How Websites Work

Web Pages

Everything on the World Wide Web is based around web pages. A web page is a single document, similar to a word-processor document, which displays text, graphics and other active elements. You are viewing a web page at the moment called "thewww3.html" - if you look in the address bar of your browser, you will see the name of this page and it's location on the internet:

Web pages are formatted in a computer language called HTML (Hypertext Mark Up Language). In order to view a web page, you must use a software application which is able to "decode" HTML, and display the page properly. The most common application for this purpose is a web browser (such as Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator), although you could also use any text editing application which supports HTML (such as Microsoft Word 6+).

To make a web page, you must format it according to the HTML standard (actually there are other formats which you can use, but we'll stick to HTML for now).

Web Sites

A website is typically a collection of web pages, graphics, and other elements which are linked together to form a larger, structured document (like an interactive book). A website could be a single page or it could be made from thousands of pages. All pages and other elements are placed in a folder on a host server. An internet address (known as a Uniform Resource Location, or URL) is assigned to this folder, so that when a browser asks for your site it will know where to look.

When you visit a website, you usually start at the site's home page, from where you can navigate the rest of the site. Hyperlinks allow you to move between pages - a hyperlink is simply an instruction to open a new web page.

The window below shows the basic structure of a medium-sized personal web site. The main folder "dave" houses the entire site and has been assigned the URL "". If you type this URL into your browser's address bar, your dial-up server will send a request to the server which hosts this site (in this case it's a server in Auckland, New Zealand). On receiving your request, the host server will open this folder and look for a default home page. It will find one called "index.html", so it sends this page to your dial-up server which forwards it to you. The next thing you know, you're looking at the homepage of

Dave's personal web site

There are about 100 pages in this site, arranged in a directory structure for easy management. As mentioned, the "index.html" page is designed as the home page - it contains hyperlinks to pages in each of the folders so you can move around the site.

When you're starting out (especially if you have a small site) it may be easier to keep all your files in the same folder. This is because hyperlinks become more complicated when you use multiple folders.

Creating and Publishing a Web Site

Assuming that you already have a computer and a modem, there are three more things which you will need. The rest of this tutorial will cover each of these topics in more detail:

(1) Authoring Software.
You need software to create the site. This can be anything from a simple text editor to a professional web site design package.

(2) A Host Server
You need a place on the internet to store your site.

(3) File Transfer Software
You need software to "upload" the site. This means transferring the site from your computer to the host server.

Okay, that's the groundwork done - good effort! If you're still interested, move on to the Introduction to Website Design