Domain vs website – the eternal question. We wanna settle this once and for all in this article.
Starting your own website requires you to understand the fundamentals of how the web works. This includes distinguishing the difference between various technical terms and knowing how to apply them in real life.
When getting started on the web, people often confuse domains and websites. If you’re not particularly sure how the two differ from each other, no worries, we’ve got you covered!
This guide includes everything you need to know about the difference between a domain and a website. So, let’s get started with the basics!
What is a website?
To make sense of what a website is, it’s important to understand how web pages work.
A web page is a text file displayed to users in a web browser. These web pages can be used for various purposes. For example, you can create web pages to sell your product or service. Alternatively, you can create a web page to explain the difference between a domain and a website.
A web page can be accessed through a special application, called a browser. A browser takes all of the code from the text file of a web page, analyzes it, and “draws” a web page on the users’ screens. Here’s an example of how a browser makes it possible for you to view web pages without having to see the source code.
Screenshot source: https://colibriwp.com
Multiple web pages that are linked together make up a website. A website depends on the site files (that contain code which dictates how web pages look and act), web host, and a domain name. If these three components aren’t in place, a website will fail to display properly.
What is the website domain?
Once in the browser, users can open web pages by entering a uniform resource locator (URL) in the address bar, like so:
When users don’t know the URL of a website, they can use a search engine, like Google, to find it. Computers communicate using unique number strings called IP addresses, which look like this: 172.17.234.8.
If you type in an IP associated with your website, you’ll end up seeing your website in the web browser. Now, imagine that you would have to memorize countless IP addresses to access websites daily. It’s highly unlikely that users will memorize all of this information. So, this is where domains come in place.
A website domain is a user-friendly version of your IP address. It’s an easy-to-remember way for users to access your website. Google.com, Amazon.com, and Youtube.com are some of the most popular domains on the web.
Oftentimes, users confuse domains and URLs. So, let’s make it clear. A URL (a.k.a. a link) is a complete web address used for locating files on the web.
Whereas, a domain name is a form of web address located in a URL. For example, Colibri’s URL looks like this: https://colibriwp.com/
A domain name inside this URL looks like this: colibriwp.com
Understanding domain organization
Now, as you understand the difference between websites and domains, let’s dig a bit deeper. Just as this image suggests, most URLs contain a protocol, subdomain, domain name, and top-level domain.
A subdomain is a prefix added to your original domain. Your URL doesn’t have to include subdomains, but they are commonly used to ease navigation. Here are some examples of subdomains:
A website domain name is a part of a URL that identifies its belonging to a particular domain. Here are some examples of domain names:
A top-level domain (TLD) is the last segment of a domain located after the domain name. Here are some examples of TDLs:
Choosing the right TDL is crucial for the overall success of your website. If you choose to use a domain extension other than a TDL, you’re risking to be perceived as not reliable on the web.
Therefore, choosing TDLs like .com and .org is among the best domain practices. To help you make sense of various TDLs out there, here are some of the most popular domain name extensions:
- .com (short for commercial) is the most popular TDL on the web
- .org (short for organization)
- .net (short for network)
- .gov (short for government)
- .edu (short for education)
- .us (short for the United States), .ca (short for Canada), .nyc (short for New York City, and other location-specific TDLs.
Hosting a website vs. Registering a domain. What’s the difference?
By now, you should have a pretty good idea about how websites and domains work. However, when it comes to hosting your website and registering a domain, it can get a little confusing. Let’s take a look at these three steps to differentiate the two concepts and understand how you can launch a website.
1. Registering a domain name
So, how do you register a domain name? The first thing you need to do is to brainstorm your domain name. Since your domain holds the key to the online presence and success of your website, it’s important to choose the right domain name.
Here are some tips that will help you get started:
- Make it memorable and avoid words that can be easily misspelled or that are hard to pronounce.
- Don’t use names that are similar to competitors’ domains
- If available, select a domain name that includes your company name. For example, for a company called Essay Tigers, it makes sense to choose a domain name essaytigers.com.
- Use a TDL relevant to your company
Lacking inspiration for domain names? You can try playing around with Namemesh or Nameupp.
Pro tip: Use a dedicated ICANN tool to lookup domain availability. If the domain you want already exists, you can check whether or not it expires soon or contact the domain owners to inquire about a purchase.
After you’ve chosen a suitable domain, the next step is finding an accredited company called a domain name registrar. Such companies must be accredited by a generic TLD registry or a country code TLD registry. When you find a suitable domain registrar, they will take the domain registration process from there.
2. Finding a hosting provider
Once you’ve succeeded in registering a domain name, the next step is finding a hosting provider. Web hosting services are available at a wide range of prices. The cost of services typically depends on the following:
- Server type (shared servers, VPS, dedicated servers, and cloud servers)
- Customer support provided
- Expected traffic
The hosting plan you choose will also depend on the type of website you’re building. Some hosting providers are more eCommerce-focused, while others concentrate on blogging and search engine optimization.
So, it’s better to compare different hosting plans to figure out which one will cater to your needs.
One of the most popular hosting services around there (recommended by WordPress as well) is SiteGround.
3. Building a website
Once you have a domain name a hosting ready, it’s time to build your website. If you want to develop a WordPress website, there are many web page builders to choose from. When choosing a web page builder for WordPress, keep in mind these criteria:
- Offered features and functionalities
- Ease of use
- Compatibility and support options
- Extensions and add-ons
- Customer reviews
Here’s a tutorial on how to build a landing page in WordPress using such a WordPress builder. This example can lay the ground for any other page in WordPress.
Wrapping it up!
By understanding the technical terms used in web development, you can create your own website with a certain level of comfort and expertise.
Before you go, let’s quickly wrap up what you’ve learned today about websites and domains.
- A website is a collection of linked web pages.
- Any website depends on the three components: site files, domain name, and web host.
- A domain is a user-friendly version of an IP address that enables users to find websites online.
- Every domain consists of a protocol, domain name, and extension. Some domains include subdomains for easier navigation.
- Launching a website requires you to register a domain name, find a hosting provider, and build a website with dedicated tools.
Well done! Now you know the difference between a website and a domain!
Stacey Wonder is a content marketer who enjoys sharing best practices for self-development and careers with others. In her free time, Stacey is fond of contemporary dance and classic French movies