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Using your domain

arafel profile image Paul Walker Originally published at solarwinter.net on ・4 min read

So you’ve read part 1, and you’ve bought yourself a domain. Now you need to actually do something with it.

Website

If you say the internet, the first thing people think of these days is usually a website. There are two main types, static and dynamic.

Both types of site need somewhere to live, what’s usually called hosting.

Static

A static site means that the files don’t change. What you upload is what the user sees, no more and no less. This is good for a few reasons:

  • it’s more secure - people can’t break in using software that isn’t running
  • it’s cheaper to host - serving files that don’t change is something web servers are really good at by now.
  • it’s easier to cache, both for the users browser and for intermediate services like Cloudflare.
  • This makes it faster for people to get your site and start viewing it, which is also Good.

However, it can also limit interactivity. The most people can do with your site is to fill out a contact form, and only that if you’ve got support for it from your hosting provider or a third party like Formspree.

Dynamic

A dynamic site means the site can respond to what the user does. They can sign up, login, put items in a cart, checkout, whatever stuff you usually do on a website. This is done with code running on the server side, responding to user choices and generating a new page to send back to them.

The downsides are pretty much the opposite of the static benefits:

  • it can be less secure
  • it’s more expensive to host (that code has to run on something)
  • it’s harder to cache, etc.

Single Page Application

I know, I said two main types.

These lie somewhere between the two. They’re built from static files, so you get all that good stuff. When they load, they start interacting with other server code, usually using Javascript. This can be things you’ve also written and put online, or services supplied by one or more other parties (e.g. authentication from Auth0, database support from Supabase/Firebase). Or indeed anything in between.

Upsides - pretty much the same as static. The primary downsides are:

  • the website is usually larger to download (all the Javascript adds up).
  • it can take longer for the user to see a working page, both because of the download size and the startup time
  • search engines (like DuckDuckGo or Google) don’t see the same page that you see, so it’s harder for your site to get indexed

There are ways around these, but then things get more complex to build. Web development seems to oscillate between complicated and simple, people want the benefits of both.

Right, definitely enough about websites.

Email

A domain’s of limited use without email. If you have a website then it’s nice for people to be able to contact you; if you don’t have a website and you don’t have email there’s not much point in having the domain!

There are many advantages to having your own domain for email. The first one is that it’s easy to change provider - you don’t have to go through and change foobarbaz@gmail.com to bazbarfoo@outlook.com in fifty-two different services.

It also just looks better to people - be honest, doesn’t bob@myservice.com look better than BobsExcellentService123@gmail.com?

There are special DNS records for email, called MX records (Mail eXchange). When you sign up to an email service, if it’s not provided by your registrar, you’ll need to make changes to those records, or let your mail service deal with your DNS entries. Neither choice is anywhere near as complicated as it sounds.

I use and can thoroughly recommend FastMail. They mostly just do email, and they’ve been doing it for a long time, so they’re very good at it. It’s not free - what that means, though, is that you’re not the product. Your emails are private, as they should be.

Disclaimer: the first FastMail link above is a referral link. If you sign up through it then you get 10% off your first year, and I get a little something too. Not much, but something.

ProtonMail is another good service, and they do offer free accounts (with limited features).

That’s it for now

I have to admit this post feels like it kind of drifted off of domains onto “things I can think of”. I’ve run out of things to say connected with domains for the moment.

If anyone reading has any questions or ideas, feel free to drop it in a comment below or drop me an email/message!

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