How websites work

How do websites work

When you visit a web page in the browser (eg Internet Explorer, Safari) on your computer, tablet or phone, the browser

  • communicates with a number of other computers to find the specific computer (usually called a web server, because it serves web pages) which has that page on its hard disk.
  • retrieves the computer code and any files needed for the page from the server and then displays the formatted web page


So how does your browser find the correct web server?
Every web address contains a domain name and a method the computers can use to communicate. For example, can be broken down as follows

  • https:// is the method the computers will use to communicate
  • is the internet domain
  • about-us.html is the web page requested is translated via a process called DNS resolution to what is called an IP address of This IP address points to the physical location of the web server for the domain. Your browser can then request the web page directly from the server at that IP address. It’s a bit like looking up a phone number in a phone book (for those of us old enough to remember them)

What is needed for your website to work?
You need

  • a registered internet domain like, or a subdomain of somebody else’s domain like
  • that domain to be hosted on a web server
  • a file containing a list of computer instructions which browsers use to format and include other files (such as images) on the web page when it is displayed


This link explains how the various website types are created and how they are hosted.

There are some common words or phrases often used by hosting or web design companies which cause confusion to people new to website management.

FirstWebsite is a Do-It-Yourself option which handles both the hosting and the creation and maintenance of your web page.