Introduction to the Internet for Developers and Designers

This workshop will introduce some of the concepts that make the Internet what it is today. It  is ideal for people looking to design or develop web sites, but will also be of interest for those curious about the inner workings of the web.

I will include a brief discussion of the theory behind  the Internet (HTTP, FTP, HTML, CSS) and introduce some tools for working with the web. I will introduce the concept of dynamic web pages and  Content Management Systems, and discuss the pros and cons of the various types. I will also examine domain name registration and hosting options, and look at working with files and applications on a remote server.
This workshop, together with 'Image and Design for the Internet', will allow those with basic computer skills to advance to topics such as 'Creating a Web Site with Joomla'.

The Client - Server Model

A common way to understand how a computer downloads and displays a web page is within the 'Client - Server' model. The basic idea is that the internet can be divided into two types of computers, 'clients', that make requests for web pages and 'servers' that generate web pages. Communication between clients and servers can be visualized as a cycles of a client request followed by server response. Clicking on a link in a web browser (the client) sends a request for a web page, a server response by generating  the page and sending it back to the client. Of course things are a litle more complicated than that, for instance on the internet there needs to be a way of  addressing and routing  information between client and server and once a request arrive how does the server generate the appropriate pager?

The essential ingredient here is the URL, or Universal Resource Locator. A URL can simply be a domain name (eg and point to a particular server, it can point to a folder on a server (eg, or it can point to a particular file (eg A special type of server, the  Domain name Servers (DNS) points the web address (url) to the server where the web page is located. 

The Client

For for practical purposes a 'Client' is often considered to be simply a web browser, however technicaly it consists of the following.

1. A user, generally a person.

2. A machine such computer, phone or other device.

3. Software such as operating systems and applications such as a web browser.

The machine, operating system and browser are collectively known as the 'platform'. 

Each of the different 'flavors' of web browser (eg Fire fox, Chrome, Opera etc) uses similar, but not identical, rules for translating HMTL code into a view able, and interactive page.

Most browsers have tools that can greatly increase your work efficiency (. Get to know how features such as tabs, bookmarks, and keyboard shortcuts work. It is time well spent because it will mean tasks can be performed quicker, and your workflow will become clearer. Both Firefox and Chrome have excellent tools that allow you debug and analyze your pages.

Fortunately, for the non coder, server side systems such as 'WordPress or 'Joomla' ensure that web pages generated by them are comparable with all modern browsers and degrade gracefully on older browsers. However it is still important to test your site in different browsers and on different screen sizes to ensure important elements are not missing.

Client side computer languages like HTML, JavaScript and CSS  describe web pages. A web page can be broken up into three sets of attributes.


The Server

A web server, as the same suggests, 'serves' web pages. Servers operate in a similar manner to desktop computers (as well as other 'local' devices such as mobile phones etc). They have an operating system (eg windows 7 or os10), software applications (eg a web browser or word processor) and a means of navigating the files systems (eg an explorer or finder). The major difference when working with servers is that you are working across a network and usually using a browser. Because communication across the internet is essentially a question and answer mechanism (the client, asks a question and the server replies) there will be a time lag, your browser will reload the page and you will see the response. 

When you purchase server hosting (see this link) you will be given a web address and log in credentials to a control panel. This is a set of tools for manipulating files, installing and running server software, working with email accounts, editing databases and other functions. 

When you purchase server hosting you will be given a link to a control panel. For our purposes we will be using the very common cPanel interface. 

Server side languages such as PHP, Java, PERL  dynamically build the web pages on every request. Server side content management systems such as Joomla and WordPress are a visual interface that allow to harness this ability to build dynamic web sites. 






Server. The machine and software that 'serves' web pages.  Servers are generally remote computers that can also understood as operating on layers. The layer we will be most concerned with is the layer that builds the web pages. This consists of files of computer code, (usually a combination of PHP, HTML and CSS). When setting up a web site we work with lower layers to configure host and domain settings as well as create databases and configure email accounts.

IP Address. A set of numbers that uniquely identify a domain or computer.

Domain Name Server. A special computer that translates domain names into ip address and routes data accordingly.

HTTP the transfer protocol for exchanging data between client and server

FTP A way of transferring files across the internet, for instance using an application such as 'filezilla' to tranfer files to a server.

HTML A 'markup language' that is converted by a browser into a web page.

CSS A styling language that is used with HTML to style a web page.

Web Applications. Software that runs on a server and is controlled through a browser eg search engines, banking systems, content management systems.

Content Management Systems (CMS). A large web application, that acts as an operating environment for web sites. Allows developers and content creators to build web sites and applications.

Database. Used to store a websites information in a content management system.

Universal Resource Locator What you type into a browser address bar. Consists of the protocol (http, https or ftp) :// domain name . domain suffix (eg / directory (directories separated by a slash, can include a file name, eg something.html, but defaults to index.html or index.php)