A question I’m often asked by potential clientele, or friends. I know I didn’t know the difference before I got into design, but still… I often scratch my head at just how to answer this question. For a designer, or a web-savvy person, the answer just sort of exists. We don’t spend much time dwelling on it. But, it’s a valid question and there should be an answer to it.
Godaddy.com (to which I am slightly biased) has the following to say:
While domains and websites are closely connected, they are two very different things. After registering a domain, you need to do something with it, put it to work for you. Your domain can be used for a website, for an email account, or for both. You can, however, register a domain and choose NOT to use it for a website or an email account, BUT you can’t have a website or an email account without a domain.
Since a domain is not a website, we need to realize that we have to put our website somewhere. A hosting service acts as the piece of land. The domain is your address, and the host is where you build your house. A DNS server acts efficiently as a road and puts the two together. If you have a designer or a person managing your websites, the DNS should be taken care of for you.
You can purchase a domain name and hosting from the same provider but this is not necessary. For example, I have built websites using Bluehost Hosting (as they offer amazing prices for the year) and have purchased all of my domains through, you guessed it, Godaddy.
Please be mindful when purchasing a domain. The first year is often very cheap, but you will have to pay full price for each subsequent year. Think of domain names as a “lease”. You will not own the domain forever and if you choose not to renew, another person can pick up the domain.