How to Build Your Own Website
Step 0 - Understand the Basic Function of the Internet
Before we dive into creating website, it might be a good idea to first familiarize yourself with how the internet actually works. In a very rudimentary, oversimplified definition, the internet is basically just a network of interconnected computers, and when you visit a website you are using the code on that website's owner's computer and not your own. Basically, some server somewhere that houses that site "serves" code to your browser that your browser then interprets and shows to you as a webpage, and this is what we have to be able to do for others to be able to access your website.
Further, the Uniform Resource Locator, or URL, that you see (ex. "google.com") is merely a reference to an Internet Protocol, or IP, address that is the actual address of the site. So, when you type a website address into your browser, that website name is then quickly compared against a list of website names and server IP addresses within the Domain Name System (essentially the "phonebook" of the internet) and your browser heads to the appropriate IP address.
For our purposes (and what the subsequent steps of this guide will walk through), we have to be able to both house our website code on a server that can be accessed on the internet as well as configure a domain name to point to that server. This sounds complicated, but it's actually a lot simpler than you think, and this guide will take you step-by-step through exactly how to do that.
I realize this all is a super oversimplified way of explaining it, so I have found a fantastic three video series available for free on YouTube that walks through what the internet is and how it works in a bit more depth than would be fun to just sit down and read. I would highly recommend watching these to gain a greater understanding of the basics behind all of the steps within this guide.
Computer Networks: "Crash Course Computer Science #28":
Video Description: "Today we start a three episode arc on the rise of a global telecommunications network that changed the world forever. We’re going to begin with computer networks, and how they grew from small groups of connected computers on LAN networks to eventually larger worldwide networks like the ARPANET and even the Internet we know today. We'll also discuss how many technologies like Ethernet, MAC addresses, IP Addresses, packet switching, network switches, and TCP/IP were implemented to new problems as our computers became ever-increasingly connected. Next week we’ll talk about the Internet, and the week after the World Wide Web!"
The Internet: "Crash Course Computer Science #29":
Video Description: "Today, we're going to talk about how the Internet works. Specifically, how that stream of characters you punch into your browser's address bar, like "youtube.com", return this very website. Just to clarify we're talking in a broader sense about that massive network of networks connecting millions of computers together, not just the World Wide Web, which is a portion of the Internet, and our topic for next week. Today, we're going to focus on how data is passed back and forth - how a domain name is registered by the Domain Name System, and of course how the data requested or sent gets to the right person in little packets following standard Internet Protocol, or IP. We'll also discuss two different approaches to transferring this data: Transmission Control Protocol, or TCP, when we need to be certain no information is lost, and User Datagram Protocol, or UDP, for those time sensitive applications - because nobody wants an email with missing text, but they also don't want to get lag-fragged in their favorite first person shooter."
The World Wide Web: "Crash Course Computer Science #30":
Video Description: "Today we’re going to discuss the World Wide Web - not to be confused with the Internet, which is the underlying plumbing for the web as well as other networks. The World Wide Web is built on the foundation of simply linking pages to other pages with hyperlinks, but it is this massive interconnectedness that makes it so powerful. But before the web could become a thing, Tim Berners-Lee would need to invent the web browser at CERN, and search engines would need to be created to navigate these massive directories of information. By the mid 1990’s we will see the rise of Yahoo and Google and monolithic websites like Ebay and Amazon, forming the web we know today. But before we end our unit on the Internet we want to take a moment to discuss the implications of Net Neutrality, and its potential to shape the Internet's future."
Now that you have a better understanding of what the internet is and how it functions, move on to Step 1 to start building your very own website!