Ever wonder what goes into building and operating a modern website like n1fd.org? I thought that it might be interesting to share how we approached the design and operation of our club website, n1fd.org. A better understanding of how n1fd.org works will help you to get the most out of using it.
The basics of how n1fd.org works are pretty simple. The video that follows tells this part of our story well.
We’re not going to get into the details of HTML, servers or DNS. These systems all work behind these scenes to make n1fd.org and other websites work.
Most modern websites are about delivering a content-centric user experience. Such sites are media rich and include graphic and video content, are very responsive and are easy to use. Also, continuously updated content is the hallmark of high quality, modern websites. The combination of these capabilities is referred to as a Content Management System or CMS.
We choose WordPress as the basis for n1fd.org because we wanted to create a modern website which made it easy for all of our club members to create and share media rich content about Amateur Radio. WordPress is a feature rich, open-source based system which is easily extended to do this and much more. WordPress is easily made secure, responsive, and it produces a great looking website.
Much of the slide material which follows comes from an excellent online Introduction to WordPress.
How Does It Work?
Most modern websites have two basic parts – a Frontend and a Backend. Most of us spend our time using with the Frontend to view content on a website.
The website’s administrators and the folks who create the content for the website use the Backend. If you have written an article on our Blog for our newsletter, you have already used n1fd.org’s Backend to create it!
Where Are The Page and Post Files?
This might be the first question you would ask if you have worked with a previous generation web server. The answer is, well, there aren’t any… WordPress generates pages on the fly as we click on links and other interactive elements on n1fd.org.
All WordPress websites including n1fd.org have three basic components that work together to generate the HTML pages that we view in our browser –
- An Apache Web Server – orchestrates the steps to create and deliver web pages to our browser (client)
- A PHP Applications Server – runs PHP scripts that generate the HTML and other dynamic web page elements
- A MySQL Database Server – stores image and video metadata, text, configuration data, and user specific information. MySQL data controls the generation of the pages which we view in our browsers.
All of this seems kind of complicated doesn’t it? Fortunately, WordPress takes care of all of this technical stuff behind the scenes. All we need to do is work with the Backend of n1fd.org to create and deliver our content.
Extending WordPress Functionality
The PHP script and database approach that WordPress takes makes it very easy to extend to include new functionality.
Plugins provided by WordPress developers extend WordPress’s basic functionality. WordPress’s plugin architecture has spawned thousands of great plugins to do just about anything that you can imagine. More on WordPress plugins and themes in a future article in this series.
Website Look and Feel Through Themes
Did you know that WordPress powers over 25% of all websites on the Internet? This is a pretty amazing statistic when you stop to think about it.
So how can this be? Wouldn’t many of the sites on the Internet look similar if this were true? The final basic piece of every WordPress website is a Theme. Themes control the basic layout, look and feel of a WordPress website. There are literally thousands of Themes to choose from. A good WordPress theme will automatically adapt your content to work on mobile devices, TVs, and other devices, reformatting your content and adjusting for alternative input devices as needed. You can literally change the look and basic function of a WordPress website by simply changing the Theme used.
What Do We Mean By Dynamic Content?
One of the coolest things about how n1fd.org works is the constantly changing content on each page. Header images, lists of articles, comments and forum posts, and many other things change constantly as we move from page to page.
It would be impossible to do this without WordPress’s use of applications server, database, and PHP scripts. There are literally thousands of lines of PHP code that are executed each time some visits n1fd.org!
We use the CMS capabilities of WordPress to allow everyone in our club to create new content (Articles, Forum Posts, Comments, Image Collections, Videos, …) and WordPress uses all of this constantly updated content to create a fresh experience for each of us each time we visit n1fd.org.
That’s it for this article in the How N1FD.ORG Works series. Next up, we’ll look at how we built n1fd.org’s basic look and functionality.