What’s the Difference Between Domain Name, Web Hosting and Website?
If you’ve never created a website before, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out all of the different elements involved. Don’t worry, though—it’s not as hard as you might think. There are only three main components that you’ll need: a domain name, a website and hosting.
In this article, we’ll go over the difference between domains, websites and web hosting so you’ll know exactly what to do to get your site online. A little bit of work will be required on your end to figure out which services are best for you (and there is no shortage to choose from), but we’ll help point you in the right direction.
What Is a Domain Name?
A domain name is what a person enters in their Internet browser’s address bar to access a website. In our case, this is hover.com:
Since millions of domain names have already been registered, it can be difficult finding a good one that is still available. Whatever you do, don’t add on unnecessary words or use weird spellings just to find an available domain. People need to be able to remember your domain name, so you should aim for something that’s short, easy to spell and catchy. Additionally, your domain will typically be a person’s first impression of your website, so you want something that will make them confident that they will find trustworthy content on your site.
If you can’t find a good domain, try using a different Top-Level Domain (TLD). This is the last part of your domain, which is most often .COM. There are hundreds to choose from, and some may even be a better fit for your website. If your location is important, you could use your country’s TLD (e.g. .CA for Canada or .UK for the United Kingdom). There are also TLDs for nearly every niche, ranging from .PHOTOGRAPHY to .PIZZA to .HORSE. To see all of them, check out Hover’s list of TLDs.
Where to Buy a Domain Name
Ok, we’re going to be a little biased here and recommend getting your domain name from Hover. Your domain will come with free WHOIS Privacy to keep your contact information confidential, and our excellent support team will answer any questions you have while getting your domain name set up.
If you’re exploring other options, we can’t overstate enough the importance of choosing a provider that has great support. No one will be able to access your website if something happens to your domain, so you need a reliable service that will be able to help when you need it.
Important Things to Know
- Registering a domain name does not mean you own it forever; it needs to be renewed every year. To make this easier, you can register a domain upfront for a maximum of 10 years before having to renew again.
- Once a domain name expires, it can be difficult to regain ownership of it. Sometimes this will not even be possible (e.g. if someone else has bought it already and does not want to sell it).
- If a domain expires and you would like to register it again sometime in the future, no preference is given to prior owners of the domain.
- The registry that owns the Top-Level Domain that you are using for your domain name may have its own rules for registration (e.g. location, website topic or profession).
What Is a Website?
A website is a page or series of related pages that load after entering a domain name in an Internet browser. It’s the medium that your audience will experience your online content with. The most relevant example would be this article, which is a page on the Hover website.
How to Build a Website
The days of needing to learn how to code or hiring a developer to build your website are long gone. These may still provide you with a more customized or unique website, but there are tools that will allow anyone to build a great-looking website without requiring any technical expertise.
The particular steps you need to take will be different depending on which site builder you choose, but the process will look something like this:
- Choose a template.
- Customize with your own text, colors, fonts and images.
- Add additional functionality and widgets (like maps, music players, signup forms or picture galleries).
- Add additional pages (if necessary).
And that’s all there is to it. Each of these steps can take minutes or days depending on how much effort you’d like to put into it, but generally speaking, it can be relatively quick to put a website together nowadays.
Choosing a Website Builder
There are many website builders to choose from. Here’s a handful that also include web hosting and will be the easiest to connect to a Hover domain name:
22Slides – 22Slides is a light-weight portfolio builder for photographers that makes it easy to make a website, sell prints, or deliver files to clients. Its lack of complexity and personal customer support make 22Slides a great option for those looking to keep things simple.
Big Cartel – Big Cartel helps makers, designers, musicians, and other artists build a unique online store and run a creative business.
Carbonmade – Carbonmade helps you create and manage an online portfolio website. Show off your best design, illustration, photography, and other types of creative work.
Duda – Duda is a responsive website builder that allows small and medium-size businesses and the web professionals to build beautiful websites quickly.
Dunked – Build a professional online portfolio. The perfect tool for photographers, artists, designers and those who like to create.
Format – Format makes it easy to build your professional portfolio website – without learning to code. Tens of thousands of photographers, designers, artists and illustrators use Format to beautifully showcase their work online, attract clients and grow their career.
Jimdo – Create a free website in minutes with the Jimdo website builder! Add text, galleries, videos, even create an online store.
PageCloud – The world’s most advanced website publishing app. Built for designers, but designed for anyone with a browser.
Shopify – Shopify is a complete ecommerce solution that allows you to set up an ecommerce website to sell your goods online.
Squarespace – Websites. Commerce. Mobile. 24/7 Support. Squarespace believes that a well-designed website is not a luxury. No matter if you’re just starting out, or a multi-million dollar brand, Squarespace is an elegant website publishing tool that is used by millions the world over.
Tumblr – Post anything (from anywhere!), customize everything, and find and follow what you love. Create your own Tumblr blog today.
Weebly – Weebly gives millions of people a surprisingly easy and affordable way to create a site that is as unique as they are.
Yola – Create a professional, free website in minutes. Get leads, book appointments and sell online.
Zibbet – Beautiful websites for artists, crafters & vintage collectors.
Pixpa – Pixpa enables creative pros to create and manage their portfolio website, ecommerce store, client proofing galleries and blogs easily without any coding knowledge – all in one place.
What Is Web Hosting?
Once your website is created, you will need to store all of its files somewhere. This is where a web host comes in. A web host will, as its name suggests, host all of your website’s content for people to access over the Internet. Your website may be digital, but its files still need to be stored on a physical hard drive and accessible on the Internet using a server.
Choosing a Web Host
Template-based website builders—including some mentioned earlier in this article like Tumblr—will also host your website and its content for you. If you’ve hired a developer to create a custom website or you’re building one from scratch yourself, you’ll likely need to find your own web host.
There are many types of web hosts, so you want to find the one that’s easiest for you to work with. Some plans offer dedicated servers for your site and others will share these with other websites. Which plan is best for you depends on how much traffic you anticipate sending to your website and how much extra room you’d like to leave yourself just in case.
Here a couple of web hosts that our staff have used for their own websites and would recommend to anyone else looking for hosting:
Laughing Squid – Laughing Squid Hosting is independently owned and operated, providing dependable hosting services to a diverse range of customers from around the world, specializing in hosting for individuals, artists and bloggers.
Site5 – Site5 is a host built for designers and developers, whose hosting packages include shared hosting, reseller hosting, VPS hosting and dedicated hosting.
Connecting Your Domain Name to Your Website
Once you have your domain, website and hosting all ready to go, it’s time to bring them all together. Setting up your domain will involve configuring your Domain Name System (DNS) records. This can be very straightforward or complex depending on which services you’ve chosen and how much documentation they provide.
Using Hover Connect
The easiest way to set up your Hover domain name is with one of the website builders in our Connect gallery. We’ve worked closely with these services to make setup as simple as possible.
The exact process will be different depending on which site builder you’re using, but will look something like this:
- Select the service you’d like to connect.
- Enter some account information (within Hover and/or in your site builder’s account).
- Click Connect.
Hover will then enter all of the required information behind the scenes to get your domain name connected to your website.
How to Manually Configure DNS
If your site was not built with a service in our Connect gallery—or you just like to do things the old fashioned way—setting up DNS consists of three steps:
- Obtain the IP address of your web host (usually found in their welcome email).
- On the DNS tab in your Hover account, edit the blank A record default Hover IP address with your new one and save (we can help you with that).
- Wait 15 minutes until the rest of the Internet has caught up on recognizing that new connection and your website will show up when visitors go to your domain name.
Finding the required information will involve going through your web host’s support documentation (if it’s not listed within your account).
Ready to start building your shiny new website? Find your idea a great domain from Hover!