Starting a web development project can be a little overwhelming, so knowing the terminology will help you understand what you are getting. If you work in another industry besides the web industry, then these terms might not be used very often. Let’s take a look at some terms that are used a lot during a website build or redesign project.
Commonly used Website Terms and their Definitions
ACCESSIBILITY: Relates to web design/coding standards and refers to how easy it is for everyone to use your website, including people who are visually impaired or in any way physically handicapped, or limited by older or less common computers and software. These days with the smaller screen-sized tablets and smart phones, accessibility for use on all devises is important; especially with the growing number of people using smaller screen devices to go online.
ADDRESS BAR: The white bar towards the top of your computer screen. It will normally have something typed in it that starts with “http://”
ANCHOR TEXT: The text a link (hyperlink) uses to refer to your web page. These make a difference in your search engine results.
ASCII: American Standard Code for Information Interchange. A code that represents English characters as numbers, ranging from 0 to 127.
ASP: A coding language that is compatible with Windows servers.
ATTRIBUTE: An attribute supplies additional information within an element. Attributes come in name/value pairs and are always inside the start tag. Example of a tag (<a></a>)
BACKLINKS: Links from other website pages to yours. Backlinks are used to increase a site’s popularity with search engines and to get more people to visit your site.
BANDWIDTH: It may help if you read “traffic” first, but very simply, bandwidth relates to how much a resource is used. When a website gets a lot of visitors, it will use a lot of bandwidth.
BETA: A term used for software that is in a “live” testing phase. People can use it, but can expect some hiccups.
BLOG: An online journal or diary and a very popular current method of sharing your thoughts with the world. It is also very popular as a marketing tool. This article is found within Thinking IT’s blog.
BOUNCE RATE: A website’s bounce rate is the percentage of people who leave the site from the same page they entered the site, without clicking through to any other pages.
CACHE: Every time you do anything on your computer, it stores this in memory so that the next time you try to do the same thing, it happens quicker than having to wait from scratch. The place where it stores all this is called the “cache”. The irony is that if your cache gets too full, it in fact makes your computer work a lot slower. It’s a good idea to empty your cache regularly to keep your computer working optimally.
CASCADING STYLE SHEETS: Also referred to simply as CSS, Cascading Style Sheets are used to define the look and feel of a web site outside of the actual HTML file(s) of the site. In recent years, CSS has replaced tables and other HTML-based methods for formatting and laying out websites.
CATCHALL: This refers to an email folder that will catch any and all emails sent to your domain, even if there is no such address there. For example, you only have one email address on your domain, which is email@example.com. Now if someone sends an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, the catchall will accept this email and store it, even though the address is invalid. Catchalls used to be a great idea in case someone spelled your name incorrectly – you would still get the email. However, these days, it’s a bad idea to use a catchall because spammers target these ferociously and you will end up collecting loads of junk that will either swamp your Inbox or cause your mailbox to become so full that legitimate emails bounce.
CHAT: In the context of the internet “chat,” it is a feature that allows users from all over the globe to communicate in real time or almost real time. Conventional chat is communication via typing which then appears on the recipient’s screen. This is done via a piece of software that exists on a server. In some cases, you need to install complimentary software onto your own computer, as well.
CMS: “Content Management System”. A dynamic website that is normally database-driven and enables the owner/user to manage the content of their own website (make changes) without needing to know any coding at all.
CODE: Nothing that you see on the internet is what it appears to be. Everything is coded in one way or another to achieve the exact look, layout and functions.
CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM: Also known as a CMS, the content management system is a back-end tool for managing a site’s content that separates the content from the design and functionality of the website. Using a CMS can make it easier to change the design of a site independent of the site’s content or pages. A content management system can also make it easier for pages and images to be added to the website for people who aren’t programmers, saving on the cost of hiring a programmer because you can add/edit/delete content yourself.
CONVERSION: A marketing term that refers to how many website visitors convert to buyers. If 1 out of every hundred visitors to a site end up buying something, there is a 1:100 (or 1%) conversion rate.
COOKIE: A small piece of information that certain websites store on your computer when you visit them. Cookies are normally harmless and the reasons for using them vary. Sometimes it is to make sure that their website loads quickly when you visit next, by drawing the saved information from your own computer rather than from the website itself.
DATABASE DRIVEN: With a normal static website, the information that you see is on the page itself. It does not change unless someone manually edits the page. On a database driven website, the information is not stored on the page, but in a database.
DIRECTORY or SEARCH ENGINE DIRECTORY: Much like the Yellow Pages, a directory is a place where information about hundreds, thousands and millions of websites is stored to allow people to easily and quickly find information and/or resources. Yahoo is an example of a search engine directory, Trades Check for example is a directory website for people wanting to find local licensed tradesmen.
DOMAIN: A domain is a person or organization’s unique space on the internet. In layman’s terms, it is commonly used to mean the name of your website.
DOMAIN NAME: A domain is identified by the number assigned to its unique space. To make it easier to use however, the number is given the name of your choice and this name is assigned to the number. In this way, people do not need to remember the number (IP) in order to visit a website, but can use the easier-to-remember domain name. This websites domain name is www.bradyworks.com.
DOMAIN NAME EXTENSION: Often referred to as Internet Top-Level Domains (TLDs). The official list of all top level domains is maintained by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). Each country is designated an extension; Australia is .au, India is .in, United States of America is .us and not .com as most people think.
DOMAIN REGISTRATION: In the same way that you have to register a business name, you need to register a domain name. Only once it is registered do you have the ability to assign it to a specific number so that it has an actual location on the internet. A domain name registration is normally only valid for one or two years, at the end of which it has to be renewed for you to continue using it. Some domain names must be registered for 2 years minimum.
DNS: Stands for Domain Name Service (alternately Domain Name System or Domain Name Server). Basically, it’s the thing that converts IP addresses into domain names. DNS servers are provided with the IP address of your web server when you assign your domain name to those servers. In turn, when someone types your domain name into their web browser, those DNS servers translate the domain name to the IP address and point the browser to the correct web server.
DOCTYPE: The doctype declaration specifies which version of HTML is used in a document. It has a direct effect on whether your HTML will validate.
ELEMENT: A HTML element is everything from the start tag to the end tag. Using the p tag (<p>) as an example: <p>This is a paragraph</p> the <p> element has a start tag <p> and an end tag </p> with the element content being ‘This is a paragraph’. The <p> element defines a paragraph in the HTML document.
FAVICON: Favicons are tiny (generally 16×16 pixels, though some are 32×32 pixels), customizable icons displayed in the web address bar in most browsers next to the web address. They’re either 8-bit or 24-bit in color depth and are saved in either .ico, .gif or .png file formats. The favicon used by Thinking IT is the head logo.
FONT FAMILY: Font family is a group designation for defining the typefaces used in CSS documents. The font family tag generally lists multiple fonts to be used, and usually ends with the generic font category (such as “serif” or “sans-serif”).
FREEWARE: Software that is made available at no cost whatsoever. This often includes advertising for the provider and is sometimes used to entice a user to purchase the unbranded version with no advertising. Freeware from an unknown or questionable source should be avoided as these programs can contain viruses or adware.
FTP CLIENT: The software program that you use to upload your website to a host server.
GIF: A type of file used for images, especially animated graphics and line-drawn images (as opposed to photographs). A .gif image can be saved with a transparent background, making it ideal for graphic overlays.
HEXADECIMAL: Also referred to as “hex” numbers, they are a base-16 numbering system used to define colors online.
HIT: A hit is actually a request for a single file from your web server. This means one page can actually generate multiple hits, as each page generally has more than one file (an html or other base file, a CSS file, multiple images, etc.).
HOST / HOSTING: In order for you to have an email address or a website, a computer somewhere with all the necessary software, has to provide you with 3 things: an IP (domain) address, physical space to store the information and bandwidth that accommodates the flow of information that is taking place on your behalf.
.HTACCESS: The .htaccess file is the default directory-level configuration file on Apache servers.
HTML: Hyper Text Markup Language. This is the base language that is used for creating websites.
HTTP: HyperText Transfer Protocol. This is a method used to transfer information on the internet and normally precedes the “description” of the actual resource being accessed and transferred.
HTTPS: Similar to HTTP, HTTPS stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol over SSL (Secure Socket Layer) or, alternately, HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure.
HYPERLINK: A hyperlink is a link from one web page to another, either on the same site or another one.
HYPERTEXT: Hypertext is any computer-based text that includes hyperlinks. Hypertext can also include presentation devices like tables or images, in addition to plain text and links.
IFRAME: Short for Inline Frame. An iframe is used to display one or more web pages within another normal web page (one that isn’t a frameset page).
IP or IP ADDRESS: Internet Protocol. Very simply, the IP address refers to the actual number that a web address name translates to. (also see “domain”). The IP number is the real address.
ISP: Internet Service Provider. The company that provides you with internet access (connection) and related services is your ISP.
JPG: A type of file used for images, especially photographs. Images used on web pages work best as jpg or gif.
KEYWORD or KEY PHRASE: An internet marketing term that refers to the main topics or subjects of your web pages in relation to how people would phrase them when searching for your products or services on the internet. For example, your topic may be “Quantifiable Analysis of the Strategic Business Model” but the average person searching for your exact information may simply search for “planning business strategies.” Your key phrases are at the core of any website marketing strategy and needs to relate to your target market’s thinking rather than your own.
LINK: The internet is made up of millions of resources and computers that all link to each other.
META DATA Meta data is the data contained in the header that offers information about the web page that a visitor is currently on. The information contained in the meta data isn’t viewable on the web page (except in the source code).
META TAG: Included in the head section of an html web page and is visible to search engines but not human visitors. Meta tags provide information about a web page, like the topic (title), keywords, description and also instructions to search engine robots and visitor browsers.
NAVIGATION: Navigation refers to the system that allows visitors to a website to move around that site. Navigation is most often thought of in terms of menus, but links within pages, breadcrumbs, related links, pagination, and any other links that allow a visitor to move from one page to another are included in navigation.
OPTIMISE: An optimised graphic is one that has been compressed as far as possible without sacrificing acceptable quality. This allows the image to load more quickly when someone visits a website.
PHP: A programming language that is Linux-based rather than Windows-based.
PLUG IN: A plug-in is a bit of third party code that extends the capabilities of a website.
PROPAGATION: (Please first read about IP’s and domains if you are not already familiar with those terms). When an IP is changed because you have started up a new website or moved your website from one hosting company to another, every name server across the entire internet globally has to update its records to know where to find you. This process is called propagation and can take up to 48 hours.
SEARCH ENGINE FRIENDLY: This relates to how well a site has been put together. A search engine friendly website is one that search engines can easily read and find all the links on AND which search engines “like” because it is properly optimized and not breaking any of their rules.
SEO: Stands for “Search Engine Optimization” and very simply refers to the practice of tweaking website coding and content to achieve the highest possible search engine ranking. SEO practitioners are people who specialize in this (or claim to).
SERVER: A server is a computer that is used to house websites and provide a physical storage area for websites and emails. Without a server, your website would not be viewable to the world.
SERVER SIDE: Server-side refers to scripts run on a web server, as opposed to in a user’s browser.
SHAREWARE: Shareware is a piece of software that you can use free of charge for a set period. After that you have to buy it or pay a license fee in order for the software to keep working.
SITEMAP: This is an index to all the content on a website.
SUBDOMAIN: A domain that is behind another, but totally separate. Using sub-domains you can effectively have multiple “domains” on a single registered domain name and hosting account.
TAG: A tag is a set of markup characters that are used around an element to indicate where it starts < > and ends </ >. Tags can also include HTML or other code to specify how that element should look or behave on the page.
URL: Uniform Resource Locator. (Allows all resources on the internet to be located in a uniform manner). A URL is a website address that has all the pertinent information for finding the exact location attached to it.
WWW: World Wide Web. Another name for the Internet.
XHTML: Stands for Extensible Hypertext Markup Language. Basically, XHTML is HTML 4.0 that has been rewritten to comply with XML rules.
XML: Stands for Extensible Markup Language. XML is a specification for creating other, custom markup languages. It’s an extensible language because it allows for the user to define the mark-up elements.