Web Developement for Open Source Systems


There are several things you should know before starting a website and several things your web designer will want to know before taking on the project.

When I start a project with someone that has never had a site and may not be familiar with what goes into creating and running a website we usually start with them sending several emails with questions about what they need to do. I have attempted here to answer some of the most common questions people have and hopefully give people a basic understanding of the process involved in creating a site.

Keep in mind, the information below is for your own edification. If you work with me as your web developer you will not need to know anything. You will not need to buy anything or do anything until we have discussed it. I will walk you through the whole process and explain anything you want to know as we go or I will just do it all and deliver you your site, it is completely up to you.

If you just want to get to it contact me here .

Below I have given very broad explanations about each topic. For a more detailed accont I have linked many of the words I use and the topic headers to other sites with more detailed information so if you want to know more just click on the words and they will take you to more information. The links will open in new windows so when you are done reading you can just close the new window and you will return to this page.

A Website

A website is basically a collection of files that when linked together creates a site that does what the owner wants it to. The files can be of many different types but some of the most common are html, php, gif, jpg, js, txt and the list goes on. These files are used in combination to display pictures, text, video, flash, etc. to make the site look and operate the way you want it.

The main thing a designer will want to know is what kind of site you want. There are many different kinds of sites and depending on what you want the site to do there will be different requirements and complications. A basic informational site that is designed to just give information about an organization, company, person etc. is rather simple to make and just basically uses text and images. An online store on the other hand is more complicated as it may require a database backend, SSL, forms, a credit card processor, etc. Think about the things you are wanting the site to do. It is possible to start out with a basic informational site and then later, add things to it like a place for people to sign up for your news letter, a blog, etc. but it will be a lot easier if your designer knows up front where you are wanting to go with the site. It can really have an effect on the type of server the site will need to be placed on.


The files discussed above need to be stored somewhere that will allow anyone on the internet access to them. The host will provide this place which is actually a computer called a web server that is connected to the internet through very fast network lines. The files are stored on the server just like files are stored on your hard drive on your computer. When someone that is connected to the internet types your URL (ex: www.yoursite.com) into the address bar of a web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Netscape, etc.) the browser is simply sending a request to the computer that your website files are stored on. The request really just says to your server "show me the file that has been designated as the home page for this URL." When the server gets the request, it sends the file that has been assigned as the home page of your site back to the browser that requested it. This is then displayed in the browser that made the request. This is a very simplified description of what happens but it is only meant to give you a basic understanding as setting all this up and making it work right will be the responsibility of your web designer.

Before signing up with a host it would be a good idea to discuss with a web designer what exactly you want your site to do as discussed above. What you want the site to do will have an effect on what type of server you can use. A server is basically a computer just like the one you are using. The difference is the software that is running on it. Just like on your computer you can not read a Microsoft Word file without actually having the Microsoft Word Software installed on your computer, a server can only do the things the software installed on it will do. So it is important that the host be able to provide the software that your website will need. Once you discuss with the designer what you want the site to do they will be better able to help you find the right host and set it up correctly. Keep in mind, usually the more things you want your website to be able to do the more expensive it will be to host it.

There are hundreds of hosts out there and all promise basically the same things at basically the same price so I can not really recommend one over the other without actually having experience with them. These hosts are like any other company these days (maybe a little worse) where they promise you the world to get you signed up, then when you actually want to use the service they start nickel and dimeing you to death every time you want to change something or add something. I use a host called www.performancehosting.net and they have treated me well through the years so I have not really had a reason to try anyone else.

Universal Resource Locator (URL)

This is your domain name. (www.yoursite.com) It will need to be registered with a registrar. There are dozens of registrars around each offering their own special deals. I won't go into all the details of what a registrar is as you can click above and get a detailed description. I will just tell you a few things you need to know. You do NOT have to host your website where you register your domain name. You can, as most offer hosting now, but it isn't required. Many host will actually include the registration of your name with the price of hosting so you may want to wait on registering it. If you do register a name the registrar will send you an email with a bunch of information in it. Keep this email as your web designer will need the information in it to set up your site. If you have a name in mind you can check if it is available by going to any of the registrars and typing in the name. Go to any search engine and type in \"domain name\" and you will get a whole list of registrars. One other thing to keep in mind, domain names should cost about $8-$20 depending on the services the registrar is offering. You may find someone offering to sell you a particular name for a lot of money. What this is basically, people will often buy up large numbers of domain names describing a certain subject or industry. They will then make the names they bought available for sale at a huge profit. I would suggest, if your name is not available from a registrar at their normal price ($8-$20) pick another name. Unless you have a really good reason for wanting a certain name, there is no reason to pay huge sums of money for a name.