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Custom domains garner name recognition for your web-application or website. Consider the Google search-engine: without a domain, you would need to type in the IP address for it.
This would be far more difficult to remember than the URL www.google.com – instantly recognizable.
Web-addresses like www.google.com act as placeholders for an IP address and help us remember the website.
When you type a URL in your search bar, your computer sends a request with the URL to the Domain Name System (DNS) – a cluster of servers worldwide containing domain names and corresponding IP addresses.
The DNS then returns the URL’s corresponding IP address, and you connect to the website you were trying to reach.Following this guide, we’ll learn how to buy a domain and route it to a Code Capsules hosted web-application. Along the way, we’ll learn more about the DNS and related topics.
To complete this tutorial, we’ll need:
Domain Registrars are businesses accredited to sell domains. We’ll purchase a domain from the registrar, www.gandi.net. Some things to keep in mind when choosing a domain name:
Keeping these tips in mind, let’s purchase a domain.
To purchase a domain on Gandi:
Follow the prompts to create an account and purchase your domain. Then log in to Gandi.net with your new account and click the “Domain” button on the dashboard.
If Gandi has processed the domain, find it under the “Active” tab – if it’s still processing, view it under the “Pending” tab. Processing a domain can take some time.
Before routing the new domain to a web application, we have something left to consider – the security of your web-application.
Domain names are one portion of a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) – Google’s domain name is google.com, and the URL is http://www.google.com. Similarly, example.com is a domain name, and http://www.example.com is the URL associated with it.
HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. When you see HTTP beginning a URL such as http://www.google.com, you know that the information retrieved by entering this address returns in clear text. This means data is vulnerable when interacting with this website, presenting a problem for any website dealing with sensitive information. The alternative is HTTPS – Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure.
HTTPS encrypts data sent between you and the server that you’re connected to. Because of the security risks associated with HTTP, many websites “force” an HTTPS connection. Try entering http://www.google.com in your web browser. You’ll notice the
http portion automatically becomes
Like the Google example, we’ll make sure that if a user attempts to connect via
http://www.yourwebsitehere.com, they’ll redirect to
Setting up HTTPS is a quick process with Gandi – let’s do that for your domain.
To set up HTTPS with the domain, we need to register a free SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. In short, an SSL certificate helps encrypt the data sent when connected via HTTPS.
To register an SSL certificate for our domain, we must:
This will forward any users connect to
https://yourdomainhere.tld – it forces users to take advantage of HTTPS. After creating this forwarding address, Gandi automatically creates an SSL certificate. This can take some time to process.
You’ll need to verify your email address with Gandi before receiving the SSL certificate, so check your email for a verification link from Gandi.
Now that the domain has an SSL certificate, we’ll route your Code Capsules web-application to the domain. Navigate to your domain on the Gandi dashboard.
Click the “DNS Records” tab at the top of the page. DNS records contain your domain’s “information”. When users enter your domain in their search bar, their computer will receive these records (or information).
Gandi supplies numerous DNS records with default values upon domain creation. We’ll only concern ourselves with entries containing the “A” and “CNAME” types.
An A record stores the IP address of the server that hosts your web-application (in this case, Code Capsules). When you type in a domain name, your computer requests the A record associated with the domain from the DNS. The DNS returns the A record containing the IP address – this is what you finally connect to.
Let’s modify the default A record to route to your web-application:
It may take up to 3 hours for these changes to process. View your web-application by typing
https://yourdomainname.tld, replacing your domain name with “yourdomainname” and “.tld” with your extension (such as .com).
Notice that if you type
https://www.yourdomainhere.tld, you’ll receive a 404 error. To fix this, we’ll add a new “CNAME” record. A CNAME is like an alias for a domain – we’re going to create one that tells the DNS that it should direct users who enter the leading “www.” to the same place as those who leave it out.
To allow users to enter in “www.” before your domain name:
www.yourdomainname.tld, replacing your name and TLD appropriately.
You can now view your web-application by entering either
https://www.yourdomainname.tld. Once more, it may take up to 3 hours for these changes to process.
We’ve learned how to purchase, secure, and configure a domain, route a domain to your Code Capsules application, and even a little bit about DNS.
If you’re interested, there is still a lot to learn about DNS. A fine place to start is Amazon Web Services’ page on DNS.
If you’d like to know about the rest of the DNS records associated with your new domain, this Google help page contains a good overview
Finally, if you’d like to read more about how the HTTP protocol works, this Mozilla Developers Network page is a good place to start.
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