Tech in Plain English: Websites – an Introduction

Tech in Plain English
The anatomy of a website

Over the last few weeks of TiPE, we have (hopefully) explained the various steps that you need to follow in order to get setup with a website. To recap, you need to pick and register a domain name, you need to get a hosting package so you have somewhere to put your site and you need to make sure that your hosting has sufficient capacity in terms of bandwidth to cope with your data requirements.

This week we will move on to look at your website itself. This means we will be lifting the lid on your website and exploring, in a very simple way, the various elements that make up your site and some of the tools you can use to build and manage your content.

What is a website anyway?

We’ll start today at the beginning with an overview of a very simple website. Let’s assume that Joe Blogs wants a personal website to represent himself on the web. He will have a number of pages reflecting his various likes and interests but does not want to be able to update them quickly at this stage, i.e. these pages will be static. He wants these to be all linked together by a homepage so the site will look something like this: 

  • Homepage:
  • About Me
  • Personal History
  • Football
  • Bird Watching
  • Food

In this case we can build the pages very quickly using the standard web language, called html, to reflect this layout. However, while the content of all these individual pages will be contained in the html, we also want to apply a standard ‘look and feel’ to them so that the site all looks the same. In web design we can do this with a stylesheet or css which we can define once to describe the general page background, layout, colours, fonts, etc, and then apply this to all pages on the site. This not only simplifies the design process but it also gives us another important property in web design, consistency.

With this in place, we can then add whatever content we want to the pages in terms of text and images, put all of this into our web hosting space, and voila, we have a (simple) website!

Welcome to the Web 2.0

So, this is all well and good for our simple example as it gives us a presence online and is probably enough to meet Joes original needs. However, in the early 2000s there was a realisation that the Web could be so much more than just a bunch of static websites and we started to see the rise of dynamic content. Now we could have websites that were constantly being quickly and easily updated with new content, allowing users to interact and share things seamlessly, and collaborate in building shared online spaces. Out of this movement we saw the rise of many of the things we now consider to be fundamental to the Web such as blogging (web logs for the uninitiated), music and video sharing sites like YouTube and MySpace, and social media networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Now let us assume that Joe wants to update his now outdated website to include dynamic content. For example, he would like a blog so he can write about his interests, he would like a gallery so he can post photos and videos from his bird watching, and he would also like to link all of this to his Facebook and Twitter account so his friends can find them online. Clearly it is now unfeasible to write all of this by hand so we need to use some tools to make the job easier. What we really need is a content management system (CMS) that we can use to manage our site, keep track of all the various elements, and give us an easy-to-use interface to interact with.

As luck would have it, a number of these tools now exist online and many of these are even free to download and use. There a many of these to choose from, such as Joomla and Drupal, but we tend to use WordPress as it offers many of the powerful features available in professional tools but is still aimed at normal users so is very easy to use. With something like WordPress running our site, we can have any static content we want and still use stylesheets to create our look-and-feel but also now introduce a wide variety of dynamic content and features. Moreover, we can manage our entire site via a simple web-based interface and customise many basic elements like page layout, style, etc without ever having to dig around in html.

It’s never been easier to get yourself online!


If you have any questions about this topic or Hatua’s hosting packages or if you wish to suggest a topic for future Tech in Plain English posts please leave a comment below.
This post is part of Hatua’s Tech in Plain English (TiPE) series. TiPe’s  aim is to translate geek speak into simple english so that our service users can make informed decisions about their ICT needs.

Tech in Plain English: Domain Names

Tech in Plain English



Over the last 2 weeks we have used this series to introduce you to the basic elements of web hosting by comparing it to the example of finding a house. We explained how the disk space in your hosting package is similar to finding the size and shape of home while the bandwidth can be compared to make sure our driveway is big enough for all our visitors. The next Tech in Plain English will now extend this to look at domain names.

If we stick with our houses example then your domain name is quite simply your address on the Web. Just as we have a standard way of writing an address so we have a standard way of writing domain names. If we think about an address like this:

1 Simple Street


Some County


We can easily identify the county of the address (Some County), the town where we live (Exampletown), the street we are on (Simple Street) and finally the number of our house. Likewise if we consider a web address like this:

… then we can see the county of the domain (uk), the type of website it is (co or company) and the company in question (BBC).

What’s in a name?

Every domain name is made up of a number of parts to help us understand and organise the web.   In the case of domain names perhaps the best way of reading them is right to left. So just as we did with the BBC site, we first looked at the right-most chunk (uk), then the next along (co), and so on. This first chunk is called the top-level domain and is the first most important step in categorising our domain name. There are two types of top-level domain, those that identify a country (we’ve already seen uk for example), and a set of generic domains that identify the service such as .gov[ernment], .edu[cation], .com[mercial], .mil[itary], .org[anisations], etc. Originally this list was quite limited, 7 in total, but this number has crept up as the Web has grown and there are currently 21 in circulation with many more on the horizon. Below the top-level domain we can also have a second level (co in our case), a third level, and in fact as many of these as we want.

There is no hard and fast rule to choosing a domain name.  It is always a good idea to get a domain name that in some way identifies your company, the service offered and/or perhaps the country you’re in. This will make it much easier for visitors to first remember your address and second find your site on the web.

So how do we get ourselves a domain name?

There are domain name providers that can supply you with a domain name.  The key thing to remember is that domain names are unique.  Just like no two houses can have the same address no two websites can have the same domain name.     The first thing you will need to do is to check and see if your proposed name is available.  Most domain name providers check the availability before completing the purchase and will even suggest an alternative should your first choice be taken.  You can also use sites like  Whois Lookup to help find out whether a domain name has already been registered.

Once you are happy with the name, you can select it and buy it, usually for a period of one or two years. That means that you have to keep renewing your domain name or else it will eventually get released and potentially taken by someone else!

The next stage is to make sure that the servers where your site is hosted is ‘communicating’ with the domain name.  A good web hosting service will do this for you and then your site will be ready for the world to see. 

To wrap up

So to summarise what we’ve talked about today:

  • We have looked at domain names, what they are and how they work
  • We’ve looked at the different types of domain out there, how people choose them and why
  • We given a summary of how you can get a domain name, the basic steps to go through, and how this all relates back to your web hosting.



If you have any questions about this topic or Hatua’s hosting packages or if you wish to suggest a topic for future Tech in Plain English posts please leave a comment below.
This post is part of Hatua’s Tech in Plain English (TiPE) series. TiPe’s  aim is to translate geek speak into simple english so that our service users can make informed decisions about their ICT needs.

Tech in Plain English: Hosting Part 2

Tech in Plain English


Last week, we drew comparisons between finding a house and searching for web hosting.   By the end of last Tuesday’s post we had moved all our furniture into our suitably sized house i.e. we had found web hosting that provided enough server space to store the content of our website.  This week, our second installment of Tech in Plain English will rely on the same ‘house’ analogy to explain bandwidth in relation to web hosting.

A very popular house

As was the case last week where we relied on a number of assumptions, this week is no different, we shall assume that once you have moved into your house you intend to have an open door policy.  You will invite your neigbours, your neighbours’ neighbours and their friends.  You will post your address on every lamppost and you will tell everyone you meet to tell everyone they meet about your new home.  It may sound like a wild idea but when you get your website online this is exactly what you are doing (unless of course it is a private website).  You want people to visit your site and hopefully from there they can find a product or service that meets their needs.

To make the visit to your house simple, you have installed a driveway.  The only way in to your house is via this driveway so you will need to make sure that your driveway is long and wide enough to handle the flow of traffic to and from your house.  If you don’t do this your visitors will either spend most of their time queuing or, even worse, they will simply turn around and find another house to visit.

This is what bandwidth is. It is the driveway to your site.  It controls the flow of traffic to and from your site (site visitors) and enables your visitors to access its contents.

How big is your drive-way?

Most hosting providers measure the flow of traffic on a monthly basis but, instead of counting people or cars, hosting providers will count the amount of data accessed from your site.  When looking for web hosting you will have to determine how popular you think your site is going to be i.e. how frequently people will visit it and how much data will be accessed in a given month.

There is no specific formula to determine exactly how large or small to make your monthly bandwidth (data) allowance and it is very difficult to predict how popular how site will be.  However, returning to our house analogy, if you have a small studio apartment there is a limit to how many people you can accommodate so you driveway should reflect this.   Conversely if you have a six-bedroom mansion then perhaps you will need a large multi lane driveway.  This is one reason why you may notice that larger web hosting space often comes with increased monthly bandwidth allowance (compare Hatua’s Silver and Gold packages for example).

Some simple maths

Most hosting providers will quantify the monthly bandwidth (data) allowance in Gigabytes (GB) while an average page on a website is approximately 320 Kilobytes (KB).  Hopefully the calculations below will help you determine how much bandwidth you might need.

Let us assume that your website consists of 5 pages, so this means your entire site is 1600 KB (320 KB x 5).  There are approximately 1000 KB in one Megabyte (MB).  Therefore your site requires roughly 1.5 MB

Each time a visitor views a page on your site they are transferring 320 KB of data and if they view all five pages they will transfer 1.5 MB of data in total.

When calculating bandwidth, it is not the number of unique visitors that counts but the number of times a page is accessed.

So if the same person accesses the entire site 10 times in the same month the bandwidth used will be 15 MB (1.5 MB x 10).

If 100 people access every page on the site 10 times in one month then the total bandwidth used will be 1500 MB (15 MB x 10).  1500MB is approximately 1.5 GB (Gigabytes).

One last thing about bandwidth

The monthly bandwidth allowance includes all the data that travels through your hosting package.  This includes data accessed by people visiting your site as well as any data you upload to the site.  So if for instance you add a new page you will then potentially be uploading a further 320KB of data and that will affect your monthly bandwidth allowance accordingly.


Hopefully this has been a simple but useful guide on defining your hosting requirements.  The key things to remember are:

  • How much space you need to store your information,
  • How many times your information is accessed and how many times you will be uploading more data.

That way you can decide how many MB of storage you need and how many GB per month of data allowance is realistic.


If you have any questions about this topic or Hatua’s hosting packages or if you wish to suggest a topic for future Tech in Plain English posts please leave a comment below.
This post is part of Hatua’s Tech in Plain English (TiPE) series. TiPe’s  aim is to translate geek speak into simple english so that our service users can make informed decisions about their ICT needs.


Tech in Plain English: Hosting – Part 1


Nearly every time I speak to someone who wants a website designed by Hatua the conversation goes like this

Client:             I would like a website for my organisation

Me:                  Great.  Do you need hosting space too?

Client:             What is that?

I then spend the next few minutes explaining hosting and hope that by the end of it I haven’t confused the person.

Seeing as the topic of hosting crops up very early in the website design discussion, we decided to make it the subject of Hatua’s first Tech in Plain English series.

So, what is hosting?

The best way to explain hosting is to use an analogy.

Imagine for a minute that the website you want designed is represented by furniture.  It can be any type of furniture, but for now I am going to go with household furniture.  You have a bed, a wardrobe, a dining table, some sofas and maybe even an armchair.  All this furniture is spread out in an open field.  Just lying there.  You will need somewhere to put this furniture because an open field is no place for it.   As it is household furniture, it is fair to assume that you will need a house.   This essentially is what hosting is.  It is a house for your website.

Let us assume you decide to rent a house.  You will need to find a landlord, pay some money and sign a contract before you can claim occupancy and move your furniture in.   The process is the same for hosting.  You will need to find a hosting provider, who will provide you with space on their computers (called servers) so that you can store (host) your website and eventually make it available online.  This hosting service is often for a fixed period of time, usually a year, and like the rental market the prices can vary significantly between hosting packages.

Like houses, hosting comes in many forms and the process involved in choosing a house is not too different to that of choosing suitable hosting.  For instance, if you have a large family and lots of furniture, you will probably be looking for a house with 3 or 4 bedrooms.  Likewise if you are planning on having a website with a lot of content you will need large amount of hosting.  Whereas the number of rooms or the size of each room will determine house size, the size of hosting is measured in megabytes, often abbreviated as MB.  The greater the number the more hosting space you have available.

Text based websites require very little hosting space.  Pictures, if not resized can take up quite a lot of hosting space.  Most small organisations with a site containing four or five text, a picture heavy front page and a blog can probably get by on the Hatua’s Silver hosting package (our smallest hosting package which provides you with 150MB of space).    The NLSE website that we designed is hosted on our silver package, and should give you an idea of what 150MB looks like.

If in doubt about how much hosting space you need, I would recommend starting with the smallest package available and if more space is needed upgrade the hosting package as necessary.  That way you don’t pay more than you have to. Alternatively, if you already have a web site that is hosted by someone else and you are thinking of moving it to a new hosting provider, find out how much space your current site uses and find a similar package.  Do be aware that your current site may not be using all of the available hosting space.  If you don’t know how to find out the amount of space your site is taking up, ask your hosting provider to tell you.   They should give you a figure in megabytes.

Now, anyone who has rented or owned a property will know that that size of the property is not the only thing that matters.  Cost of utilities, council tax and location are just a few factors that you may have to take into account.  This is also true of hosting.  Determining the size is just one aspect.   Next Tuesday we will focus on bandwidth but hopefully this week we have left you with a slightly better understanding of hosting.

If you have any questions about this topic or Hatua’s hosting packages or if you wish to suggest a topic for future Tech in Plain English posts please leave a comment below.

This post is part of Hatua’s Tech in Plain English (TiPE) series. TiPe’s  aim is to translate geek speak into simple english so that our service users can make informed decisions about their ICT needs.

Introducing Tech in Plain English

Once, while facilitating a WordPress training session I asked the participants to ‘open a browser‘.  In my mind this was a fairly standard phrase so I was shocked when a person called me over to their computer and asked, while pointing to icons on their desktop, ‘where do I find my Google?‘  I showed them the Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox icons and told them if they opened up one these they would  find ‘their Google’.  To which the person replied,

‘well I never knew it was called a browser, at home I just get someone to open up Google for me’.

That day, we both learned something new.  For me it was the realisation that words and phrases that we geeks use so often can in fact sound like a foreign language to so many people.

One of Hatua’s guiding principles is to make tech accessible to all and to empower our services users to use technology confidently.   Ensuring that the people we work with understand the language of tech is a fundamental part of this.  So, every Tuesday, starting from next week, we will be translating some commonly used tech terms into plain english. We won’t just be providing one line definitions; we will be writing full blog posts on each term, using everyday analogies because like with all new languages, it is not learning individual words  that matters but rather  how these words fit in with the rest of the language.

We already have 3 topics prepared and we would love to add to this list, so if you have any tech related jargon that you want decoding, leave us a comment or drop us an email.