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The difference between your website, domain, and hosting

by | Education, Web Design

We hear it a LOT. What are all these parts of a website that your developer or IT person keeps asking about? Domain? Hosting? Isn’t that the website?

Nope.

Your website needs 3 main parts to be accessed by users. Those 3 parts can be confusing as heck, so we’re here to help explain!

The difference between your website, hosting, and the domain is that they are all parts that make up a website. One is useless without the other if the end result is a website that visitors can use.

We like to think of your website technology as a house. (Gotta love a good analogy)

It all starts with hosting. Your hosting is your house.

Your hosting is where your website lives. All websites are clusters of data that live on a server somewhere. If you want to think deeper, that server can be your land or lot. The space on the server where you’re allowed to store your data is the house. The hosting provider is your landlord. Hosting providers come in all shapes and sizes but ultimately they are all landlords renting you space unless you decide you want to have your own server set up in your real house, then you can own your digital storage space outright. But that’s much more complicated. It’s far easier to purchase the space from someone like WP Engine, SiteGround, FastComet, Cloudways, etc. Some other big hosting companies include GoDaddy, Bluehost, and Dreamhost.

Next up is your website. Your website is the furniture inside the house.

The data (ie, files and folders) that make up your website are all packaged nicely together to create the beautiful and functional platform that your users are able to interact with. A step further we could consider the kitchen your ‘Home’ page (cause it’s the most important obvs). The dining room is your ‘About’ page. The living room is your ‘Contact’ page. And all of the wonderful things inside each of those are what makes your website and your home yours. They are you and your ideas displayed to your visitors!

Lastly, we have your domain (or URL). Your domain is your address.

Your unique address is how people know where to find you. It’s like plugging in your address on a GPS and driving to that location. Every address is 100% unique. Subtle variations in things like TLDs (top-level domains or .com vs .net) can make them seem like they aren’t unique, but they are. If there is a 321 Cherry Street in Pennsylvania and a 321 Cherry Street in Colorado, they are still not the same address, the states and zip codes are different. That would be the difference between Cherry.com vs Cherry.net. Note: Your domain also needs somewhere to live and often that is through the same account that you purchase your hosting OR on a domain registrar like Namecheap or Google Domains.

Of course, there is much more that goes into each website and business. You’ll want content and style. Images. Interaction. On the tech side, your email for instance would be the same as addressing an envelope with a person’s name and address (… electronic… mail… e-mail…). But we can help you navigate the rest.

At the very least, we hope this analogy helps you to understand the difference between websites, hosting, and domains. Just think of it as a house!

Samantha

Samantha is the founder and creative director for Shanty Town Design. She spends much of her day discussing clients' brand and web strategies, directing and creating with team members to achieve design goals, and brainstorming business opportunities. She enjoys gardening, astrology, traveling, exploring everything strange & unusual, and spending time with her small pack of dogs.

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