I teach a 300-level web design course at LCC International University, and so I’m always looking for good ways to explain different concepts about websites. Mostly this is so that we have a shared vocabulary beyond ‘that piece’ and ‘this thing’. This post is a short version of a talk I give during the first week of class.
There are many terms surrounding a website which are often used to mean different things. So, today, we’re going to discuss the very basic ideas around a website. Our goal is to answer the following questions:
- What is the difference between a website and a web page?
- What is a domain name, and how is it different from a website?
- How do domain names and links differ?
To address the first question, we need to define a website. At the most basic level, a website is a collection of web pages (and often other things, like PDF or Word documents, images, etc). A single website is usually defined by a) being at a single domain name, and b) sharing a similar visual appearance across all pages.
As an example, you can see LCC’s website here. You’ll notice that it has several pages – the home page, the “About LCC” page, the “Research” page, and the “Work at LCC” page, among others. Each of these pages is connected to the home page using a menu – the buttons you see at the top right of the page. (Historically, a single web page was a single file, but that’s not usually true anymore.)
You can visit the LCC website at its domain name, lcc.lt. A domain name is an easy way for people to get to your website. Before domain names, you needed to remember a series of numbers – an IP Address – to connect to someone’s website. Domain names are much easier! The system that connects a domain name to a web server (where a website is located) is called the Domain Name System (DNS).
Today, you can get many different endings, called a TLD, for your domain name – .com, .org, .net, .lt, .eu, .blog, .website, .church, etc. There are literally over a thousand options for the ending of your domain name. You can check to see what domain names are available for purchase by using a domain search tool, like this one. I recommend typing your name into that search and seeing what’s available.
It is important to note that a website is different from a domain name. The website is the collection of web pages themselves, and the domain name only points to the website, like a street address. The domain says ‘My website is over here.’
Sometimes a domain name will have subdomains that appear before the domain name. These are usually different websites than the website that appears at the domain name without a subdomain. For example, we have the main LCC website at lcc.lt. We also have our internal information website, called Portal, at a subdomain – portal.lcc.lt. Moodle, our course management website, is also at a subdomain – moodle.lcc.lt. These are different websites from the main LCC website, even though they share a domain name.
The third question is asking about the difference between a domain name and a link. As we’ve said above, a domain connects to an entire website. A link, often called a URL, is connected to a specific page on a website. It includes the domain name, but also includes information after the domain name. This information is usually called a path. For example, the About LCC page is available at lcc.lt/about-lcc. In this case, about-lcc is the path that leads to the About LCC web page. The entire thing (lcc.lt/about-lcc) is the link to that page.