Beginner’s Guide: What is a domain name and why do you need one?

by Apr 28, 2022Domain Names, Getting Started

You’re excited and ready to build your first website – you have an awesome business idea and your products or services are ready to go! All you need now is a website that shows your potential clients what you offer and how they can work with you.

Click here to download the free ebook: the ultimate beginner’s guide to building a WordPress website in 9 easy steps.

If you’ve done your research, you’re probably aware that to build a website you need two things: a domain name and website hosting.

Macbook on a white desk with green plant with text: What is a domain name and why do you need one?

First things first: What is a domain name?

When you’re just getting started, understanding the different elements of a website can be confusing. Let’s start with the basics: your website, domain name and website hosting.

Imagine you’re hosting an epic party and you’ve invited all your friends to your house. Some of your friends have never been to your house before, so you give them your address. You want to make sure they arrive at the right party, after all!

In this instance, the house is your website. The house’s address is your domain name.

Of course, a house is built on a plot of land. Your website hosting is that plot of land.

Summary: the domain name is the address of your website.

Maggie's Mildly Interesting but Ultimately Irrelevant Facts:

A URL and a domain name are not the same thing. A domain name forms part of a URL, whereas a URL is a full website address that leads to a specific page on a website.

For example, mythiccoding.com is my domain name; https://mythiccoding.com/blog is the URL to the blog page on my website.

URL vs Domain infographic

How do domains work?

In the simplest of terms, your domain name is matched to the string of numbers known as an IP address that points to your website. So, instead of having to remember something like 23.816.9.13, you only have to know mythiccoding.com.

When you type a domain name into a website browser, it sends that request to what’s called the Domain Name System (DNS). The DNS looks up the IP address (aka confusing string of numbers) associated with that domain name (aka simple, memorable address) and sends that information back to the browser that made the request. The browser now knows where it needs to go to get the website you searched for.

How domains work infographic

Summary: the simple domain name replaces the more confusing string of numbers that tells a web browser where to find the website.

Why do you need a domain name?

As I mentioned at the start of this post, you need two things to get a website online: a domain name and website hosting.

Okay, technically, that’s not exactly correct.

Technically, your website users can visit your website by entering its IP address into a web browser… but as we’ve already established, IP addresses are long, confusing strings of numbers.

You want to make things as easy as possible for users to find your website, so providing them with a simple and memorable domain name is a good idea. You don’t want to lose potential customers simply because they couldn’t remember the IP address of your website!

Another important thing to consider is your business’s credibility.

It is possible to get free domain names, however, if you purchase a custom domain name for your website, you’ll look way more legit than someone using a free domain.

Free domains usually come with website building platforms such as WordPress.com (not WordPress.org), Wix, Blogger, and other similar platforms. They look something like: mywebsite.websitebuilder.com and look less professional than a custom domain.

The most common domain name ends with .com and these generally cost between $10-$25 (£7-£20) per year. It’s a small price to pay for a generous boost in professionalism.

Maggie's Super Useful Tips:

When you purchase website hosting (the land on which your website “house” sits), you can often get a domain name thrown in for free as part of your first year’s hosting price. This is not the same as a free domain from a website builder, it’s simply a sales deal that a lot of hosting providers offer, so take advantage of it! For example, you can get a free custom domain name from Bluehost for your first year when you purchase a year of hosting.

Plus, if you have a custom domain name, you can set up super professional-looking emails like yourname@yourwebsite.com! For example, mine is maggie@mythiccoding.com – feel free to send me an email anytime!

Having a custom email address adds that extra layer of credibility to your business and looks a lot more professional than a Gmail or Hotmail account…

Want to know more about building your own website?

If you’re ready to get started, click here to download my free ebook that walks you through the exact 9 steps you need to follow to build your perfect website.

I hope I’ve been able to explain what a domain name is and how domain names work in a simple and clear way. If you have questions, problems, or just wanna say hi – let me know in the comments!

Maggie Duncan profile pic

Maggie Duncan

Self-taught WordPress web designer
I love to help others build their own perfect website by taking away the tech overwhelm and simplifying the industry jargon. As a self-taught web designer, I believe that anyone can learn to build their own website and it doesn't have to be difficult!

Who am I?

Hi! I'm Maggie and I've been building websites for others using WordPress for over 8 years. I'm a self-taught developer and truly believe that in this day and age, anyone can build an amazing website themselves.
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