Glossary of web terminology and jargon

I try to be pretty good about not losing people with too much web and internet industry terminology. Still, there are times when I have to use terms that are specific to describe specific things.

Below is a list of terms that will help you to understand the language being used on this site, as well as other web designer websites. When you’re looking to hire a web designer, you deserve to know what everything means so that you can make an educated decision.

Accessibility

Pertaining to the web, this refers to the general coding practices used in a web page’s development that ensures it will be usable by people employing assistive technologies, or alternative devices.

For example, best coding practices ensure that blind users can employ screen-readers that serve content properly, and people using alternative devices such as cell phones are served a page tailored to their device, and can still experience the web.

AJAX

An acronym for “Asynchronous JavaScript and XML”. JavaScript is used to control the behaviour of a web page, while asynchronous describes how the page allows for data retrieval as the user interacts with the page without it having to be refreshed. This creates an environment that feels more like a desktop software application, even though it exists on a web page.

Back End

Especially in the case of a CMS, this refers to the hidden area of a website, or at least the parts that are not seen by regular site users. There may be an administrative login area, where management of the site’s content can take place.

In the case of a regular site, the back end will refer to the coding of a site, and the JavaScript or database functions that occur dynamically, without the site user being blatantly aware in most cases.

Bandwidth

This refers to the transfer of data over an internet connection. Most ISP’s have several packages available that allow for different bandwidth allowances that are usually measured in gigabytes.

Web hosting packages usually have allowances for bandwidth, which governs how much data can be transferred during a given period (usually by the month).

Bounce Rate

This is a measure of how many users leave a website from the same page they originally landed on, without clicking on any link to visit another page. Usually reflected in percentage, it can offer some insight into whether the website’s copy is engaging users well enough, or if navigation is too difficult for users.

Browser

The software used to view web pages over the internet or locally.

Most Popular Web Browsers: Included, but not all – Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Opera, and Internet Explorer.

CMS

An acronym for “Content Management System”, this is a website that is database-driven, and includes a back end administrative area where content, and sometimes certain layout elements, are input or manipulated. The pages on these sites are dynamically built by taking chunks of code as well as database information, and presenting them in the order and configuration as pre-determined by the templates.

Copy

An old newspaper industry term that refers to the written content and images of a website or document.

CSS

An acronym for “Cascading Style Sheets”, it is a type of web document whose code dictates the styling or look of a web page’s HTML content. It’s a separate document, although co-dependent of the classes and id’s that are referred to in the HTML. Specific parameters in the style sheet will affect how the elements of the HTML document end up representing graphically on a web page. External CSS helps in keeping a web page’s structure and style in different documents so that work on either can be performed exclusive of the other.

The biggest benefits to using this method are:

  • Simplified HTML structure
  • Eradication of table-based layouts
  • Design change of a website is easily executed by changing one document rather than every document.

Database

The collection of information and data that is stored on a server to then be dynamically rendered in a document.

Desktop

In general, this is a way of referencing your screen when your computer is turned on and ready, or your base work area.

Domain

Think of the literal translation that describes a domain as a territory or realm, and your not that far off. In web terms, your domain is the address on the internet where your website can be found (e.g. www.yourwebsite.com). Also see URI.

HTML

An acronym for “HyperText Markup Language”, this is the basic code used to structure a web page.

ISP

An acronym for “Internet Service Provider”, it’s the company that you pay for your monthly internet service.

Markup

The code used in the writing of a text (.txt) file. Depending on the code used, the document then becomes one of several other types of document (i.e. .html, .css, .php, .js, etc.)

Navigation

Although usually used to refer to the main menu of pages contained in a website, navigation should refer to any link that takes a website visitor from one area to another.

Network

A group of interconnected computers. Through the network connection, computers can share resources, data, and communicate information.

PHP

A general purpose scripting language. It can be embedded in the HTML code of a website to dynamically build database enabled web pages. Also useful for command line scripting and writing desktop applications.

Tag

In the HTML code of a website, tags are found surrounding content and images, among other things. For example, this paragraph of text appears in the HTML code nestled between paragraph tags, like so:

URI

An acronym for “Uniform Resource Identifier”, it is a string of characters that serves as the address of a website (e.g. www.yourwebsite.com), although there are uses for this term outside of the web. Generally speaking, Domain, URI, and URL are all used in common vernacular to refer to a website’s address.

W3C

An acronym for the “World Wide Web Consortium”, founded in 1994, this group is the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web.


W3C Members work together to design Web technologies that build upon its universality, giving the world the power to enhance communication and commerce for anyone, anywhere, anytime and using any device.

Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

The group is made up of 349 members (as of the time of this writing) from various web-related fields. Vendors of technology products and services, content providers, corporate users, research laboratories, and the like make up the bulk of the contributing membership.

Web Design

This area of the web deals primarily with the look of a website. Visual and graphic presentation can be created using several tools including graphic design software, WYSIWYG editors, as well as the code in Cascading Style Sheets. Not all tools are created equal, and differences in price, quality of output, and ease of use vary greatly in all categories.

Graphic Design Software: Included, but not all – CorelDRAW, Photoshop, Adobe Flash, Paint Shop Pro, GIMP

WYSIWYG Editors: Included, but not all – MicroSoft FrontPage, Adobe Dreamweaver, Amaya, Rapidweaver, Adobe Golive, MicroSoft Expression, SeaMonkey Composer.

Web Development

This area of the web deals primarily with the functionality of a website. Web pages are written in HTML and other types of code are written to interact with it. Among them will often be CSS, PHP and JavaScript files, although many other languages can be used in web development.

Website

A collection of documents stored on a server written primarily in HTML. Other languages may be involved in the code of the document as well. The server is generally tied to a network that accesses the internet, or world wide web. In this way, people can view the documents through a browser on their computer as long as they have an internet connection.

WYSIWYG

An acronym for “What You See Is What You Get”, these are software packages that allow for the layperson to create a web document easily without any knowledge of writing code. The final design output will look very similar, or exactly, like it did during production.

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