Under the bonnet – what’s a website made of?

Contrary to popular belief websites are not made of rainbow dust and carried to the Internet by a stalk. Although I’m sure your aware, as most people are, that websites are composed of code, HTML to be precise mixed with whatever else the coder may like such as Flash (animated elements) PHP or ASP (clever bits of code that connect to and from a database)

So when your buying a website always remember the analogy that it is very much like getting a new car.. it may look pretty and shiny from the outside but unless you look under the bonnet to check the state of the engine then that car isn’t going to serve its purpose.

You can lift the bonnet of any website yourself (with most browsers) just by right clicking anywhere on the site and choosing ‘view source’ .. this now turns the lovely website into pure code! Although the problem when applying this to website is that even if you know nothing about engines you can always take along someone who does, or get an AA check. With websites its harder to find someone who knows what the code does (although very easy to find people who claim they do)

This is the first thing a web designer looks at when analysing another persons website, and this is the first thing we at inLIFEDesign look at when we are asked to re-design sites, or give an overview as to why clients current sites ‘aren’t working’ or ‘aren’t being found on search engines’ and we could tell some horror stories about our findings!

So what difference does it make?

This is all very well.. but ‘if the website looks good from the front end what does it matter?’ If you believe that then chances are you have at some point bought a shiny car that broke down on the way home. So the real question should be ‘How can the code make a difference if it looks the same from the front end?”

The answer to that its not just humans who are looking at the website, your website is being read through every second of every day by search engines, bots and spiders trawling the net looking for links and information. Not only that but the way it displays on different devices all relies on quality coding too. This ensures it can be viewed on smart phones, Internet TVs, tablet computers as well as working on different screen resolutions, its all very well designing it for a huge screen but when viewing on a smaller screen how will it adjust? will it hide the relevant information off the edge of the page?

How many miles has the engine got left before it dies

Another thing to be certain of is that your code is future proof, and not going to fall down next time Microsoft do a browser update, google change the way they read search engines or another device is released to read websites and so on.

On top of this your website needs to be accessible via those with disability, and not just talking about making sure the front end is readable by colour blind, but if a fully blind person is browsing the net with a screen reader.. these devices read out the site information by plucking it from the code, this has to be in order and make sense with a readable menu descriptive content holders. Luckily screen readers go off the same algorithms that search engines read within the code.. so when designing for one it often means designing for both. Which we include as standard in all inLIFEDesign websites, this means hiding in the code little descriptive tags that tell a computer which bit of text is the header, where paragraphs are, which area is the menu as apposed to just simple links and so on.

The different types of code

You may have heard different types of code terms thrown about such as HTML, XML, HTML5, PHP each of these has its own function and they all talk together nicely when written in the correct way.

The main one that should be of any interest currently however is the recent introduction of HTML5. This allows HTML to completely interact with your computer making the thick line that divides the Internet and your computer almost invisible. HTML5 will allow you to run programs based on the Internet, drag files from the net to your computer and interact between the two seamlessly. Not only this but it has extra functionality in that it allows animations to be developed through code.. rather than relying on external resources such as Flash that require a user to install a ‘browser plugin’ in order to see them. This has also sparked the recent row between Apple computers and the creators of flash ‘Adobe’ whereas all mobile Apple devices to not support Flash, due to HTML 5 coming soon and doing a better job. We are already implementing HTML 5 into a number of sites created.

Scared yet?

So has it all become a bit too geeky yet, or are you hungry for more! Code is regulated through a company known as the W3 Schools and you can learn more about web coding through their website

Just remember next time you need to check out if a website is any good under the bonnet, call inLIFEdesign the AA of the web.