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Knowing the Essentials: Your Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Web Development

Whether you’ve set out to build a simple-looking website, a complex platform, or an ecommerce store, there are some important web development terms and concepts you should know.

Websites – the cornerstones of the Internet as we know it

First of all, what is a website in the first place? One could say it’s simply an array of files stored on a server and accessing them is possible through the Internet. While there are certain things you can do to prevent someone or a group of people from accessing your website if you so choose, for the most part, it’s in your best interest to leave it up for the whole world to see.

Browsers – the tools that display their contents to the end-user

It’s through a browser that a website can be properly displayed on someone’s computer. These are computer programmes, and so naturally you will have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to picking your favourite one (examples include Firefox, Chrome, and so on). To describe the relationship between you and the world wide web, your computer is the client, and the website you’re trying to connect to is the server.

IP address – your online identity

In order to distinguish between a plethora of devices connected to the Internet at any given time, each one of them is assigned an Internet Protocol (IP) address. No two IP addresses can ever be the same – this would defeat the whole purpose of the system. To access a website, you generally have two ways of doing it. You could either type in its bare-bones IP address or its domain name, the latter of which is much more memorable.

HTTP – a standard that defines how messages get displayed online

The HyperText Transfer Protocol (or HTTP for short) is a golden standard that defines how data sent through the server gets interpreted by the client’s device. Since every website has multiple web pages, this is how you navigate through them. To grasp its true functionality, just imagine it as the missing link between you and the website – a translator, if you will, the one that gets the message across your own computer and sends it to the server you’re communicating with (and vice versa).

Coding language – the building blocks of the website

Much like a standard language used for the purposes of establishing communication between two living beings, a coding language is how web developers can issue a set of instructions regarding how a website should load. It’s not just websites that use it, though – so do the programmes. Naturally, there are all sorts of coding languages, the choice of which depends on the specifications of the project you’re undertaking.

Front-end – what the users see

The front-end interaction is the one that the users see. When a set of instructions gets sent from the server to the client’s computer, this is what happens on the screen – even without a constant flow of new instructions from the server. In other words, when you’re playing a video, browsing through the images, highlighting text, and so on.

Back-end – what goes on behind the scenes

To someone who’s not a website developer, this essential part of web development is somewhat hard to explain. Though, to make it short, it’s anything having to do with databases, operating systems, and APIs. This is how the website structure is built. While JavaScript is the language you’d use on the front-end side of things, the back-end allows you to choose from a wide range of languages.

CMS – putting the content in order

A content management system (CMS) is how website developers assemble the content developed in a rational order. Note: these are not to be confused with website builders. Both eCommerce store owners and bloggers use them since they make organising the content that much easier.

Reasons to learn web development

We live in a world where technology is the norm, and sooner or later, you’re likely to encounter a need to build a website; whether it’s for your own projects or if someone hires you to do it, your web development skills are bound to see plenty of opportunities to shine. Since its inception, the Internet has become a central hub for research, education, entertainment, and connection.

It’s estimated that there are now more than 4.2 billion Internet users. Putting it in perspective, that’s more than half of everyone who lives on the face of the planet! As such, it’s easy to see why web development is such a rapidly expanding industry.

There’s no tried-and-tested process when it comes to making websites. Based on what you’re aiming to create, the web development process could be vastly different. Though, if you know the tools of the trade, you can create pretty much anything you want, just as you’ve envisioned it to be.

The first part of the process is to create a plan. There’s no need to make it complicated – just a simple starting point from where you’ll funnel your ideas. You can also use a professional whiteboard tool like Mindnode or Invision.

Before starting with the web development, there are essential questions that need answering:

  • What type of content will rest on the individual pages?
  • Can it be organized in categories?
  • How will the pages be intertwined?
  • Is there a section you could do away with?

The next step is to write the code

Writing the code is not talking the talk; it’s walking the walk. At this point, the web developer will assess the needs of the project and choose either one or multiple coding languages in order to get the job done. These define interactivity and functionality. To get a glimpse into the developer’s mind, here are just some of them they so often choose to work with:

HTML

The HyperText Markup Language (HTML) has existed since the dawn of the 90s. Essentially, this is your website’s foundation. While you could add other elements to support it, this is its bare-bones skeleton. If you want it to look modern, though, it’s probably a good idea to combine it with other tools in a web designer’s arsenal.

CSS

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) was also launched in the 90s. Unlike pure HTML, it’s focused around making your website look pretty and giving it the much-needed stylistic elements. With it, you can tweak various properties such as colors and typography. All browsers can understand it, so it’s really a universal way to make your website graphically attractive.

JavaScript

This is where web development reaches a new level of complexity. With the help of JavaScript, you can truly expand on your website’s functionality, automate certain tasks, and add new features designed to enhance its user experience. Since its inception in the 90s, it has become much more powerful compared to back in the day.

HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are essentially the big three central blocks of web development. Understanding how they work will pave the way towards creating a modern and highly-functional website that answers the demands of today’s highly meticulous user-base.

Constructing the back-end

Writing code is one aspect of web development, albeit it’s far from being the only one. But no matter how you put it, you’re more than likely going to spend a considerable amount of your time as a web developer doing just that – writing code.

But first, it’s important to have a solid grasp of what it entails. Looking at an example of Facebook, it’s easy to see how photo management can work in two phases. First of all, you need some sort of a back-end to store them all. Then, you need a front-end to be able to browse through them. This is achieved through the following:

1. Databases

Databases store the data so the server requests can retrieve it on demand.

2. Servers

Servers process requests. In a way, they are the middle cog between your browser and the database that rests in the background. Through a browser, a user sends the request to display certain information, which the server then interprets and goes on to fetch the needed parts of data from a database.

The three objectives of back-end

While there are always some subtle nuances, in essence, the back-end strives to handle the following:

  1. The website logic. Think of it as a predetermined set of rules through which your website will process requests and allow for the web design elements to be interacted with.
  1. Database management. No matter how you put it, data is one of the most crucial parts of a website’s architecture, and it’s up to you to write the rules of how it’s going to be handled through SQL databases and such.
  1. Infrastructure. In other words, the way your website is going to be hosted. The more expensive the server, the more load it can handle.

The final word on the back-end

If your designing a small business website may not be storing any data. If this is the case, you may not even need it. But even if you only require the most basic functionality, like having the option of logging into a website, there’s no way to accomplish this without having some kind of back-end up and running. Only purely informational websites can afford not having a back-end.

Constructing the front-end

If WordPress or Squarespace rings a bell, chances are you’ve already come into contact with the front-end of a website in one way or another. Since the front-end is such an elemental part of web design and the user experience the visitors get, you simply cannot afford to cheap out on it.

To put it shortly, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are three essential elements of front-end web development. It’s the part of your website that’s responsible for responsiveness, browser compatibility, and navigation.

Since the front-end aspect of a website can quickly become outdated, working with a CMS might be the preferred way to go about it.

A CMS will make things much simpler and more user-friendly

If coding something from scratch isn’t exactly what you envision yourself doing, using a CMS is a great way to get the job done without writing nearly as much code. On the flip side, it’s not nearly as flexible, and you won’t have as much control over the end result as you would if you hired a website design company.

As would probably resonate with many of you, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. So unless there’s something really wacky your want to do with your front-end, thinking about a CMS that already has the functionality you’re looking for built into it is definitely worth your consideration.

For example, let’s say you’ve set out to build an eCommerce store. By working with a tried and tested CMS or plugin, you’ll have the lion’s share of the work already laid out for you without having to lift a finger. The same goes for back-end functionality – after all, the main thing you need is to allow your ecommerce customers to login and enter their credit card details in a safe and secure manner. There’s no need to build all of this from scratch if you can utilize pre-built solutions.

A quick word on acquiring a domain name

Before being able to launch your web development project, you’re going to need a domain name. Since you can’t expect that people will remember its IP address, a domain name must always be a part of the plan, so take all the time necessary when picking it. While some domain name extensions are more expensive than others, generally speaking, any domain you’ve decided to purchase will last you a year before you’re going to need to renew it.

Conclusion

The Internet has now become an integral part of our lives, and it’s here to stay. With so many users using it to look for information on a daily basis, website development will become an even more important career than it is today.

For more information on how to create a professional website design for your business, get in touch with our Sydney web development team.

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