In the previous article, we looked at website hosting, and compared it to the plot of land you'd need if you were going to build a house. Imagine that you'd secured your plot of land (the hosting) and built your house on it (the website). You need a way to identify your house and enable people to find it: you need an address! A domain name is the internet equivalent of an address, and will take the form www.yourdomain.xxx. Let's have a look at the different parts of this address and what they do:
- www.: Most website addresses begin with the prefix www., which stands for 'World Wide Web'.
- yourdomain: This, along with the suffix below, is the part of the address which must identify you uniquely. You won't be allowed to register a domain name that has already been registered to someone else. Normally this will be the name of your company or organisation.
- .xxx: The suffix is the second part of the domain that makes you unique. In the early days of the internet the rules for suffixes tended to be:
- .com and .co.uk were for commercial, business based websites
- .org and .org.uk were for charities and other non-commercial enterprises
Now, however, those rules have been relaxed, and there are a large number of different suffixes to choose from, such as .info, .net, and .biz.
Domain names, like hosting space, are rented. You'll have to pay an annual fee or risk losing your name. These fees are not great though - at the time of writing 1&1 was charging £2.99 per year for a .co.uk domain.
Choosing your domain name
Before you can register a domain name, you'll need to check that nobody else has already registered it. Again there are a large number of companies out there that will help you with this, but for the purposes of this article we'll stick with 1&1. Have a look at their domain registration page. Here you can test out different domain names, and they'll tell you whether they're available or not. If a domain name is available then you can register it.
Notice that some domain suffixes (such as .com and .org) are more expensive. These are known as Top Level Domains (or TLDs), because they don't have a country, or area, identifier after them. Whether you go for a TLD or not is down to personal preference and budget.
Some companies, such as 1&1, offer both domain registration and hosting, which makes life easier as you can sort out everything you need in one place.
Once you have both your domain name, and the space to host it, you're ready to build your site.