Stepping into the web can feel a bit like diving into a vast ocean. It's vast, deep, and filled with a world of possibilities. Whether you're transitioning from a different medium, like film or print, or just starting off in creative production, getting a solid grasp of how the web works is going to be helpful.
Having a foundational understanding of the web's inner workings will be invaluable in helping you plan and execute your projects. Here's a video that encapsulates how the web works, I then outlined the essentials for you below.
- Internet vs. Web: Often used interchangeably, these two terms are not the same. The internet is the global network of interconnected computers that enable data exchange. On the other hand, the World Wide Web (or simply "the web") is a service that runs on the internet, allowing us to access and share information in the form of web pages.
- URLs: URL, or Uniform Resource Locator, is the unique address you punch into your browser to reach a specific website or webpage. It's like the GPS coordinates to your online destination.
- HTTP/HTTPS: These acronyms stand for HyperText Transfer Protocol and HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure. They're the protocols for transmitting and receiving information across the web. HTTPS is the secure version, ensuring that data sent between your browser and the site is encrypted and safe.
Think of HTML (HyperText Markup Language) as the skeleton of any web page. It's used to structure content on the web, including elements like headings, paragraphs, links, and images.
CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is like the outfit that your skeleton wears. It's a stylesheet language that describes the look and formatting of a document written in HTML. From layout to colors and fonts, CSS puts the style in your web content.
Web hosting is where your website lives on the internet. It's a service provided by hosting companies who rent out their servers to store your website and make it accessible to the world. There are different types of hosting services to consider depending on your website's needs, such as shared hosting, dedicated hosting, or cloud hosting.
Browsers typically cache what are known as "static assets" - parts of a website that do not change from visit to visit. What to cache and for how long is determined by your team, and caching can be enabled or disabled. Some assets are removed from your machine in a few days while others may remain in your cache for up to a year. Caching improves and speeds up the browsing speed for repeat users, it is also provided by content distribution networks to protect servers from heavy traffic.
That being said it means that you or your client might be seeing an old version of the product! Easy to fix, simply empty your cache or open an incognito window.
Content Distribution Networks (CDNs)
CDNs are like express delivery services for your web content. They are a network of servers distributed across various locations globally. When a user requests content from your site, the CDN delivers it from the closest server, ensuring fast load times and a smooth user experience. We've often used Cloudflare to make sure our websites are more accessible globally, faster to load and secure.
Git repositories are the version control tool of choice for most web developers. They allow you to track changes in your code, collaborate with others without overwriting each other's work, and revert to previous versions if something goes wrong. Platforms like GitHub and Bitbucket are popular for hosting these repositories.
DNS propagation is the process of updating every server across the web with the latest DNS information. DNS (Domain Name System) is like the phonebook of the internet, translating human-friendly website names into IP addresses that computers use to communicate. When you make changes to your DNS records, such as moving your website to a new server, it takes some time for these changes to update (or "propagate") across the entire web.