Posted on Feb 21, 2018

10 Technical Things all Non-Technical People Should Know When Building a Website

There’s a lot of information to sort through when you first start building your website, and sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming. You’ll come across a bunch of acronyms, and technical phrases, and jargon you’ve never heard of before. And after a while (especially if you’re not a website coder or designer), you might find yourself asking things like, “How much of this technical stuff do I really need to know anyway? Is this worth the headache? Don’t they have an app or plugin for that now? Can’t I just contact my hosting provider if I have technical issues or questions about that?” etc.

Although recent advances in technology have made it so you don’t necessarily need a lot of technical know-how to create a website, there are still a few technical things you’ll want to be familiar with when building and maintaining a website.

Below are ten technical things non-technical people will want to know more about as they build and maintain their websites.

1.   Where Your Domain is Hosted and What Kind of Hosting You Need

When you select a hosting provider for your domain, you should know exactly where your domain will be hosted and what types of servers you will need to access it. There are four basic kinds of hosting options for your domain: shared, virtual private server (VPS), dedicated, and cloud. Be sure you understand each type of hosting in depth before deciding on a hosting provider. Read this post published by CNET to learn more about the different kinds of hosting options available, and which option is best for your website.

The kind of hosting you need will depend on:

  • Your budget and bandwidth
  • The business needs and goals you’re trying to achieve
  • How much traffic your site will generate
  • What type of content you need to create and access

2.   Content Management System Elements and Navigation

After you select your domain and hosting provider, you’ll need to select a content management system like WordPress or Drupal if your hosting provider doesn’t already offer a drag-and-drop website builder. You will want to know what types of content files and folders it supports, how you can administer user access and roles, how much storage space you can use, if and what you can customize, where you can navigate to different parts of your site, etc.

Most importantly, you’ll need to navigate through the control panel in your content management system to see what plugins you can access and manage, as well as how you will be able to update and assign permissions to all your website data and files. You’ll need to know how to assign who can read, write, and execute different files on the backend of your website. Otherwise, your website’s security may be at risk. So, you’ll need to know more about FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and what it means. Learn more about FTP in this recent post published by WP Beginner.

3.   Simple Structure of a Web Page

Even if you’re not building a website from scratch, you’ll want to know the basic structure of a webpage, so you’ll know what you’re updating in your content management system. You’ll want to know what each of the following are and where they appear on a webpage in its source code:

  • Header
  • Navigation bar
  • Main content
  • Section
  • Article
  • Body
  • Side bar
  • Footer

You’ll also want to know the basics of URL parameters and semantic URLs, so that your website doesn’t create errors or duplicate content, and so you can continue to rank higher in search results in search engines. Learn more about the technical things you need to know about URLs by reading this piece published by Mozilla.

4.   Basics of HTML Code

All websites are basically run on HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language). While you don’t need to know absolutely everything about HTML and probably won’t need to write HTML code from scratch, you’ll still want to know some of the basics. Knowing HTML basics will help you identify and fix both large and minor issues on your website. For instance, when you’re writing website content, you’ll want to verify your HTML code if it’s not appearing accurately.

Here are some HTML tags you’ll want to know:

  • “h1” “h2” “h3” “h4” for header text
  • “p” to start a new paragraph of text
  • “br” to include a line break between paragraphs
  • “strong” for bolded text
  • “em” for italicized text
  • “u” for underlined text
  • “ol” for ordered lists
  • “ul” for unordered or bullet-point lists
  • “li” for line items in lists
  • “a” tags for hyperlinks
  • “img src=” tags for images

(Consult these sources to learn more about HTML code you need to know: Impact Bound and W3 Schools)

5.   What CSS and JavaScript Are and What They Do

HTML code usually works in tandem with CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) code and Java Script. While the HTML code provides the structure for the site, the CSS code determines what it will look like and how it will appear, and Java Script programs the behavior of the webpages.

Even if you don’t necessarily know how to write in each code, you should know why they’re used on websites and where you can find the code on your particular website. Java Script allows your website to be more interactive, and CSS makes it so things don’t just appear in black and white text and boring boxes on your website.

You can read W3 Schools resources on CSS and Java Script to learn more about what each type of code does.

6.   Technical SEO for Content

Be sure your website pages are optimized for search engines, and that they’re optimized for mobile devices. Know where the following components are on your website and how you can update and edit them:

  • Title tags
  • Meta descriptions
  • Image alt tags
  • Canonical tags
  • Internal links and anchor text

Read this Kissmetric’s post to learn more.

7.   Redirects and Status Codes for Website Pages

When you’re accessing reporting for your webpages or trying to open a webpage, you’ll encounter the following status codes and redirects at some point. So, you’ll want to know what they mean.

  • 200: Page loads just fine.
  • 301: Page is being redirected to a new URL permanently.
  • 302: Page is being redirected to a new URL temporarily.
  • 404: This page doesn’t exist and is not able to load.

Knowing the above status codes will help you know if your URLS are working and loading properly for your site visitors.

8.   What Plugins Are and How to Install Them

Plugins can add great functionality to your website, but you should know exactly how they work first, or you could risk the functionality or security of your entire website. They’re typically installed via your control panel. Here’s one definition of what a plugin is:

“A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress.” (WP Beginner)

Always know exactly what a plugin is supposed to do, who created it, what it’s compatible with, and how to properly install it – before you install it. 

9.   Tools You Can Use to Test and Optimize Your Website

You’ll want to use tools that help your website run more efficiently and securely on the backend. Along with plugins, you’ll also want to count on different tools that automatically crawl your website or offer analytics on technical things like:

  • How fast your webpages load
  • User history and behavior
  • Keywords and information on your technical SEO components
  • Broken links
  • Security vulnerabilities

You can start with Google Webmaster Tools to get the basics behind how these tools work and what to look for when using them. While these tools will provide detailed information for how your website is performing technically, they’re typically very user-friendly once they’re set up.

10. How to Keep Your Website Safe and Well-Maintained

Once you get your website up and running, you’ll want to know more about why your website will need an SSL certificate, and how to prevent things like SQL injections and cross-cite scripting. You’ll also want to schedule routine backups for your website and its content and know where your backed-up files are stored. If the worst does happen, you can minimize the impact if you create a data breach response plan. Be sure to check out  Essential Things You Need to Know About Maintaining Your Business Website for more information on resources you can use, and tips for maintaining the technical components on your website.

If you’re not very technical, you can still easily build a great website. But you’ll want to know all about the things mentioned above first. Be sure to click on the additional resources throughout this post to learn more about the nitty-gritty of each technical item mentioned.



Sources Cited

Gewirtz, David. “How to Choose a Web Hosting Provider,” Accessed 1/26/2018.

Kissmetrics Blog. “How to Make Your Website Source Code Optimized for SEO,” Accessed 1/26/2018.

Mozilla. “What is a URL,” Accessed 1/26/2018.

Petro, Kaitlyn. “21 Basic HTML Codes Everyone Who’s Not a Developer Should Know,”: Impact Bound, . Accessed 1/26/2018.

W3 Schools. “HTML Basic Examples,” Accessed 1/26/2018.  

W3 Schools. “HTML Styles- CSS,” Accessed 1/26/2018.

W3 Schools. “JavaScript Tutorial,” Accessed 1/26/2018.

WP Beginner. “How to use FTP to upload files to WordPress for Beginners,” . Accessed 1/26/2018.

WP Beginner. “What is: Plugin,” . Accessed 1/26/2018.