going to empower you with a really easy to understand analogy.
I want to start by talking about the time I hired a housekeeper. I was preparing to have a hysterectomy, fairly major surgery. I really, really, really wanted my house to be clean. I wanted to put recovering from the surgery at the top of my list, and I did not want to be stressed and worried about a dirty house.
So, I talked to my husband and he said he was on board for me to hire a housekeeper to come in and help me get my house really, really clean the day before my surgery. So that’s what I did. I hired a housekeeper. Two women came and the three of us worked together during the day to deep clean my home.
When I hired this housekeeper, it was important to me that she do things in a certain way. I am the first to admit that I am fairly particular. Okay, maybe very particular, about how my home is cleaned. It is important to me. It is my home. It is where I build relationships with my husband and my kids. It is where the Spirit resides and we learn about the gospel, and it is important to me that it is cleaned correctly.
I did not want to simply turn this task over to those two women entirely. I wanted to have some say in how they did it. I mentioned maybe five or six things that were really important to me to be cleaned well.
About half of them were things that they were planning on doing already. And the other half were things that they had not thought about that they were not planning to do. We were able to communicate well and create a plan, for cleaning my house, that I was comfortable paying for.
Guess what? In addition, I learned things from those women. For example, I learned about using a pumice stone to clean my toilets. Half of you are probably laughing at me right now thinking, “how did you not know that already Misty?” And the other half are probably thanking me because you are googling pumice stone on Amazon and getting yourself a toilet cleaning pumice stone stick that will make your toilets look like new.
How building a house relates to building a website
So how does this story about a housekeeper relate to the tech inside of your business? Well, a lot of you want to, and rightfully so, hire out that tech. It is not interesting to you. It is not something that you want to be 100% responsible for. That’s totally fine.
In fact, I think that many of us should hire out our tech. I actually enjoy tech, but I still hire out certain aspects of it simply because it is not the best use of my time. My time is better served sitting here, teaching you. And so I have a fantastic assistant, Audra, who does some of my tech for me. That’s totally okay. In fact, it’s more than, okay.
I want you to get to the point where you are hiring things out in your business. But here’s the problem:
If you don’t understand what you want the end result to look like, how are you going to explain that to somebody?
Just like, if I didn’t explain to those housekeepers what I wanted my end result to look like, I may have ended up paying for something I wasn’t truly happy with. That doesn’t mean that you have to know every single thing. You may learn things from the people you hire, like I learned about the pumice stone, but you need to have a general idea of what it is you are actually asking them to do.
This will help you know if they are overcharging you, undercharging you, doing a good job, doing a poor job. If you don’t understand anything at all about the tech on your website, you are going to waste time and money. And quite often, probably get shoddy jobs and not even know that they weren’t done well.
An analogy that will help you understand the tech that goes into your website
Let’s say that you decide you want to build a brand new home, instead of just purchasing an existing home. The very first step in that process is to purchase the land. Now, in some situations, you’re simply going to purchase the land from the same person who’s going to build your home. That can all be done in one transaction, but the land has to be there.
Your website host
Your home does not float around in the air; it has to be built on a piece of land. Your website is the same way, it has to have a host. A host is simply a place for the files that create your website to be.
You’re probably familiar with your own hard drive at home. There’s a hard drive on your iPhone or your Android. You have a drive there that hosts the files, it keeps them all organized. It decides which file to pull up because somebody wants to look at this or use this app.
You could do that on your hard drive at home, but it would be enormous and extremely overwhelming and very hard and complicated. There are companies out there that say, “Hey, we will host your website. We will host the files that create your website on an actual hard drive in our business. And then when people ask to do certain things on your website, we will give them the correct files, show the correct files that make that thing happen.”
This is what your website host does. You’ll hear names like Bluehost or Siteground. I highly recommend Flywheel. That’s my number one recommendation. I’ll leave a link to Flywheel and to Siteground in the show notes. I don’t recommend Bluehost.
So let’s talk about what kind of land you would purchase. When you look at the land for your home, especially if you’re building a custom home and you’re buying the land, they’d be separate from the builder. You’re going to research that land.
For example, the home that I’m sitting in right now, it was a custom home and we purchased the land. When we actually ended up building, and this is not something we could have known beforehand, it had a lot of collapsible soil in it. We had to pay, somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000 extra, in order to have a quality foundation built for our home.
The same thing is true of your host. I believe this is one of the top investments you can make into your business. I went with Bluehost originally, and I’m not going to get into all the details of why I don’t like them, but it ended up costing me thousands of dollars to fix some of the issues that that poor host created in my business.
So I recommend SiteGround or Flywheel. Flywheel is my number one choice because of its ease of use, and its incredible over the top support. Siteground is a quality host, but it is a little bit harder to use and their support is a little bit more difficult, actually far more difficult to reach, but both of them are quality hosts that I would stand behind and recommend.
Why you need WordPress
Let’s move on further with this analogy. Now, when you build your home, you need to have the framing, right? The outside of the home, maybe even includes the drywall, the roof, the doors, but it’s basically just the rough home. It’s not pretty yet. It’s not super functional; the rough plumbing is in, but the finished plumbing, like your faucets and things like that, isn’t in yet. Could you survive in the home? Would it protect you from the elements? Yes, but that’s about it.
So this is WordPress. Your host, hosts all those files. WordPress is what makes your website actually exist in the online world in the form of something that looks like a website. It is what provides those files that your host now hosts. So just like your land hosts the home, the physical structure of your home, your host hosts the files that something like WordPress creates for you, which creates the actual website.
2 Reasons WordPress is better than other website builders:
I highly recommend using something like WordPress instead of other builders like Wix or those types of things for various reasons.
- The first is your SEO will be better in general.
- And the second is the control you have over your website is much greater and you own every piece of your content.
Your Website Theme
The next step is now you want your home to be pretty. You want it to be functional. You want carpet and beautiful lights and nice faucets and beautiful granite in your kitchen. Where you get that is from your theme. So on WordPress, you can then install or add a theme on top of it. This is adding additional files that you’re hosting hosts for you, takes care of for you. It’s what allows your website to look good and to function well.
There are probably hundreds of thousands of WordPress themes out there, and some of them are poor quality and some of them are high quality. Themes are like going to see a track home builder. Say you’re comparing different builders and you go to one builder and he says, “yes, you can choose from these three or four plans and these five types of carpet and these six light fixtures.” Then you go to a different builder and he says, “if you build with me, you can choose from these eight floor plans and these nine types of carpet and these 12 light fixtures.”
So that’s the difference. You can get some themes that don’t offer a lot of options. You can get other themes that do have a lot of options. Typically those are going to be paid themes, themes that cost you money because they offer a lot more options and they are more customizable. But all themes limit you just like any track home builder limits you. You have to choose from their three or four plans.
Let’s take this one step further. What happens if you really want to customize every single bit of your home? You go with a custom home builder, right? That’s what we did with my current home. I created our entire floor plan. Every bit of it, I drew it out. I got software that allowed me to actually create the floor plan of the home.
I chose every nook and cranny of this website. We were able to choose every subcontractor. I could get lights from Amazon or Home Depot or any other lighting store, anything else that I wanted to in the entire universe. I had no limitations and I just gave that information to my builder and he was able to then implement that and build the exact home that I wanted.
So the tool that does that is called Elementor pro. This is why I recommend it. You can get an extremely inexpensive theme and then use Elementor pro to fully customize it. Themes can cost you hundreds of dollars. Elementor pro only costs $49/year. It gives you full, absolute flexibility over anything that you want to do with your website.
And that leads us to plugins. Plugins, in general, increase the functionality of your website. Let’s say you’ve built your home with a track home builder, and then you decide that you want to add a kitchen extension. That’s adding a plugin. Or let’s say that you want to add a room over the garage. That’s adding a plugin on your website. It’s extending that functionality.
Or say you want to switch out the basic light fixtures that they gave you for prettier ones or more functional ones. That’s adding a plugin. Some plugins do a lot, some plugins do a little. But all plugins increase the functionality of your website in one way or another. Elementor Pro is a plugin that allows you to customize your entire theme, which makes it like using a custom home builder.
Your Website Domain
There’s one more piece of this puzzle that we need to talk about, and that is your domain. So what if you build this beautiful home and nobody knows where it is, because there’s no address? You don’t have an address to give them! That’s a problem, right? Nobody’s gonna be able to find your nice, new, beautiful home if you don’t have an address for them.
The same is true of your website. But here’s the deal. When you build your home, it does have an address. Before you even have a street name or the numbers on your website, your home has an address. It has a latitude and longitude, right? That’s your home’s address. But if I were to call my mom and give her the latitude and longitude, sorry, mom, I love you, but you probably wouldn’t be able to find my home. 99% of the population wouldn’t find your website. When you build it on your host, it has an address. It’s called an IP address, but it’s just as confusing as latitude and longitude to most people.
If you give somebody an IP address and say, “this is the address of my website,” number one, they’re never going to remember it because it’s a long string of numbers. And very few people would actually be able to find your website. So, what we do is create names for our streets. We create numbers for the North and South and the East and West. We name our streets. And then we have an address that people can more easily remember and find.
The same is true of our websites. And this is called your domain name. So for example, my domain name is DesignedForGoodness.com. I also have a domain name called TheGoodnessSquad.com. That’s where all my membership stuff is housed. And those are two different domain names, but they are addresses of two different websites. And you can find my website because you know that domain name.
So now that you understand that, your website has to have a domain in order for people to be able to find it because the IP address would just be confusing. This is what your DNS does. Domain Naming System. The DNS is what gives your IP address an actual name that people can understand.
When you set up hosting, like with Flywheel, and you buy a domain with Namecheap. You need to tell Flywheel, who’s using an IP address for your website, that you want this domain name from Namecheap to actually take them to that IP address.
When you go into Namecheap and tell them “Okay. This is my IP address,” now Namecheap and Flywheel, your domain provider and your host, see those as the same thing. So whether someone types in the IP address or your domain, they get taken to the same place, to your actual website.
So that’s what it means when somebody is setting up your DNS, and it’s actually quite simpler than you might think, that’s what that term means.
You can also have subdomains. So this would be like an apartment number. So the entire apartment complex has the same address, right? It’s the same latitude and longitude, but each individual apartment has a different number on it, or a different subdomain is what that would be called online. So it could be something like Members.TheGoodnessSquad.com or Ecourse.TheGoodness Squad.com. It’s a subdomain. So the main address is still the same, but it’s telling you, it’s just one part of this whole address.
You can also have the end of your URL, right? So an entire URL would be something like TheGoodnessSquad.com/GoodStartGamePlan. So that is now giving you a specific location inside my home. It’s my office where I’m at right now.
So if I were to tell somebody that needs to find a certain book that I have, “go to my house, go downstairs, go into the office. On the left bookshelf you’ll find this book.” That’s what the second part of your URL is, it’s telling you a specific location inside of your website.
Just like you might have a specific location inside of your home or inside of an apartment complex, not an apartment complex, but an actual apartment. So you can have a subdomain, which is apartment 21, but then you can still say to that person, “you need to go to this address, 300 North Armstrong Street, apartment 2. That’s your subdomain. And then go into the third room on your right. And the second bookshelf. That’s the end of your URL. That’s what comes after the.com or the.org. That’s the end part of your URL. Your domain and URLs are, how you tell people to find your website and what is on your website.
Your host is the land you build your website on. WordPress creates the home itself, but in a very basic way. Your theme is what allows your host to function well, and look pretty. Elementor Pro is like choosing a custom home builder instead of a track home builder. Plugins add on to your basic home and allow it to function differently than it did originally without. The plugin, your domain name, and URL, or the address of your website that allow people to find it and use it and find what is inside of it so that they can get what they need.
I hope that as you really think about this analogy, you will better be able to understand what people are doing when you hire them to help with something on your website. I hope that this empowers you to make sure that you are getting the quality work that you deserve when you choose to hire things out.
Questions to answer about your own website tech
Your challenge for today is to think through all of that tech on your website, think about your host. Did you choose a quality host or did you go with whatever was cheapest? Now that you understand what your host actually does, like it’s the foundation of your entire website, do you want to change? Do you want to choose a different, higher quality host?
Do you like your theme? Are you frustrated with how things look on your website? That could mean that you need to switch themes. Or if you truly want to be able to customize every aspect of it, you need to get Elementor Pro. Is there something, some functionality that is missing on your website that you really need? You need a plugin. Do you understand what you are doing when you give someone a domain or a URL and you are helping them to find that?
If you have appreciated this analogy, but feel like you still need some help with your website tech, check out my Tech Support options.
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This was originally recorded as a podcast episode. The Goodness Squad podcast is not longer being updated, but you can still listen to past episodes.
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