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Web Design Glossary

When you’re discussing your website project with a web designer or developer, you’re bound to hear some web jargon. Here’s a handy glossary of some of the terms you’re likely to come across. Let us know in the comments if you spot an error or omission!

A ∙ B ∙ C ∙ D ∙ E ∙ F ∙ G ∙ H ∙ I ∙ J ∙ K ∙ L ∙ M ∙ N ∙ O ∙ P ∙ Q ∙ R ∙ S ∙ T ∙ U ∙ V ∙ W ∙ X ∙ Y ∙ Z

A

Above-the-fold

The part of your web page which is visible on your screen before you scroll down. Originally referred to folded newspapers. Where the ‘fold’ is can vary depending on the device, screen size, or device orientation used by the viewer.

Accessibility

Making your website accessible to all users, in particular users with disabilities.

Alt attributes or Alt tags

Adding alternate text to an image within the HTML of your site which is displayed if the image does not load, and is read aloud by screen readers. This text should describe the image. Useful for SEO purposes.

Animation

Using CSS, JavaScript and other libraries to manipulate elements on a web page as a presentational aid.

Apache

Free software which runs on a computer to make it a web server.

B

b2b

Business to business. A website is a b2b site when it’s focussed on selling to other businesses, not individual consumers. A b2c site sells directly to customers.

Backend

Backend refers to the code, files and server side scripting that make a website work. The backend is what the developer builds, and the website owner uses to update / create content and administer the site. The front end is what the website visitor sees.

Backlink

Bandwidth

The amount of data transferred by a connection. Web hosting services often limit the allowed bandwidth of a website or account on a monthly basis. If your website receives a large spike in traffic (e.g. due to a celebrity endorsement or DDOS attack) your site will exceed it’s bandwidth limit and may stop showing to visitors. Upgrading your bandwidth allowance, or using a CDN will alleviate this.

Beta test

A stage in the development of software or a website. Usually after the developer has finished testing, and before an official launch where users are informed that there may be errors and asked to provide error reports and feedback. It’s a chance to discover and fix all the problems that only arise once the product is out in the real world!

Black Hat

Search Engine Optimisation techniques which are intended to deceive a Search Engine (e.g. Google) into ranking a page higher than it deserves. These techniques are not recommended as Search Engines react quickly to such subterfuge and will lower a site’s ranking or stop listing it altogether.

Blog

Short for Web Log. A blog is a web page which acts like a diary, journal or news feed. The author writes articles and updates on a regular basis and readers may subscribe to read the news as it appears. Often used as an effective ‘content marketing’ tool alongside a company website.

Bookmark

A link to a website which is saved by a web browser to help a user to find the website again without needing to perform an internet search.

Bot

Short for Robot. People use computers / servers to automate various interactions on the internet. Common uses are fake twitter accounts and spam comments on your blog (a black hat technique to improve SEO).

Breadcrumbs

Broken Link

A link which points to a page or other resource which does not exist or has a different address. A click on such a link will produce a ‘404’ Error.

Browser

A software application installed on your PC, laptop, tablet, phone or other device used to view web pages. Common browsers are : Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Safari, Opera, and Firefox. There are many differences and quirks between the ways that browsers display web pages. Web design involves testing and tweaking a site to display correctly on different browsers.

Bug

An error in software or a web page which prevents it from functioning as intended. A tiny discrepancy such as a single missing semicolon can cause an entire website to fail. Bugs can be difficult to find in large complex sites and the process of finding bugs (debugging) is an imprecise process often involving trial and error or guesswork.

C

Captcha

A field added to a website form which is designed to prevent a Bot from completing the form but allow a human.

CDN or Content Delivery Network

A CDN is a system of globally distributed servers that deliver a webpage to a user from a server close to their geographical location, which means that even with large amounts of traffic, the site loads quickly for each user.

CMS or Content Management System

A content management system is a piece of software which runs on a web server and generates your website dynamically. You can use the CMS to enter content onto your site using a simple interface similar to a Wordprocessor. CMS websites are used for blogging, news, E-commerce, forums, DIY websites and much more. WordPress is an example of a popular CMS.

Colour Scheme

A web designer will choose a pallete of colours for a website which go together well or to achieve a particular design objective.

Comments

In web development, comments are entered into the code of a site to explain the purpose of the code to other developers. Using comments is considered good practice.

Websites featuring a blog often allow visitors to comment on the blog post and participate in discussions.

Content

The content of a website is all the text, links, images, video or other media but not the layout, design or navigational elements.

Conversion Rate

A measure of how many of a website’s visitors perform the site’s intended action, such as signing up, making a purchase or getting in touch. An important factor in evaluating the success of a website.

Cookie

CSS or Cascading Style Sheet

CSS is a styling language used to determine the appearance and behaviour of elements on a webpage. Websites can be built without CSS, but would look very plain. CSS is what allows Web developers to implement design features such as colour, layout, typeography, animations, responsivity and much more. CSS allows developers to separate the content of a site from the presentation. Site-wide changes can be made by editing the CSS rather than every page of the site.

D

Dashboard

Usually the first page displayed when a website admin logs into the back-end of a website, the dashboard displays pertinent information about the site, such as recent traffic statistics, recent comments or blog posts. There are also usually navigational links to enable administrative tasks to be performed.

Database

A method of storing information as data, organised into tables and records. Websites use databases to store user account information, products, and even content via a CMS.

Dedicated Server

A web server which is used to host only one website. All the resources of that server are available to that single website as opposed to a shared server (shared hosting) where they are shared among all the sites on that server.

Display Resolution

The width and height dimensions of a display screen such as a computer monitor or mobile smartphone, in pixels. The more pixels, the more information can be displayed. The closer the pixels are to each other (known as pixel density), the sharper the displayed content will appear. Display screens with high pixel density such as Apple Retina Displays, often expose flaws in a website’s design that are not visible at lower densities.

Domain

The web address of a website, for example dropletmedia.co.uk . The address points to a physical server which has a numerical IP address. The domain is stored and served to visitors by a Domain Name Server (DNS).

Domain Extension

The bit at the end of a domain name, for example ‘.co.uk’ or ‘.com’. There are many different extensions available, including country specific ones.

Drupal

Drupal is a popular and powerful CMS which is often used by large organisations to power large websites with content produced by multiple users.

E

E-commerce

E-commerce websites sell products, downloads or services online. They usually include features such as payment gateways, shopping carts and automated email confirmations.

Email link

Emoji

Originally meaning pictograph, the word comes from the Japanese e (picture) and moji (character). Originating on Japanese mobile phones in the 1990s emoji are small images or smileys used in digital communication and webpages. 🙂

End User

The person or persons for whom a website is designed, or at any rate the person who is using it!

F

FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions

To save time, websites often provide a list of common questions asked by their users or clients along with comprehensive answers.

Favicon

A small icon, or image which is displayed in the title bar or your browser and alongside bookmarks in that section of the browser. Our favicon is a small version of our droplet logo.

Fixed Width

A fixed width layout means that the width of the website is specified exactly as a particular number of pixels, as opposed to a fluid layout where the width is specified as a percentage of the width of the browser window, or a responsive layout which adapts to the size of the browser window. Fixed Width sites are becoming less common as they are not displayed well on small devices such as mobile phones. This site has a responsive layout, which can be observed by re-sizing your browser window.

Flash

Adobe Flash (formerly known as Macromedia Flash) is an outdated and partially depreciated browser plugin which was used to display rich web content such as animation, video and interactive multimedia. Commonly used for banner adverts. Powerful and groundbreaking in it’s time, it has now been superseded by new technologies. Its use is no longer recommended due to unfixed security vulnerabilities.

Font

In web typography, a font is a particular weight and style of a typeface, or font-family. Font and Typeface are frequently confused, and have come to mean the same thing.

Form

A website’s version of a paper form which can be filled in by a user using varying methods such as their mouse and keyboard, voice or touchscreen.

Form Validation

Using a script to check that a user has filled in a web form correctly, and displaying error or helpful messages to help/inform them. This can be done while the form is being filled in, or after the ‘submit’ button is pressed.

Front end

The part of a website that is displayed to the end user. As opposed to the back end which is used by the website administrator(s) to enter content and perform other tasks.

FTP (file transfer protocol)

A method of uploading / downloading files from a server. A software application called an FTP client is required. If you are providing a web developer access to your server, he or she will need to know details such as the address, username and password for your FTP account on the server. Make sure you trust this person! SFTP is a secure encrypted connection to your server.

Function

A section of programming code which performs a particular task and that can be ‘called’ from another section of code. This enables the developer to eliminate repetition and keep the code neat and concise.

G

GIF or Graphics Interchange Format

A popular image format which has a limited pallete of colours and supports animation. Frequently used to create amusing low resolution video clips for sharing on social media.

Google Analytics

A service offered by Google that provides statistics about a website’s traffic, where it is coming from and other metrics.

Gradient (colour)

Filling an area of a website with more than one colour so that there is a smooth transition from one colour to the next within the area.

Graphics

In web design this refers to all parts of a website which are not text such as images, embellishments and drawings.

H

Hero Image

A large, often fullscreen sized image which is displayed above the fold on a websites homepage. This can be a striking design technique.

Hit

A hit is a request for a file on a web server. Not to be confused with a visit, as a webpage consists of several files. One visit to a website may involve many hits.

Home / Homepage

The first page a visitor sees when arriving at a website’s domain, such as https://dropletmedia.co.uk

Host

For a website to be visible to visitors around the world, it must be served from a web server. This is also known as ‘hosted’ on the server. A host is the company or individual which provides the web server.

Hovering

When you move your cursor over an element on a webpage, you are hovering over it. Web designers use CSS to cause graphical effects which are triggered by hovering. They do not show on mobile devices which do not have a mouse.

HTML or Hyper Text Markup Language

A web document or webpage is made up of content, like any document. HTML is a method of ‘marking up’ that content to tell a browser how to display it. This is done by adding tags before and after the content.
For example:

<p>This content is marked up as a paragraph. 
The p in brackets is the tag which tells the browser that this is a paragraph. 
There are many tags in HTML.</p>

Often referred to as code, HTML is not a programming language.

HTTP

Stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, and is a system to exchange Hypertext. HTTP is the foundation of data communication on the World Wide Web. It is the protocol which governs how website data is transferred to your browser. Development of HTTP was ininiated by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN in 1989.

HTTP/2

A major revision of HTTP, standardised in 2015. HTTP/2 contains improvements over the original which may be utilised by websites to improve loading speed and other factors.

HTTPS

Stands for HTTP over TLS, HTTP secure or HTTP over SSL. HTTPS is a protocol for communicating information securely over HTTP. The main benefits are authentication of the visited site, and privacy and integrity of the transferred data, as the connection is encrypted. This site uses HTTPS.

Hyperlink

I

Image resolution

The amount of detail within a digital raster image. High resolution images contain greater detail, have larger file sizes and are considered higher quality. The higher the resolution of an image, the longer it will take to download from a website.

Impression

A metric used as an indication of how many times a web advertisement was viewed.

Index

Usually refers to the homepage of a website. The index page is the page served when no page is specified. E.g. https://dropletmedia.co.uk would load the index or homepage of this site.

Internal link

A link from one page on a website or domain to another on the same website or domain. As opposed to an external link, which would link to a different website.

IP address

A numerical label assigned to a device which is connected to a computer network and uses the internet protocol for communication. Your computer has a unique IP address, as does the server hosting this website, and all other websites.

J

JavaScript

JavaScript is a scripting language which is executed by your browser when you view a webpage which uses it. It is used to create dynamic behaviour in HTML documents. It’s main benefit is that it can be executed and perform tasks without the need to reload the page.

JPG / JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)

JPG is an image format which is very commonly used in web design, especially for photographs. One of it’s benefits is the ability to compress a photograph to reduce it’s storage size, and therefore the time taken to download it from a web server. This affects the loading speed of a website. The degree of compression can be adjusted, allowing a tradeoff between image quality and storage size.

jQuery

A popular and powerful JavaScript library which simplifies client-side (in browser) scripting and enables web developers to create dynamic web pages and web applications.

K

Kerning

A typographical term referring to the space between letters. Has an effect on the readability and appearance of a typeface.

Keyword

An SEO term which describes a word which might be entered into a Search Engine by potential visitors to a site. Identifying the most effective keywords for a website is a vital part of the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) strategy.

L

Landing Page

The first page a website visitor sees. Not necessarily the homepage as the visitor may be following a specific link from another site or search engine.

Layout

The specific way that the elements of a website are arranged by the web designer.

Link

Link Authority

Links to a website from trusted and high ranking sites have more authority and a greater positive effect on a website’s Search Engine ranking than from a lower ranked site.

Link Checker

A person or piece of software that will check all the links in a webpage and produce a report of all broken links.

Link Exchange

An arrangement between webmasters to link to each other’s sites.

Link Farm

A website which contains a large number of external links for the purpose of conferring page rank on the linked websites. These links do not tend to be very beneficial, and returning a link to these sites from your site may even harm your site’s ranking.

Link Rot

A website which is not regularly maintained may suffer from ‘link rot’ when external links cease working when the sites they link to are deleted or moved.

Lorem Ipsum

Lorem ipsum is dummy text used by a web designer or web developer when designing or building a website. The idea is to mimic real content by using scrambled latin words so that the viewer of the design is not distracted by the content and can better judge the design itself.

M

Mailing List

A list of email addresses of people who have subscribed to an email newsletter.

Malware

Short for malicious software, it is a term which describes software intended to damage or infect a computer, website or device for the purposes of stealing data, defacing the website or taking control of a device for nefarious purposes.

Markup

A term to describe code like HTML which contains tags to indicate the purpose of parts of the code.

Meta Tag

A HTML tag which contains data specific to a website and which refers to the website. For example the meta description or keywords tag. Used by search engines to display the data in search results.

Modal Window

Moderator

Someone who administers and regulates the users and user-generated content on a website, particularly blog comments or a discussion forum.

MP3

A standard for encoding music or sound digitally in a compressed file. Some loss of sound quality is caused by the compression.

MySQL

An open source relational database management system. Used to manage databases by websites and web applications. This website, and many others uses MySQL as part of the CMS. WordPress, Drupal, Joomla all use MySQL as do many high profile and large scale websites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google.

N

Nameserver

A server on the internet which is specially configured to handle queries regarding the location of services related to a particular domain name. Such as email servers and the web server. A vital part of the Domain Name System (DNS).

Nav bar / navigation bar

O

Online

In web design terms, online means on the internet. A computer is online if it has an active internet connection.

Online Shopping

Purchasing products or services from a website.

Opera

A web browser which runs on most platforms, developed by Opera Software.

Optimise

In web design, this means to improve some characteristic of a web page. Common examples are Search Engine Optimisation, which is the process of improving a site’s page rank in search engines, or page speed optimisation which is the process of working on the website to reduce the time taken to load the site by a visitor’s browser.

P

Padding

This is a property of an element of a webpage, specified in CSS, which determines the space (gap) between the border of an element and the contents of an element.

Pagejacking

Stealing the content of a webpage and publishing it on your own site. Usually penalised by search engines.

PageRank

An algorithm used by Google to rank websites in their search engine results. Not the only algorithm used nowadays, it works by counting the number and quality of links to a page. Named after Larry Page, one of the founders of Google.

Parallax

A technique in web design which creates the appearance of depth on a webpage by animating elements to scroll at a different speed to the page itself. Reminiscent of the way objects in the foreground move more quickly than distant objects when you look out of the window of a moving train.

Pay per click (PPC)

An online advertising arrangement where the advertiser is charged a set amount when a user clicks on their advert.

Payment Gateway

An automated method of collecting payments on a website, such as PayPal.

PayPal

An internet banking service which allows anyone with an email address to send or receive money online. A popular service for E-commerce websites.

PHP

A server side scripting language which is used extensively in web design to produce dynamic pages. WordPress is powered by PHP.

Pixel

The tiny dots which make up the image on a computer monitor or screen. A unit of measurement in web design (PX).

Plugin

A piece of software which performs a particular task or tasks and may be added to a website to add to or extend its functionality.

PNG – Portable Network Graphics

An image format commonly used on websites because it supports transparency and compression.

Popup window

Privacy Policy

A document provided by a website which describes it’s policy on dealing with visitor information.

Q

Query

The word or phrase entered into a search dialogue on a website or search engine.

R

Radio button

Used in web forms, a radio button is an element which allows a user to select one option from two or more options. The user can only select one option, when another is selected, the first choice is automatically de-selected. This is reminiscent of the station selector buttons on old transistor radios.

Ranking

Commonly used to refer to the Search Engine Ranking of a website which is the position of the site in the search results for a particular search term (keyword).

Redirect

This refers to the technique used when a website automatically sends users to another page, usually because the site has moved.

Referrer

The website a visitor was on before they visited your site, which sent them to your site.

Responsive design

The practice of designing a website so that it responds to the device that views it, by changing its layout and features so that it looks good on any screen.

S

Safari

Apple’s popular web browser, which runs on apple devices and which also has a Windows version.

Sandbox

A staging environment which allows developers to test a website before it is published. Usually used with E-commerce sites to test the payment gateways without using actual money.

Scroll Hijacking

The controversial and unpopular practice of using JavaScript to manipulate the scrollbar of a user’s browser to behave differently on a website. This can involve preventing a page from scrolling normally by altering the scroll speed, adding animated effects, scrolling to fixed points and redesigning the scrollbar itself. Ill-advised as the scrollbar belongs to the browser window and should give a uniform and consistent experience to the user.

Search Engine

A website featuring a software system designed to search for information on the World Wide Web. The results of the search are displayed in a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The results are presented in order of importance, which is decided by the search engine’s algorithms. Google is the most commonly used search engine.

Search Engine Optimisation or SEO

The process of attempting to improve the visibility and prominence (ranking) of a website in the organic search engine results pages. Generally speaking, the better the page ranking, the more web traffic a website will receive.

Select box

An element in a web form which allows a user to select one option from among a list of options, usually presented as a drop-down list.

Shared hosting

This is an arrangement where a web server will host several websites, which then share the server’s resources. Ideal for small business websites which do not have high traffic and can benefit from the lower hosting costs.

Shopping Cart

Part of an E-commerce website which dynamically stores the purchases selected by the user, prior to loading that information into the checkout area of the website which takes the payment via a payment gateway.

Sitemap

A file stored on a web server which lists all the pages of a website. Search engines use this information to intelligently ‘crawl’ a website gathering the content and indexing it.

Slideshow

A part of a website, usually powered by JavaScript which shows a series of slides, usually images, and often animated so that the slides display one after another automatically.

Source Code

This is the entirety of the files which comprise a website – including all the content and code.

Spider

An automated program which loads webpages from the internet and follows links, storing all the information that it finds in a database. Search Engines like Google use spiders to collect the data which powers its searches.

SSL Certificate

An SSL certificate is a small data file installed on a web server which binds a cryptographic key to an organisation’s details, and allows the site to use the HTTPS protocol to communicate securely with a user’s browser. Sites with an SSL certificate (like this one) display a padlock or green bar in the address bar of the browser to signify that the connection is securely encrypted.

Subdomain

This is a third level domain which is commonly used to host different sections of a large website. www.example.com might have a blog at www.blog.example.com

T

Tag

Part of HTML markup, the tags tell the browser how to display the information attached to them.

Template

In web design, a template is a complete design for a website which can be applied to a site which uses a CMS like Drupal or WordPress, or can be edited to develop a static site. The site would then take on that appearance. Often when the Template becomes outdated a new template or theme can be purchased to update the website.

Theme

A website theme is a collection of template files which create the layout and design of the site. Usually utilised by websites which use a CMS like WordPress.

Thumbnail

A smaller version of a larger image, often used in photo galleries.

Title Tag

Defines the title of a HTML document. Used by search engines in the results page, and so is important for SEO.

TLD – Top Level Domain

The part of a web address at the end. For example, in the domain name www.example.com the top-level domain is com.

Traffic

The amount of people visiting a website.

Typeface

A Typeface, (also referred to as a font-family) is a set of fonts which share common design features. Each font in a typeface has a specific weight or italicisation or other feature which differentiates it from the others.

Typography

The art of arranging type to make text legible and aethetically pleasing, or to achieve some design objective. The typographer will select typefaces and specify the size and weight of the type, length of the line, letter spacing (called tracking), line spacing (called leading), and the spacing between characters of proportional typefaces (known as kerning). The use of colour and the relationship between different sizes of font are also considered. Many typographical terms date back to the advent of the printing press or even earlier, but also apply to modern web design.

U

URL or Uniform Resource Locator

This in simple terms is a web address. www.example.com is an example of a URL. A URL is a URI. See below.

URI or Uniform Resource Identifier

A string of characters used to identify a resource. Web addresses are text based to help humans to find the sites they are looking for. The text based names are stored on a nameserver and point to a numerical IP address. Your web browser, when seeking a web address uses the global DNS system to find the server hosting the website.

User Agent

Software which acts on behalf of a user. A web browser communicates information about itself and the device it is running on to websites that it visits, which may use this information to serve a different page depending on the capabilities of the device.

USP – Unique selling proposition

A marketing device which encourages customers to choose your brand over a competitor by making a claim or proposition that differentiates your brand. One feature of your brand or product which stands out as different from the competition, and conveys unique benefits to the consumer.

V

Vector Graphics

Digital images which are stored as a series of commands and mathematical statements instead of a map of pixels. Vector graphics can be reproduced at any scale without any loss of quality, and are widely used in print design. With the advent of very high resolution monitors, web designers have begun to use vector graphics as a way of ensuring that images do not look pixellated. Vector graphics can also be animated and manipulated by creative designers.

Viral Marketing

A marketing technique which relies on creating unusual web content which is then shared by multiple users, via social media, to increase brand awareness or market a product. The intention is that the content spreads through social media like a virus through a population.

W

W3C

Short for World Wide Web Consortium. The World Wide Web Consortium is an international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web. Founded by Tim Berners-Lee in 1994, it is the standards body of the internet.

WAMP (or MAMP)

(Windows / Mac, Apache, MySQL, PHP) is a software server development environment which allows web developers to build dynamic websites on their local machines rather than working on them on a live webserver.

Web application

A piece of software which is designed to work in a browser connected to the web, rather than as a stand alone application. Gmail is a popular example.

Web site

Simply put, a collection of files containing content and code which are hosted on a web server which is pointed to by a domain name.

White hat

Refers to techniques which are considered good practices. As opposed to Black Hat. In SEO terms, white hat techniques are those which optimise the site for search engines without attempting to deceive or manipulate search results unfairly.

White space

In design terms, the empty space between content. White space is an important part of a design, and the balance between content and white space is key to aesthetic composition.

WordPress

A piece of software which can be installed on a web server and generates a website dynamically. Originally designed as a blogging platform, WordPress is a CMS which now powers millions of websites globally.

X

XML – Extensible Markup Language

XML is a markup language which defines a set of rules for encoding documents in a format which is readable by both humans and machines. Websites often use XML to encode user submitted data.

Y

Yoast

A popular WordPress plugin which enables a web designer to optimise a WordPress website for search engines.

Z

Zone file

A zone file contains the data required to translate a domain name into the IP address of the web server.

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