Website Jargon Buster: Themes, Plugins, Apps, Platforms, and Hosts
logical layers of a website

The objective of this guide is to help small business owners communicate with the technical folk who put together their websites.

I’ll refer to those “technical folk” as website developers.

Themes, Plugins, Apps, Platforms, and Hosts are just some of the terms used by website developers. If you need a meaningful conversation with a website develop to improve your existing site, or build a new site, then a general understanding of these terms will help.

The above diagram provides a simple overview of the layers of delivering a website. To assist in understanding the concepts, i’ve compared to a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation running on a computer.

Host

This describes the computing resources that a website platform runs on. This will be a computer called a server that has the muscle to manage multiple users (your visitors) concurrently accessing content (your website).

A host can be shared by multiple websites, or dedicated to a single website. Dedicated hosting costs significantly more, and is usually only required for unique website requirements.

Just like your computer at the office, the server will be running an operating system. Microsoft Windows and Linux are the most common operating systems, and each website platform will recommend which operating system to choose.

The performance of the host will have a significant impact on your website availability and speed to load.

As an analogy, the performance of Microsoft PowerPoint is influenced by the computer it is run on. A computer with insufficient resources, that occasionally restarts without warning, will result in a terrible experience.

Examples of website hosts include GoDaddy and BlueHost, with prices for hosting costing starting from just $4/month.

Platform

This describes the software that manages the underlying features and capabilities of a website including the interface used to manage building the site. Continuing the earlier analogy above, there are various presentation software packages, Microsoft has PowerPoint, and Apple has KeyNote and each has different capabilities.

The below image shows the interface or the WordPress platform used to make this post!

Wordpress edit post interface

 

Some website platforms, often called website builders, are only offered bundled with a pre-defined host and pre-defined themes (discussed below). Examples of this are Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace and WordPress.com.

Other website platforms can be used with any website host that you choose. These platforms are often referred to as Content Management Systems, or CMS. Joomla, Drupal and WordPress.org are good examples (note that WordPress comes as a bundled offer in WordPress.com and unbundled as WordPress.org).

Website platforms often come with Apps or Plugins that you can install onto your website to provide additional functionality. The below image show the App market available with the Wix filtered by options available to add forms to a website.

Wix app marketplace

In general, website builders provide less flexibility on configuration but can be simpler to setup if you have simple requirements. In general, content management systems provide more flexibility on configuration, but the additional options can be time consuming to understand.

Theme

This describes the look and feel of your website. It’s equivalent to the various templates available in Microsoft PowerPoint presentations. You can choose the look and feel of the presentation, but it is still Microsoft PowerPoint.

The below images shows a fraction of the themes available in WordPress.org. Themes can also be customised by website developers.

wordpress.org themes example

Content

This describes the information you add to your site; pictures, videos, text, documents, etc. In the presentation analogy, this is the content of the presentation; pictures and text.

Website

Your website is the resultant output of your host + platform + theme + content.