Web Design

Web Design Glossary

Web Design - Terms and Definitions

Web Design has its own unique set of terminology, definitions and abbreviations. Understanding Web Design can be difficult especially with so many terms and definitions. There are specialized terms referring to all sorts of aspects of web design. For someone just getting started in web design, or someone looking to have a site designed, all the technical jargon can be overwhelming. Especially the acronyms.

This Web Design glossary was created to help answer questions and strengthen your understanding of the Web Design industry and terminology used.


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/Below the Fold

In website design, content “above the fold” refers to all elements that appear onscreen as soon as the page loads, whereas “below the fold” are those that appear immediately below.

Accessibility

Basically, this is the ability of a website to be used by people with disabilities, including visually impaired visitors using screen readers, hearing impaired visitors using no sound, color blind people, or those with other disabilities. Accessibility is particularly important for sites providing information to those with disabilities (healthcare sites, government sites, etc.).

Anchor text

The text that is linked from is called anchor text. A text that has hyperlinks is called hypertext.

Agile

The term "agile" refers to an iterative, incremental method of managing design and development. In an agile workflow, requirements evolve from sprint to sprint, and teams work in a collaborative structure. In an agile project, code is shipped and features are released continually, unlike in a fixed-bid, fixed-timeline, single release waterfall project.

Alignment

The positioning of the elements in your design (e.g. text, images, etc.). These elements can be aligned to both the page and to each other. For example, this paragraph of text is aligned to the left margin, whereas the lines depicted in the image below are aligned to the right.

AJAX

Stands for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. AJAX is typically used for creating dynamic web applications and allows for asynchronous data retrieval without having to reload the page a visitor is on. The JavaScript on a given page handles most of the basic functions of the application, making it perform more like a desktop program instead of a web-based one.

ALT Attribute

Used to specify the alternate text that is displayed inside the image placeholder while the page is loading. This text plays a role in optimizing a website for SEO.

Analogous Colors

Colors that appear adjacent to each other on a color wheel.

API

An API (Application Programming Interface) is a mechanism that allows different systems to communicate. It provides a method of accessing or manipulating data from a system, usually provided by the system's implementors. A "system" could be anything. Examples include applications like PayPal, Shopify, and Salesforce, but it could also be a custom application that stores shipping rules, product inventory and prices. They could potentially also use the API to push information from the website into the other system.

B

B2B / B2C

A B2B website is one that focuses on selling to other businesses (business to business) while a B2C website focuses on selling to customers (business to customer).

Back End

The back end of a website is the part hidden from view of regular website visitors. The back end generally includes the information structure, applications, and the CMS controlling content on the site.

Backlink

Backlinks are links from other sites back to your own. They’re sometimes also referred to as “trackbacks” (especially on blogs).

Blog

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.

Bad Neighborhood

A “bad neighborhood” refers to the server where your site is hosted. A site hosted on a server that hosts other sites that spam or use black-hat SEO practices can end up penalized by search engines solely because of their proximity to those sites.

Bandwidth

Bandwidth refers to either (a) the speed or rate at which data is transferred online or (b) the amount of data that can be transferred from a web host in a given period. In both senses of the term, high bandwidth connections allow more content to be accessed through both better speeds and more data allocation.

Blog

Blogs are an online method of sharing content. They are often used by businesses as a marketing tool. Blogs generally consist of short articles posted on a regular basis.

Breadcrumb

Breadcrumbs are the bit of navigation elements that generally appear near the top of a give web page that show you the pages and subpages the appear before the page you’re on. For examples, on a blog, the breadcrumbs might look something like: For example: “Home > Solutions > Social Media”.

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. High bounce rates are red flags that suggest that either (a) the navigation of the website or (b) the quality of its content needs to be improved.

Branding

Branding is more than a Many people think branding is just a logo. Branding is also communicated through your website, business card, product packaging, and any other promotional materials used in your business.

Browser

This refers to the programs or apps used to view websites. Programs like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Microsoft Edge are internet browsers.

Browser compatibility

Browser compatibility means when a website runs correctly on different web browsers. It also is used when a website looks good (or acceptable downgrade) is all or the most common web browsers through testing, adjustments, and expertise.

C

Cache / Caching

Cached files are those that are saved or copied (downloaded) by a web browser so that the next time that user visits the site, the page loads faster.

Cascading Style Sheet (CSS)

CSS is a style sheet language used to describe the presentation(the look and formatting) of a document written in a markup language. It is applied web page data or content written in HTML and XHTML. CSS separates the design and style from the page information resulting in great benefits such as quicker load time, easier edits, and simplified redesign process. Font changes, background colors, and more can be changed in one CSS file in a matter of minutes.

Call-to-action (CTA)

Specific text, image, banner or button which uses persuasive, action-oriented words that urges the viewer to act. They’re designed to get viewers to interact and go from one page to the next, persuading them to make an expected, predetermined action. For example, “Buy now!”.

Clickthrough Rate (CTR)

The percentage of website visitors that lingers and advances onto another part of your website, specifically to pages and features tied into a marketing action or campaign. The CTR is a reliable indicator of the level of engagement users have on your website, as well as the effectiveness of your calls-to-action.

Client-Side

Client-side refers to scripts that are run in a viewer’s browser, instead of on a web server (as in server-side scripts). Client-side scripts are generally faster to interact with, though they can take longer to load initially.

Cloud Hosting

Traditional hosting involves running a website on a single server or computer with its Processor, RAM and hard disk 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.

CMYK Color Model

Stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. This set of colors is used in print design because of the way paper absorbs light.

Color Palette/Scheme

The combination of colors used throughout the entire website. Color palettes lend a unifying theme across different pages in a website, helping create a distinctive identity and brand recall.

Complementary Colors

Colors that are directly opposite of each other on the color wheel.

Comment

In web design terms, a comment is a bit of information contained in a site’s HTML or XHTML files that is ignored by the browser. Comments are used to identify different parts of the file and as reference notes.

Compression

Reducing a file size by eliminating excess data. Particularly helpful when emailing or saving large image files. See more on lossy and lossless compression.

Content Management System (CMS)

A CMS (Content Management System) is a platform where people who manage an organization's website can log in to edit and publish content. Within a content management system, site editors can do things like control the site navigation, add or update text content, upload images, and build new pages. Examples of popular CMS's include: WordPress, Joomla, Sitecore, Episerver, Ektron, and Umbraco.

Content Marketing

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.

Contrast

The accentuation of differences between colors, shapes, spacing, or any other design element.

Conversion

When a user takes a specific desired action. This includes lead generation when a viewer completes a form submitting a request for more information on your services, or subscribing to a newsletter. It’s whatever action you’re wanting your viewer to make.

Conversion Rate Optimization

This system is implemented in order to either increase the number of conversions from a website’s visitors, or to prompt visitors to take a specific action on a web page.

Cookies

In the internet world, 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.

Copy

Copy refers to the text content on a web page and includes the main text as well as any headlines or captions.

Cost Per Click (CPC)

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

cPanel

This is a Linux-based control panel that will help you access and administer your web host using a graphic interface.

Crawler

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.

CRM

A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system is a tool used to manage customer information. It will typically store things like customer contact information, customer status (lead, prospect, active customer), sales or service history, etc. Popular CRMs include Salesforce, Zoho and HubSpot.

Crop

When outer parts of an image are removed to reframe the subject matter, or to resize the image's aspect ratio.

CSS

See Cascading Style (CSS) Sheets.

CSS Framework

A CSS framework is a collection of CSS files used as the starting point to make XHTML and CSS web sites quickly and painlessly. They usually contain CSS styles for typography and layout.

D

Dedicated Hosting

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. The web server is said to be “dedicated” to that user’s needs.

DHTML

Stands for Dynamic HyperText Markup Language. DHTML fuses XHTML (or any other markup language), the DOM, JavaScript (or other scripts), and CSS (or other presentation definition languages) to create interactive web content.

Dither

In GIF and certain other image formats, there is a limited color palette used for each image. Because of this, not all colors in an image are presented. Dither is used to approximate these colors by combining pixels of different colors side by side.

Deprecated

Deprecated code is code that is no longer included in the language specifications. Generally this happens because it is replaced with more accessible or efficient alternatives.

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.

Dots per Inch (DPI)

Similar to the pixel for the web, dots are the smallest unit of measurement when printing digital images. The number of DPIs refer to the resolution of a printed digital object -- the higher the DPI, the higher the resolution.

Domain Name System (DNS)

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a standardized architecture which allows translation of domain names into IP addresses using agreed upon address lookup requests. Domain Name Systems (DNS) are the equivalent of phone books. They maintain a directory of domain names and transform them into IP addresses. While it’s easier for us to remember domain names, computers use IPs to access websites. They translate domain names into IPs using name servers.

Domain

The domain is the name by which a website is identified. The domain is associated with an IP address. Domains can be purchased with any combination of letters, hyphens (-), and numbers (though it can’t start with a hyphen). Depending on the extension (.com, .net, .org, etc.), a domain can be anywhere up to 26 to 63 characters long.

DTD

Stands for Document Type Definition. DTD is one of several SGML and XML schema languages. It provides a list of the attributes, comments, elements, entities, and notes in a document along with their relationships to each other.

Drop Shadow

A visual effect that displays a graphic as if it had a shadow behind it.

E

E-Commerce

Short for electronic commerce. It’s the buying and selling of goods online, through websites. Products sold through e-commerce can be physical products that require shipping, or digital products delivered electronically.

Elastic Layout

An elastic layout is one that uses percentages and ems for widths paired with a max-width style to allow the site layout to stretch when font sizes are changed. It’s ability to flex to accommodate the browser width and reader’s font preferences are where it gets its name.

Element

In XML, an element is the central building block of any document. Individual elements can contain text, other elements, or both.

Email Server

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.

Embedded Style

An embedded style is a CSS style written into the head of an XHTML document. It only effects the elements on that page, instead of site-wide as a separate CSS file does. Style in an embedded style sheet will override styles from the linked CSS file.

Encryption

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.

End User

The person for whom a website is built.

EPS

A file format used for vector images that contain both text and graphics.

Extensible Markup Language

Otherwise known as XML. XML is a markup language used for writing custom markup languages. In other words, XML describes how to write new languages (it’s sometimes referred to as a “meta” language because of this). It also serves as a basic syntax that allows different kinds of computers and applications to share information without having to go through multiple conversion layers.

External Style Sheet

This is a CSS document that is written in a separate, external document. The biggest advantage to using an external style sheet is that it can be linked to by multiple HTML/XHTML files (which means changes made to the style sheet will effect all the pages linked to it without having to change each page individually).

F

Facebook

Facebook is a social network service where users create personal profiles and connect to other users as friends.

Favicon

Favicons are tiny (generally 16x16 pixels, though some are 32x32 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.

Feathering

A design technique used to smooth out edges of a feature.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

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.

Firewall

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

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.

Fluid Layout

Also known as a Liquid Layout, this percentage based version will optimize the amount of content that can be viewed on-screen, regardless of browser size.

Fixed Header

A bar that is always visible to website users even as they continue scrolling down a page. Fixed headers keep main navigation links accessible, making sure that users can click on them any time they need to.

Fixed Width Layout

A fixed width layout has a set width (generally defined in pixels) set by the designer. The width stays the same regardless of screen resolution, monitor size, or browser window size. It allows for minute adjustments to be made to a design that will stay consistent across browsers. Designers have more control over exactly how a site will appear across platforms with this type of layout.

Focal Point

A central item or area where a viewer’s eye is drawn to on a website. Good web design involves knowing which parts of the website should demand the user’s focus, whether it’s a piece of content or a call-to-action.

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’).

Font Style

In CSS, the font style refers solely to whether a font is italic or not.

Font Weight

The font weight refers to how thick or thin (bold or light) a font looks.

Front-End

The front-end is basically the opposite of the back-end. It’s all the components of a website a visitor can see (pages, images, content, etc.). Specifically, it’s the interface that visitors use to access the site’s content. It’s also sometimes referred to as the User Interface.

Function

A section of code that can be summoned from another section of code or another page so that the designer doesn’t have to keep repeating it.

G

Ghost Site:

A website that is still on the Internet, but isn’t maintained or updated.

Graphical User Interface

Also referred to by its acronym: GUI. A graphical user interface uses an input device (like the mouse) and visual representations of how the user is able to interact with a web application. In other words, it’s all the front-end stuff you see on a web application. It’s purpose is to allow you to interact with a web application without having to enter code.

Graphics Interchange Format (GIF)

GIF is a popular file format for web graphics. GIF is the ideal choice for displaying graphics with large areas of solid color, such as logos, without any loss in quality. GIFs only support 256 colors, but they allow for transparency. GIFs can also be animated.

Grid

In website layouts, grids are a series of intersecting vertical and horizontal lines that provide a structure to organizing content on a webpage. Grids guide designers in aligning and organizing content so that they are visually appealing and easy to absorb.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free service provided by Google that generates demographic statistics about the visitors of a website, such as how they visited and how long they were on the page.

Gradient

A design technique in which one color or portion of an image appears to fade into another.

Growth-Driven Design

This allows a website to make changes according to continuous learning, research, and site based testing. This is vastly different from complete site redesigns, and appears to be gaining steam according to both popularity and success due to it’s responsive advantages.

H

Header

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.

Hero Image

This term is commonly used to describe the main image on the home page of a website. A hero image may be part of a rotating image slider, or it may be a large static image.

Hexadecimal

Also referred to a “hex” numbers, they are a base-16 numbering system used to define colors online. Hex numbers include the numerals 0-9 and letters A-F. Hexadecimal numbers are written in three sets of hex pairs. Because screen colors are RGB (Red, Green, Blue), the first pair defines the red hue, the second pair defines the green hue, and the third pair defines the blue.

Hex code

A code used in HTML and CSS to designate a specific color, often appearing after the pound sign (#).

HIT

Contrary to popular belief, a hit does not represent a single visitor to a website. 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.) and each one is requested from the server whenever the page is loaded. Some marketing people like to quote hits to unknowing consumers as the number makes their site sound like it’s getting a whole lot more traffic than it actually is.

Home 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.

.HTACCESS

The .htaccess file is the default directory-level configuration file on Apache servers. They are also known as “distributed configuration files”. Configuration directives contained in the .htaccess file apply to the directory in which the file is placed as well as all of its subdirectories. Within the .htaccess file things like authorization and authentication, rewriting of URLs, cache control and customized error responses can all be specified.

HTML Tag

Also referred to as an HTML element, an HTML tag is the bit of code that describes how that particular piece of the web page it’s on is formatted. Typical tags specify things like headings, paragraphs, links, and a variety of other items.

HTTP

Stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol. HTTP is a set of rules for transferring hypertext requests between a web browser and a web server.

HTTPS

Similar to HTTP, HTTPS stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol over SSL (Secure Socket Layer) or, alternately, HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure. Like HTTP, it’s a set of rules for transferring hypertext requests between browsers and servers, but over a secure, encrypted connection.

Hosting

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.

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)

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.

Hyperlink

A hyperlink, or simply a link, is a link from one page to another. You can use hyperlinks to direct readers to another post or page from your website or to link to a different site.

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.

Hue

The computer language used to display content like text, images, and links on the web.

I

Iframe (Inline frame)

Used to display one or more web pages within another web page that is not a frameset page.

Image Map

An image map is used in XHTML to allow different parts of an image to become different clickable elements (and can also allow some portions of the image to have no clickable element).

Inbound link

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.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a philosophy for attracting customers and growing your target audience through the production and sharing of useful, relevant information. Blogging, producing videos, and publishing eBooks are all examples of inbound marketing. This is to be contrasted with traditional outbound marketing techniques like email blasting, cold calling, and business self-promotion.

Index Page

The page that is served if no page is specified. This page is usually the home page.

Inheritance

In CSS, elements that don’t have a pre-defined style will take on the style of their parent element within the document tree.

Information Architecture

Used to describe the semantic layout of content and information on a website. It refers to the organization of the information, dealing with what pages go where in a web site’s structure, what content is contained on each page and how each of these interact with other pages within the site.

Inline Style

Elements with CSS written directly around the element it affects, instead of in a separate style sheet or header style.

Internet Service Provider (ISP)

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.

IP Address:

A series of numbers in blocks that defines a computer connected to the Internet. For example: 231.645.3.76.

J

Javascript

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

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

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.

K

Kerning

The space between individual letters.

Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

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.

Keyword

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.

L

LAMP

Stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP (or sometimes Perl or Python), and is referring to the specifications of a web server (defining the operating system, web server, database, and scripting language, in that order). One of the advantages of LAMP setups is that the software used is all free and open source.

Landing Page

A landing page is the page where a visitor first enters a website. Oftentimes, a special landing page is created to elicit a specific action from the new visitor (usually in connection with an advertising or marketing campaign).

Layout

The layout of a website is the arrangement of all visual elements on a page. This includes the position of the logo, navigation, text, and images. The layout is the the foundation of a website’s design and is used to guide the user through the page.

Lorem Ipsum

Lorem Ipsum is filler or dummy text often used in design mockups to demonstrate a font or to hold the place of actual copy if that copy isn’t ready.

Link (hyperlink)

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.

Liquid Layout

A liquid layout is one that is based on percentages of the browser window’s size. The layout of the site will change with the width of the browser, even if the visitor changes their browser size while viewing the page. Liquid layouts take full advantage of a person’s browser width, optimizing the amount of content you can fit onscreen at one time.

Lossy

A form of data compression where detail is deleted as the file size is decreased. A usual lossy compression method is JPEG.

Lossless

As opposed to lossy compression, this format allows the image's detail to be restored.

M

Malware

Malicious software that is designed to infect a system and steal or destroy data.

Markup

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.

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 data is contained within meta tags.

Meta Tag

A meta tag is an HTML tag used to include meta data within the header of your web page.

Mirror Site

A website that holds copies of another website’s files that are usually spread across more than one server to give visitors the fastest download.

Mobile

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).

Mobile Optimization

This refers to designing a website such that it performs on mobile devices as well as it does on a desktop computer. This typically involves a responsive website design that automatically adjusts to narrower screen resolutions, such as mobile phones’ and tablets’ portrait-oriented displays, while retaining all of the content.

Mouse over

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.

N

Name Server

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.

Nav Bar

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.

Navigation

In design terms, this refers to the system that enables users to move around a website from one location to another. Website navigation elements include menus, links, buttons, pagination, and other similar elements.

Negative/White Space

The empty space that surrounds certain elements of a design. Negative space is just as important in website design as the content or information placed on a webpage. Empty spaces enable better readability and prevent users from being overwhelmed by too much clutter on any given page.

Nesting

Nesting refers to putting one HTML element within another element. When this is done, the elements have to be closed in the reverse order from how they were opened.

Non-breaking Space

A non-breaking space (also referred to as &nbsp;) is a white-space character that isn’t condensed by HTML. It’s primary function is to hold open table cells or add spacing between words (or a the beginning of paragraphs if an indent is desired).

O

Open Type Fonts

The current standard in font formats. It contains both the screen and printer versions in a single file, and is compatible for both Windows and Mac. The file extension is .otf.

Open Source

Open source refers to the source code of a computer program being made available to the general public. Open source software includes both web-based and desktop applications. Open source programs are generally free or very low cost and are developed by teams of people, sometimes comprised mostly of volunteers.

Organic

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.

Orphan

An opening line in a paragraph that appears alone at the bottom of a page. An orphan can also be a word or very short line that appears by itself at the end of a paragraph.

Outbound Link

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

Operating Systems (OS)

Operating systems are software that run on computers. An OS manages computer hardware. Some examples include Microsoft’s Windows, Mac's OSX, GNU/Linux.

P

Padding

A term that specifies the space between the border of an element and the element itself.

Page Template

A page layout for website pages. You can have multiple templates depending upon how you want to display your home page versus your contact page.

PageRank

Technically, the term PageRank refers to an algorithm that Google uses to assess the value of a website by ranking them based on a large number of variables and parameters. Criteria such as inbound links and social media presence, among many other factors, are used to determine a PageRank number between 0 and 10. This ranking is then used as part of Google’s search engine listings results for any search. PageRank is Google’s “secret sauce” and they do not share the algorithm details with the public.

Pageview

A pageview is a request for an entire web page document from a server by a visitor’s browser. In other words, for each page view your site had, someone (or a search engine spider) looked at that page.

Pantone

A color-matching system developed by the Pantone company. Largely used in print design, and used to match printed colors to those that appear on the screen during the digital phase of design.

Payment Gateway

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.

Permalink

Short for “permanent link.” Generally used only on blogs, a permalink is a link that is the permanent web address of a given blog post. Since most blogs have constantly-changing content, the permalink offers a way for readers to bookmark or link to specific posts even after those posts have moved off the home page or primary category page.

PDF

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

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.

Placeholder

A placeholder often refers to images used in the design or early development stages of website for position only. Its purpose is to fill the space of an image on a web page or design mockup until the final image is ready. Placeholder can also refer to text, though this is usually referred to as “dummy text” instead.

Pixel

This refers to the smallest element of a digital image. As dots per inch (dpi) or pixels per inch (ppi), pixels also serve as a unit of measure that determines how an element will look on a webpage layout.

Pixels per Inch (PPI)

Another measure of image resolution, according to how many pixels are present within a given section of the image.

Plug-In

A plug-in is a bit of third party code that extends the capabilities of a website. It’s most often used in conjunction with a CMS or blogging platform. Plug-ins are a way to extend the functionality of a website without having to redo the core coding of the site. Plugins can also refer to bits of third-party software installed within a computer program to increase its functionality.

Progressive Enhancement

Progressive enhancement is a strategy for web design that uses web technologies in a layered fashion that allows everyone to access the basic content and functionality of a web page, using any browser or Internet connection, while also providing those with better bandwidth or more advanced browser software an enhanced version of the page.

Property

Property is a CSS term and is roughly equivalent to an HTML tag. Properties are what define how a style should appear on a given web page.

Portable Network Graphics (PNG)

A PNG is a file format used for displaying graphics that is similar, but better than a GIF. PNGs combine some of the best features of both GIF and JPG formats. PNGs' compression level is great, without any loss of quality. PNGs are often used for transparent graphics or logos.

Pseudo-Element

A pseudo-element is an element used to add a special effect to certain selectors.

Pseudo Class

Like pseudo-elements, pseudo classes are used to add special effects to certain CSS selectors.

Q

QA/QC

In the course of design and development, somebody needs to review all the work produced, verify that everything is built to spec, and ensure that there are no defects. This is the role of the Quality Assurance and Quality Control engineer. QA (Quality Assurance) refers to the process and standards that exist throughout the software development life-cycle. QC (Quality Control) refers to the action of performing tests to ensure quality at specific points during the production process.

R

Ranking

How well a website performs. Rankings usually refer to where on a search engine results page the website is.

Rectangular (or Tetradic) Colors

Four colors that are two pairs of complementary colors.

Responsive Web Design

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 deisgn methodology according to Google.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS)

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 froma variety of sites in one place without having to visit every site individually.

Resolution

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.

RGB Color Model

An acronym standing for the colors red, green, and blue. The RGB color model is used for web design, because monitors transmit light in these colors.

Roadmap

A roadmap is a living document that paints out planned strategic activities across a stretch of time. Roadmaps are used to help teams and stakeholders visualize the timeline of moving pieces that need to be aligned as part of big initiatives. A typical roadmap will display key project deadlines and feature releases, often tracked across months or quarters.

S

Saturation

How bright or intense a color is.

Sans Serif

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.

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG)

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

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.

Serif

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.

Shared Hosting

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.

Schema

Generally, a schema is an XML document used in place of a DTD to describe other XML documents.

Script

Generally refers to a portion of code on an HTML page that makes the page more dynamic and interactive. Scripts can be written in a variety of languages, including JavaScript.

Selector

In CSS, the selector is the item a style will be applied to.

Server

This is a computer running software connected to the Internet that allows visitors to access a website through a web browser or mobile device. It’s part of the hosting process.

Semantic Markup

In semantic markup, content is written within XHTML tags that offer context to what the content contains. Basic semantic markup refers to using items like header and paragraph tags, though semantic markup is also being used to provide much more useful context to web pages in an effort to make the web as a whole more semantic.

Server-side

Server-side refers to scripts run on a web server, as opposed to in a user’s browser. Server-side scripts often take a bit longer to run than a client-side script, as each page must reload when an action is taken.

SGML

Stands for Standard Generalized Markup Language. It’s a markup language used for defining the structure of a document. SGML isn’t mentioned very often, but it’s the markup language that serves as the basis for both XML and HTML.

Sitemap

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.

SOAP

Stands for Simple Object Access Protocol. It’s an XML-based protocol exchanging information across the internet to allow an application on one site to access an application or database on another site.

Slideshow

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

Social Media refers to any number of platforms and technologies that allow users to share content easily among 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)

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

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.

Specification

A specification is a document that offers an explicit definition and requirements for a web service or technology and generally includes how the technology is meant to be used, along with the tags, elements, and any dependencies.

Sub Page

Any page on a website that isn’t the home page. Depending upon context, it could refer to pages “underneath” one of the pages in the main navigation.

SSL

The technology of standard security for an ecrypted link between a browser and web server

T

Tag

A tag is a set of markup characters that are used around an element to indicate its start and end. Tags can also include HTML or other code to specify how that element should look or behave on the page.

Template

A template is a file used to create a consistent design across a website. Templates are often used in conjunction with a CMS and contain both structural information about how a site should be set up, but also stylistic information about how the site should look.

Typeface

A design collection of characters, including letters, numbers, and punctuations. Examples include Times New Roman, Helvetica, and Arial.

Twitter

Twitter is a social network/micro-blogging service allowing its users to send and read other users' messages, also known as "tweets." Tweets are restricted to 140 characters.

U

URL

Short for ”Uniform Resource Locator,” this term refers to the address that users type into their browsers to access a website or specific sections of any website.

Usability

Usability refers to how easy it is for a visitor to your site to use your site in its intended manner. In other words, are navigation, content, images, and any interactive elements easy to use, functioning the way they were intended, and that your intended target visitor will not need any special training in order to use your site.

UI Design

UI (User Interface) Design is the design of how things on screen look. Color, layout, typography, style, and animation effects all exist within the domain of UI design. UI designers will have a solid understanding of the principles of graphic design and website usability. It's not uncommon for web designers to have multiple areas of expertise, for example a web designer might be versed in both interface design and user experience or front end development.

Usability Design

Methods that improve the “ease of use” during the design process.

User Experience

This refers to all aspects of a user’s interaction and engagement with a website, from discovery and access, to ease of use, to their response to specific CTAs as well as their feedback. User experience should be a primary consideration when embarking on any website design project.

User Interface

This refers to the set of controls and actions that enable users to experience and interact with a website and its contents. User interfaces include elements like menus and toolbars, buttons, windows and tabs, and the like.

Usability Testing

Usability testing involves sitting down with a user of a website, product, or application and observing what they do. This can be done in person, or remotely via screen share. A typical usability testing session combines a general interview with guided and unguided walkthroughs of the interface being tested.

UX

UX stands for user experience. User experience, as a discipline, is the application of design tools and techniques to uncover user goals and needs. This all works toward the goal of crafting products, applications, and systems that are useful, desirable, and easy for people to use.

V

Valid

Valid web pages are those that return no errors based on the type of HTML/XHTML specified in the doctype declaration at the beginning of the file. In other words, the code used on the page conforms to the specifications for that version of HTML/XHTML. This can be checked through various validation services, most commonly the one from W3C.

Vector Image

Instead of using pixels to represent images, vectors use lines and shapes. Because they do not rely on pixels, enlarged vector images still maintain image clarity and quality.

Visit

When one person accesses a website, regardless of how many pages they clicked on or how long they stayed there.

Visual Hierarchy

A design principle that visually orders and emphasizes different parts of your content’s message by using colors, sizes, and layouts.

W

Waterfall

Waterfall is a linear project workflow where each step in the process happens in sequential phases. First planning, then design, then development, then testing, then deployment. In a waterfall project there is a series of handoffs; as each phase is completed it's passed to the next team in line until ultimately ending with a single, final release.

Watermark

An easy-to-see marker placed over the top of photos on the web and in print. It is used to identify the owner of an image and prevent visual content theft.

Web Page

A web page is a single document, generally written in HTML/XHTML, meant to be viewed in a web browser. In many cases, web pages also include other coding and programming (such as PHP, Ruby on Rails, or ASP). Web sites are generally built from multiple interlinked web pages.

Web Design

The design process related to the client side (front end) design of a website including mark up. This generally includes web graphic design; interface design; authoring, including standardized code and proprietary software; user experience design; and search engine optimization.

Web Server

A web server is a computer that has software installed and networking capabilities that allow it to host web sites and pages and make them available to internet users located elsewhere. There are a few different setups that can be used for a web server, including the LAMP setup mentioned earlier.

Web Standards

Standards are specifications recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium for standardizing website design. The main purpose of web standards is to make it easier for both designers and those who create web browsers to make sites that will appear consistent across platforms.

Weight

In typefaces, the thickness of the stroke’s width. Some examples include demibold, light, and bold.

White Space

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.

Widow

The text at the end of a paragraph that spills onto the next page or column.

WordPress

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

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.

X

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.

Y

Z

ZIP file

A file format that compresses several files and combines them into a single folder. Compressed files do not lose any data to become smaller, and are easily restored by unzipping the ZIP file.

Whether you are shifting to a new career or hear these terms when working with other companies, this Web Design Glossary, Terms and Definitions will serve as a guide and can be helpful in understanding the lingo during the conversation.