A Peek Under the Hood: What Makes a Website Run?

13-Aug-2019 05:06 PM Web Technology

Websites are built using a combination of technologies. The choice of technology has long-term implications on your website and ultimately your organization.

Today, it is almost unheard of for a company to not have a website. The internet has become the de-facto place for companies to advertise their products or services. Although web development created a revolution a couple of decades ago and its technologies are constantly evolving even to this day.

This is because web developers have been hard at work to create complex web applications for almost every sector. However, there are different platforms and technologies that may or may not know about that is running your favorite websites.

We must keep in mind that when building a website, we must consider its speed, maintainability, ease of scalability while using technology. Let’s get to the bottom of this and see what they are.

To get to the root of the website puzzle, you must know a little about Web Stack. The basic structure of a stack looks like Lego blocks. Web Stack is a collection of software applications built one on each other, such as programming languages and frameworks, needed to develop applications and websites. Some of the popular stacks available today are LAMP Stack, WISA stack, MEAN Stack, .NET stack, etc.

Web technology, web stack

Front-End or Client Side Technology

Front-end technologies are the underlying scaffolding used by web browsers to show the web pages that users interact with and what your clients see on your website. Front-end development is also known as the client-side technology.

While these languages vary from application to application, the three main coding languages are HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. No website can be built without these languages and web developers should be experts in them.


  • Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) tells the browser what to show on the website. This language makes up the content of the website.
  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is used to describe the presentation of a page or your entire website. It gives the HTML a visual appeal. It lets designers define colors, fonts, and transitions.
  • JavaScript is used to create interactive effects on your website.

When a user visits a website, the browser renders the HTML, CSS, and Javascript. This process happens on the client’s computer which is why it is termed as the client-side technology. Although not commonly used, you may hear of other front-end technologies like Ajax, jQuery, Angular, React, View, etc.

Back-End or Server-Side Technology

Back-end developers build how websites work. Back-end or server-side technology is an essential technology layer or stack that builds the website.

Programming Language

Developers use programming languages to program business logic or custom functionality on the website. If you are using WordPress for your website, a frontend developer would create a theme with images, presentation, and styles, while backend developers may work on managing the database, as well as the website’s security and performance issues.

Different websites use different programming languages. For instance, Twitter is built on Ruby while Facebook, WordPress, Google, and Wikipedia use PHP.  Amazon, YouTube, and Linkedin are built using Java technology.

Database

Databases permanently store volumes of data needed for a website like product information, orders, transactions, user records, etc. Even the Content Management System (CMS) content is stored here. The choice of the database depends on several factors such as usage of programming languages, frameworks, and the web server.

Oracle, MySQL, and Microsoft SQL Server are some of the commonly used databases for websites. Oracle, an enterprise database that many regard as the most complex, requires an expensive license to operate while MySQL is an open-source database engine.

Web Server

Web servers deliver the necessary content to users. They also typically store application codes. It is the combination of the hardware (computer) and the application (software) that delivers your website to users.

Web Servers function as a layer between the operating system. The choice of web servers depends on the type of technology used to build the website and the place of hosting. The two dominantly used web servers are Apache by Linus and Internet Information Services (IIS) by Microsoft.

Operating System

The operating system is the interface between the hardware and the software components. Two operating systems that are most used are Linux and Windows. While Windows, from Microsoft, requires a license to run, Linux is an open-source operating system available in different functionalities such as Ubuntu, RedHat, Debian, Fedora, etc.

Framework/Platform

We have learned the layers of the website/web application cake, and now it's time we knew more about the framework/platform.  Frameworks or platforms provide a way to build and deploy web applications. It is a set of tools to help you build your website faster. A framework is a group of libraries of optimized code that provides the building blocks to construct a website. If you have a framework, you need not build everything from scratch.

Complex websites need a framework to reduce the time required to build the website. Frameworks also help in expanding the capabilities of the Web Stack by providing additional features such as extra programming languages or proxy servers.

Some popular frameworks are Bootstrap, a front-end user interface framework that is a combination of HTML, CSS, and javascript. Node.js is a back-end or server-side framework, while Meteor, Django, Ruby on Rails, .NET which are a full-stack (front-end and back-end) frameworks. The most commonly used framework is WordPress, which powers almost 20% of all websites.

Knowing how a website or web application works and what goes into making them is fascinating. This will help you decide on the technology to employ while building your website. As explained, a website is like a cake with several layers of technology supporting the front end and the back end. Like expert cake makers, we at Verbinden understand the nuances of creating cutting-edge and modern websites. Check us out here and get in touch to build that amazing website.