Web Design Terminology

Web design terminology can be vast and confusing to those not familiar with the technology. In this list, we provide some definitions for some common terms.

In the internet marketing world, analytics refers to the analysis of data gathered from interactions with websites or mobile apps, such as number of visitors, pages viewed and so on. Often synonymous with Google Analytics which is a free analytics tool kit available from Google.

An inbound hyperlink to one website from another website. An important factor in Google’s ranking algorithm and an important part of SEO.

Short for web log, a blog usually consists of regularly scheduled posts on one or more topics, written by one of more authors. Post content can consist of a wide variety of materials from opinions to in depth research. Many blogs allow for commenting on the posts and are considered valuable for Google ranking.

A cache is a local memory storage element designed to allow quick retrieval of commonly used information. A web browser cache stores commonly used files and images in the user’s browser’s memory, speeding up page load times by avoiding having to download the file(s) from a remote server.

CSS is a style sheet language used for describing the look and formatting of a web page.

Ratio of clicks on an element to the number of impressions. An impression is counted when an element is displayed on a user’s screen. For example, if you run an advertisement on a web page, and that page is viewed 1000 times, that would count as 1000 impressions. If your ad is clicked 20 times, that would give a Click Through Rate (CTR) of 20/1000 or 2%.

Traditional hosting involves running a website on a single server or computer. Processor, RAM and hard disk are housed in a single computing box. Cloud hosting uses many computers and other various elements to provide the same resources. The advantage of cloud hosting is that if one element malfunctions, the cloud hosting software automatically begins to use another in the cloud, thereby reducing or eliminating any impact on website up time.

In digital marketing, compression refers to the act of making a file smaller by optimizing the file content. For example, eliminating blank spaces in a text file can make a file considerable smaller. Images can be compressed using various algorithms to provide the same image in a smaller file size.

A Content Management System is a software application designed to make the administration of website content relatively easy for a user with little web coding experience. Content, including text, images and videos, is usually stored in a database and retrieved when a user views the particular page. Storing the content in a database allows the CMS to present a user friendly interface for the website administrator while maintaining the look and feel of the publicly viewed website. Examples of commonly used open source Content Management Systems include WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.

Content Marketing is a marketing technique designed to engage a customer audience by providing useful, relevant content relating to a product or service the vendor provides. Unlike a direct sell marketing approach, content marketing uses a more subtle technique of building expertise, confidence and trust in the vendor and its product or service while improving Google rankings by providing additional content for indexing.

In digital marketing, a cookie is a piece of information provided by a web server and stored in a user’s browser memory. Cookies can be used for a wide variety of purposes. A common example would be storing your username so that the next time you go to the website, the website can prefill your username when you log in.

The amount you are charged when someone clicks on one of your links or ads in a paid advertising campaign.

A crawler, or web crawler, is a piece of software designed to browse the internet automatically. Google uses multiple crawlers to continuously map the websites on the internet for use in its search engine.

Dedicated hosting is a form of website hosting where the account owner has complete control over the web server and does not share server resources with any other user or website. The web server is said to be “dedicated” to that user’s needs.

A domain name is a network address used as a convenient way to identify locations on the internet. A domain consists of a top level domain (.com, .net, .org etc) and anything to the left of that is considered a subdomain of the domain to its right. For example, with the domain name example.com, .com is the top level domain and example is a subdomain of .com. However, people will usually refer to example.com as a domain name. A domain name always maps to one or more IP addresses which are used by the hardware to identify physical locations on the internet.

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a standardized architecture which allows translation of domain names into IP addresses using agreed upon address lookup requests. The system consists of DNS requests, often made by web browsers and nameservers which contain the mapping of domain names to IP addresses and provide responses to the DNS requests. A simple example would consist of a web browser sending a DNS request to the name server asking “where would I find the web host for example.com?”. The nameserver in turn might respond with “the IP address for example.com is 81.123.456.232”. With that information, the browser might then communicate with the example.com web server for any subsequent page requests.

Refers to any commercial transactions conducted over the internet. For websites, eCommerce typically refers to a website or portion of a website that sells a product or service and accepts payment on the website.

An email server, or mail server, is a computer resource dedicated to handling email for one or more domains and users. An email server will receive incoming mail, forward outgoing mail, provide spam filtering and manage a number of user mailboxes.

The process of encoding information in such a way that only authorized recipients can read it. On the internet, SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a commonly used protocol that uses encryption that results in “HTTPS” URL addresses.

FTP is a standardized protocol used to transfer files between computers. In the world of websites, it is most often used to upload or download website files to and from a web server.

On the internet, a firewall is used to prevent unauthorized access to a certain set of internet resources. Most computers have some sort of firewall protection, preventing hackers from gaining access to the computer by blocking certain types of access requests.

Flash is an animation authoring software tool use to create sophisticated animations, games, video players and more. Flash has fallen out of favor lately because it is not supported on Apple mobile products like the iPhone and iPad. Given the large number of mobile users on these devices, website owners have turned to other techniques to achieve animation on their websites.

A GIF commonly refers to an image coded using the GIF standard. GIF is “lossless” compression format meaning image quality is not compromised while reducing file size. It’s a popular image format suited well for graphics but does not do a good job with photos due to its limited color palette.

In a web design, a header refers to the part at the top of a page that is typically repeated on most pages, often including elements such as a company logo, site title, navigation and other elements that may be desirable on each page.

The home page is the uppermost page in a website hierarchy and is the default page for the website that shows up if a user types the domain name without specifying a particular page.

Hosting refers to the set of resources allocated to storing and serving content to be used on the internet, most often a computer server or cloud based server. A common application involves storing and serving website content including text, images and other media files. Hosting can also refer to other applications including email services and databases.

HTML is a standard markup language used to “tag” a text file indicating what elements within the file are for. A web browser interprets this markup and displays the document according to how the text is “marked up” based on the agreed upon standard for HTML.

Also known as a backlink, an inbound link is any link to a page on a website from another page. Inbound links from external websites are a significant factor in Google’s page ranking algorithm.

An internet service provider is any business that provides internet connectivity to users including, cable companies, wireless providers, wireline providers and satellite operators. ISPs provide a variety of services but at the minimum they provide customers with a means of accessing the internet through some form of connection be it wired, wireless, cable or satellite.

Javascript is a scripting language that usually runs on a client’s browser allowing the creation of dynamic,  interactive pages. Many website behaviors are implemented using Javascript from simple button “hover” animations to form checks to more complicated applications and function libraries like jQuery.

JPEG stands for “Joint Photographic Experts Group” and refers to a standards body that defined an image compression standard back in the 90s. Today, most people think of JPEG as an image file type. The JPEG image format allows for a varying degree of image compression at the expense of image quality. It is considered a “lossy” compression technique because as the image is compressed, some image detail is lost and cannot be recovered. However, most images can be compressed resulting in dramatic file size reductions with minimal visible quality reduction.

jQuery is an open source library of functions built using Javascript. jQuery provides a broad range of functions many of which help provide more animation rich user interfaces on web pages. Today, many website slideshows for example, are built using jQuery.

A Key Performance Indicator, or KPI, is a measurement used to determine the effectiveness of some process. In the world of web analytics, a KPI is used to measure site visitor behaviors in the interests of optimizing website marketing. For example, if a website has a call to action to buy a particular product, a KPI might be how many times visitors click the “Add To Cart” for that product. KPIs are part typically part of a larger website analytics campaign.

In the world of SEO, a keyword is a word that is considered relevant and important to the website marketing. If a website sells kitchen utensils, knife, spatula and spoon might be considered keywords. Keywords are used as the basis of website optimization such that the website ranks well on the search engines for certain keywords when users perform a search.

A landing page is a web page that a user arrives at after clicking on a search engine result. Landing pages are important because if the user does not find what they are looking for immediately, they will leave the website in disappointment. Many website owners build specific landing pages for particular keywords in the interests of addressing the visitors needs as quickly as possible when they arrive at the site. This is particularly true for Pay Per Click campaigns where is costs money to get the visitor to the website.

In HTML, a link is any element that when activated, directs the browser to some other location or file, either on the same page, a different page on the same site or a different site altogether. The link can be text or an image or several other HTML elements.

In HTML, the term markup is often used to refer to the HTML text for a given page. Technically, markup refers to the tags that accompany the page content that direct the browser as to what the content is and how to display it. For example, with<h1>My Title</h1>, the h1 opening and closing tags are the markup and they tell the browser that the text in between (My Title) should be treated as a Heading 1 element.

A meta tag is an HTML element that provides some information about a page and/or its content, without necessarily being displayed to the user. There are a large number of meta tag types and some have influence on search engine rankings for that page.

Mobile refers to a class of device that are easily portable and typically connect to the internet over a cellular data connection or wifi. The device also generally runs using a mobile operating system such as Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android. In general terms, a mobile device refers to smartphones and tablets and the upcoming wearable devices (Google Glass, smart watches).

A “mouse over” refers to an event when a website user moves their mouse pointer over a particular HTML element. Often times, the mouse over event will trigger a behavior such as changing a link color or causing a pop up to be displayed.

A Name Server provides an internet directory listing, mapping domain names to IP addresses. All reachable devices on the internet have a unique IP address consisting of several numbers ( ie 168.854.12.123). To make it easier to remember an internet address, domain names (ie example.com) are used and are mapped to their IP address using the Domain Name System (DNS) that makes use of Name Servers to provide lookups for domain name address resolution.

In web design lingo, a nav bar (navigation menu bar) refers to a group of links on a website that together form a navigational element that allow a user to easily find their way around a website. Nav bars consist of several navigational links and are typically displayed either horizontally or vertically.

In web design, navigation refers to the elements of a website that allow a visitor to browse pages while maintaining a sense of where they are, where they have been and where they could go. Navigation is an important part of website usability and usually consists of navigation bars, breadcrumb links and content links among other things.

In the context of SEO, organic refers to search listings achieved through natural means, that is, without paying for a listing. Organic search results are highly sought after because they are free and they tend to get more credibility from the people doing the search, resulting in higher click through rates.

An outbound link is any link from a page on a website that links to another website or location on a different domain.

In website traffic analytics, a page view is counted every time a visitor loads a particular page.  A count of page views is a good way to get an understanding of what pages of a site are most commonly viewed.

A payment gateway is a function that provides an interface between an eCommerce application and some financial institution that will conduct online financial transactions such as accepting payments for goods or services. There are many different ways of implementing this function, but typically, the function is provided by a third party (authorize.net, Paypal) and is secured using SSL. The payment gateway takes information from a shopping cart such as purchased item information, cost, quantity and provides those details in a predetermined format for payment transaction.

PDF stands for “Portable Document Format” and is a file format that is independent of any underlying software application or operating system, allowing for documents to be printed reliably on many different computing platforms.

PHP is a scripting language that runs on the web server (as opposed to running on a site visitors computer like Javascript). If a page contains PHP code, the web server executes the PHP code before sending the page back to the browser. This allows the website to deliver dynamic content by pulling information from a database or performing some other functions. Most websites today use some sort of server side scripting and PHP is one of the most prevalent scripting languages.

In the world of web design, resolution refers to the degree of sharpness of an image. This typically pertains to display screens or images. In both cases, resolution is characterized by how many pixels are contained within a set space. Images and displays on a screen are made up of millions of pixels, each displaying a particular color which together make up an image or screen display. The more pixels available in a space, the higher the resolution, resulting in a sharper image.

Responsive Web Design is a design technique used to craft websites that are user friendly regardless of what platform they may be viewed on including desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Responsive websites detect the screen size they are being displayed on and adjust the layout and content to provide an optimal user experience for whichever device (or screensize) the user happens to be on. Responsive Web Design is the preferred design methodology according to Google.

RSS stands for Rich Site Summary and is a set of standards that allow a publisher to syndicate their content automatically. Typically, a publisher maintains an RSS feed file that describes the content it has available on its website. Users can browse this information and other RSS feeds using an RSS reader. The advantage for the user is that they get a list of all the latest news, articles or content from a variety of sites in one place without having to visit every site individually.

In typography (study of fonts), a serif is a small projection at the end of certain character strokes, often thought of as feet at the bottom of some letters. “Sans serif” describes a class of fonts that don’t have these protrusions (sans is French for without). Sans serif fonts are generally thought of as more legible on computer screens.

SVG is an XML based vector image format. Vector based image formats describe an image by specifying elements of that image using mathematical expressions, as opposed to raster graphics (bitmap, JPEG, GIF, PNG) which are composed as a set of pixels, each with a particular color assigned to it. Vector based graphics scale better that raster based graphics and are now well supported by the latest web browser versions.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) refers to the process of optimizing a website content and structure to improve rankings on a search engine’s unpaid (organic) search results.

In typography (study of fonts), a serif is a small projection at the end of certain character strokes, often thought of as feet at the bottom of some letters.

A shared hosting service is one where multiple websites reside on the same web server, each using a portion of the web server’s resources such as CPU, RAM, hard disk and internet connection. Shared hosting is generally the most economical hosting service but can suffer from performance and security issues depending on what other websites are hosted on the same server.

In the world of web design, there are two types of site maps that are of interest. The first is a web page on a given website that typically lists all or most of the pages of the site, usually showing site hierarchy allowing a visitor to navigate to any page with a single click. The other sitemap is actually an XML based file that the Google crawler uses to get a quick understanding of what pages exist on a website. This file also lists each page on the site. It’s not clear how beneficial the sitemap is in terms of search rankings, but if Google likes it, it’s worth doing.

A slideshow is any animation that displays a variety of images, typically changing automatically on some pre-determined basis. Slideshows are commonly found on home pages, page headers and portfolios.

Social Media refers to any number of platforms and technologies that allow users to share content easily amongst themselves. Examples include Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn but there are many, many more. What sets social media apart from traditional web pages is how the user can engage with the content, most often in the form of posting their own thoughts or sharing information with other users in their social network.

Social Media Optimization (SMO) refers to a number of practices used to promote something by engaging an audience in a two way discussion. Examples include social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn as well as blogging. A website owner will create links to and from their website and the social media platforms, establish a following and engage their audience on a continual basis with posts, comments updates and more. Social media presence is an important part of how Google determines a site’s ranking factor, making SMO and important element in any marketing strategy.

Spam typically refers to unsolicited emails that are sent to a vast number of recipients, usually promoting some product or service. Spam also comes in the form of unwanted comments on a blog (comment spam) or web forms being filled out by netbots (form spam). Spam has been around almost as long as the internet and represents an ongoing challenge to internet users.

WebP is an image format that provides excellent compression for images on the web. Using WebP allows web pages to load faster, which is an factor in SEO

On a web page, whitespace refers to an area devoid of text or graphics. Current design trends view whitespace as an important element in the design, resulting in clean uncluttered design that are considered more user friendly.

WordPress is a free application written in PHP that was originally conceived as a blogging platform but has since become one of the most widely used Content Management Systems in use on the internet today. The application is open source, meaning anyone is free to use it or modify it for their own purposes.

WYSIWYG stands for What You See Is What You Get and typically refers to a type of text/content editor that display the content as it will appear as you enter it, including any HTML formatting. This is useful for any site administrator who may not have a lot of experience with HTML.