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Modern web development: the basics

Web development has been going through fundamental changes since the internet became a popular tool for commercial use in the beginning of the ‘90s. During its infancy, websites were often composed of little more than a collection of texts and occasionally featured graphics and photos. Today’s internet landscape presents a very different picture: high-quality presentation with multimedia content dominates the current scene. What initially started out as a medium for sharing information has now also transformed into an entertainment platform.

Now more than ever, internet users demand interactive websites that offer both attractive design features as well as intuitive, user-friendly navigation. In order to meet these demands, web developers have an array of different tools at their disposal. One important requirement for all of this is a professional web hosting service that provides all the necessary resources and also supports current web standards.  

The technical background

The bedrock of every web presence lies in its server storage space. Specialized internet providers, known as ‘web hosts’, offer such servers, which contain everything users need to get their website up and running. In addition to the necessary hard drive storage space, other server capacities like RAM, an individual domain, databases, and tools needed for web development, are also included. Precisely which pieces of hardware are responsible for the actual hosting are generally not shared with the user. This is not the case with alternative hosting models like dedicated web servers, where users are able to rent entire hardware components within a data center.

Domains

Every project on the World Wide Web can be accessed via a unique, clearly defined name. These domains are among the most basic elements of a web hosting package. Domains follow a hierarchical naming system and are composed of a top-level domain (e.g. .com or .org), a domain of your choosing (provided it’s available), i.e. a second-level domain, and, finally, a subdomain label. Domain registration is carried out through an internet provider; such providers are responsible for forwarding the proposed name to the appropriate organizational body responsible for registry. Avoid long, complicated constructions when selecting a domain name. Instead, go for something short and punchy, and make sure it’s coupled with a conventional top-level domain, like .com or .org.

Webspace

Each web presence is composed of data that’s readily available to be accessed on a web server via the internet. This is why web hosting packages always come with certain storage quotas for HTML documents, stylesheets, images, videos, or databases. Retrieving data is usually done via the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and a client program, like FileZilla or WinSCP. A web hosting package should always be chosen with the potential of expanding the webspace in mind.

Databases

If you’d prefer to opt out of making your website statically available on the web server and instead have it generated according to user demand, using a relational database is probably your best bet. This way of administering data relies on structuring data sets into tables and then correlating these with other sets by assigning IDs. Retrieving and editing data structures is normally done with the help of the database language, SQL (structured query language). One of the most popular relational database systems for dynamic web presences worldwide is the open source software, MySQL. 

Web servers

Web hosting packages for beginners normally come in the form of shared hosting offers. With this model, multiple customer domains share a common pool of server resources. For large-scale professional projects, web hosts also offer different web server options that give customers exclusive insights on hardware components. This model is recommended for large businesses, as it also provides the option of obtaining customized server equipment.   

Basic tools for web development

Users have many different possibilities for creating their own websites if the given web project has been set up in the form of a hosting package or a server. From intuitive website software with limited design features, to flexible CMSs (content management systems) and custom-written source code, the scope of creative possibilities for developing a website is wide. And while beginner-level homepage tool kits are designed according to the WYSIWYG principle (‘what you see is what you get’), operating a CMS generally requires some prior knowledge and experience. Web developers can only gain maximum free reign and flexibility by programming projects in the editor from the ground up. This requires at least some basic know-how of languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP.

HTML

The hypertext labeling language (hypertext markup language) plays an important role in web development by semantically structuring digital content; a process that’s carried out by using what developers refer to as ‘tags’. This sort of source code is the skeleton, or frame, of every website. A static website is essentially nothing more than a selection of inter-connected HTML documents. The current version, HTML 5 expands the markup for audio and video elements. Visually depicting content, on the other hand, is defined by the formatting language, CSS.

CSS

Cascading style sheets (CSS for short) is a standard type of formatting language for HTML documents. Web developers use CSS to assign rules to elements found within the HTML code for how they should depict things within the browser. The current standard CSS3 encompasses instructions for the layout, coloring schemes, typography, animation, as well as for lighting and shadowing.

JavaScript

Modern websites interact with their visitors by using input fields, drop-down menus, or slide shows. JavaScript comes into play whenever dynamic content like this is to be used on an HTML site. The script language expands the HTML and CSS framework by evaluating user interactions and reloading, updating, or changing page content.

PHP

While static websites are ready to be accessed on web servers, dynamic websites are first generated when a request is made through a web browser. This process is made possible with the script language PHP. PHP programs are interpreted server-side. Instead of delivering the source code of dynamic websites directly onto the browser, the web server transfers the file to a PHP interpreter. This interpreter then generates the requested website–often by using information deposited in the database–and returns it to the web server. From there, the interpreter readout is sent to the browser. Additional script languages used for developing dynamic websites are Perl and Python.

JavaScript CSS HTML Encyclopedia Responsive PHP Database