The terminology used within the website industry can be a bit intimidating at times as many website terms are relatively new, and if you aren’t in the field of website development, you may feel concerned about saying something the wrong way.
This glossary is designed to help you gain an understanding of the basic terminology so that you can speak about your website with confidence, and ask your designers/developers for exactly what you need.
Commonly used Website Terms:
ACCESSIBILITY: This term is related 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 limited by older or less common computers and software.
ADDRESS BAR: This is the white bar near the top of your browser window. You use this bar to type in the address of a website that you want to visit, like facebook.com, for instance.
ASCII: American Standard Code for Information Interchange. A code that represents English characters as numbers, ranging from 0 to 127. Commonly used by computers and browsers, ASCII codes make it possible to transfer data from one computer to another computer (like a server). In terms of transferring data from a computer to a server (called “uploading”), you would need to use either ASCII or Binary, depending on the type of file being transferred.
ASP: A coding language that is compatible with Windows servers. Normally used for increased functionality on a website or to work with a database. It works in conjunction with html and html variants.
BACKLINKS: these are links from other website pages that go to your website. Backlinks can increase a site’s popularity with search engines, especially if very high profile sites (sites with a lot of traffic) link to your website.
BANDWIDTH: Bandwidth relates to how much resources your website uses when people access it. When a website gets a lot of visitors, it will use a lot of bandwidth, so you need to plan for this when you design (if you are going for a high traffic website).
BCC: This is an acronym for “Blind Carbon Copy”, and is an email feature. If you send someone an email and use the BCC field, the person to whom you send the email will not know that someone else was blind copied. It is a good way to include someone but only if they realize that they were blind copied and don’t respond!
BELOW THE FOLD: In web design terms, “below the fold” refers to the content that is going to appear below the bottom of the screen, requiring the user to scroll to see it. A lot of people don’t bother to scroll, so you want to put your most relevant content above the fold, like a newspaper does.
BETA: Beta is a term used for software that is in a testing phase and still (most likely) buggy. Sometimes people get invitations to ‘beta test’ a piece of software so that the software company can learn and fix the problems before they release it to a wider audience.
BLOG: a Blog is an online magazine or journal where a person or company can share their viewpoint. The Blogosphere has become very influential in our world today, and often breaks news prior to the major news channels.
BOUNCE: When you send an email to someone and it comes back with an error message, it is said to have bounced. The most common reason for a bounce is that you mistyped the email address, although this can also happen for other reasons.
BOUNCE RATE: A website’s bounce rate is the percentage of people who leave the site before clicking through to any other pages on the website: they enter and exit on the same page. The bounce rate can be a good indicator of a website’s quality and relevancy to the user: if your bounce rate is very high, you will want to consider revising your content to be more appealing to your target audience.
BROWSER: When you visit a website, you are viewing it on a browser. The most popular browsers are Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer. Each browser interprets a Website’s code differently, so when you design a website, you want to make sure that you (or your website designer) tests the website using different browsers. You may be surprised by what you see!
BROWSING: Browsing is a common term used for visiting different websites using a browser.
CASCADING STYLE SHEETS: Also referred to as CSS, Cascading Style Sheets are used to define the look and feel of a web site. Your designer may use them to dictate how fonts are used, spacing, color and other variants so that your website is consistent and the code is organized.
CATCHALL: a catchall refers to an email folder that will catch all of the emails sent to your domain that do not have a specific email address. So if someone sends an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, if there is no such email address, this email will go to the catchall, if you have set this up properly.
CC: this is an acronym for carbon copy, which is an email feature that lets you copy other people on your ocmmunications.
CMS: this is an acronym for content management system. A content management system lets a user edit their website without knowing any code. Software like WordPress is very popular because it provides a CMS that lets a user easily publish to their website without involving their web developer.
CODE: everything that you see on the Web has code behind it. The kind of code used will depend upon the programming language that the developer uses. If you want to look at the code behind what you see – in most browsers, you can go to the ‘View’ menu and look at ‘view source’. This allows you to figure out a lot about the technology a particular website uses.
CONVERSION RATE: This is a marketing term that refers to how many of you’re the people who visit your website take an action that you define as a goal. So if your goal is for your visitors to download a free eBook, your conversion rate would be based upon the number of downloads. Conversion rate might also be something that people buy, or how many people call you based upon your Website strategy.
COOKIE: A cookie is used by a lot of websites to store information on your computer for tracking purposes. Cookies can provide a better user experience, so that you don’t have to fill out so many forms on a particular website . . . or they may be used for custom advertising purposes..
DOMAIN: A domain is the name of a website, or a potential name of a website. You can reserve a domain by visiting a domain registrar.
DOMAIN REGISTRATION: Just like you have to register a business name, you need to register a domain name. You may use this domain for your own website or as an investment in order to sell the domain to someone else.
EMAIL CLIENT: email clients are what you use to access your email. Some examples include Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo, and Gmail.
FAVICON: Favicons are tiny graphic icons that are displayed in the web address bar in most browsers next to the web address.
FIXED WIDTH LAYOUT: A fixed width layout is a website that has a set width, so that the width of the website stays consistent no matter how big your screen size is. This type of design is often easier to manage across multiple browsers in terms of display consistency.
FOLD: The fold is the point at which you have to scroll to see more of a website. Above the fold means that you see it immediately, without scrolling, and below the fold means that you need to scroll to view the content.
FONTS: Fonts are the typography used that makes the text look a particular way. There are many different font styles, including Serif and Sans Serif fonts. Serif fonts have more curves and are more traditional looking, while Sans Serif fonts are considered more modern.
FTP CLIENT: This is a software program that enabled you to upload your website to a host server. If you have a hosting account and develop your own website using a design program, you could use an FTP client to upload your files to the Internet.
GIF: A GIF file is a low bandwidth graphic format that is used to display image on the Web. It used to be very popular, but with bandwidth becoming less of an issue, there are other alternatives these days.
HEXADECIMAL: these are numbers and letters that are used to convey colors in website code. Because screen colors are in the Red, Green, Blue spectrum, Hexadecimal numbers are written in three sets of hex pairs. The first pair defines the red hue, the second pair defines the green hue, and the third pair defines the blue.
HIT: This is a term that is often misused. hit is actually a request for a single file from your web server, it does not mean the number of visits to your website. A single page can generate multiple hits from a single user: it depends upon how many files that you have to download on a particular web page. The correct way to measure your website’s traffic is via ‘page views’.
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. The company that provides you with these facilities is your host and you will pay them a fee for hosting your site and or email address.
HTML: Hyper Text Markup Language. This is the base language that s used for creating websites. Common uses of the term are, “html coding” and “html website”. A website created in pure html is also referred to as a static website. In other words, it does not interact with the visitor other than in the most basic ways. It stores no data and can not return data other than what is consistently on the page itself. Emails that use different fonts, colours, borders, backgrounds and graphics are also generally coded in html, with the alternative being plain text.
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. For example, web sites and web pages are one type of resource, identified by their domain name (www.domain.com.au).
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 this time it”s done over a secure, encrypted connection.
HYPERLINK: A hyperlink is a link from one web page to another, either on the same site or another one. Generally these are text or images, and are highlighted in some way (text is often underlined or put in a different colour or font weight). The inclusion of hyperlinks are the “hyper” part of “hypertext.”
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.
IE: Internet Explorer. The most commonly used internet browser in use, largely because it comes with Windows software and is the automatic default browser for any Windows user. The default can be changed to a different type of browser.
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. Internode is very popular in Adelaide, South Australia
JPG: A type of file used for images, especially photographs. Images used on web pages work best as jpg or gif.
KEYWORD or KEYWORD 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.
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).
LINK: The internet is made up of millions of resources and computers that all link to each other. One type of link (verb) is a link (noun). This is a small snippet of code that creates an area on a web page that can be clicked on. Once clicked on, the person will be taken to the resource that the piece of code linked to. This is how users on the internet can move from one web page or website to another and download documents, programmes or files. To link to something means to host this piece of code that will take the person to the resource that you are linking to. To have a link from a website means that someone else is hosting this piece of code that will bring people to your website or resource.
MAILSERVER: (Also see “server”). A mail server is a computer that distributes email. Simplest is to think of it as an internet version of your local post office.
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: 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.
OPERATING SYSTEM: The type of software that you use to run a computer is the operating system.
OPTIMIZE: Has two possible meanings in web design. The first is website/page optimisation. This relates to how the page is structured (both code and content) with regard to search engines. A well optimised website is search engine friendly. The second meaning relates to graphics and pictures that are used on websites. 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.
PARKED DOMAIN: A domain name that sits on the same server space as another. If someone types in the address of either the main domain or the parked domain, they will arrive at the same website.
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
PHP: A programming language that is Linux based rather than Windows based. Normally used for increased functionality on a website or to work with a database. It works in conjunction with html and html variants and allows for functions to be run from the server rather than the visitor’s browser.
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.
PPC: Pay Per Click. A common term in internet advertising where you purchase advertising space on someone’s website, but instead of paying a flat monthly rate, you pay a small amount each time someone clicks on your advert – which is a link that takes them to your website. This “small amount” can however go quite high, depending on the deemed value of the link. This is a very simplified explanation, but the principle is that you ostensibly “pay for what you get”, which is not entirely accurate. False clicks can in fact make this much more expensive than a fixed advertising cost.
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 nameserver 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. Sometimes even longer. This is because nameservers do not all update at the same time, some update more frequently that others and sometimes a nameserver can have a problem for a while. This means that some people can see the site and others can’t. Some emails will reach their destination and others won’t. Once domain propagation is completed however, everything should work as normal.
RANKING: Ranking is a term related to search engines. When someone searches for something using a search engine, the will receive pages and pages of results. Where a specific site appears in those results is its ranking. There is a second meaning as well, more commonly used with regard to marketing and SEO and related specifically to Google. Each page of a website is given a ranking by Google, from 1-10. This ranking is the value that Google places on that particular page in relation to its subject matter and how relevant it is. The more relevant a page is believed to be the higher its ranking.
REALLY SIMPLE SYNDICATION: Also referred to as RSS. RSS is a standardized XML format that allows content to be syndicated from one site to another. It”s most commonly used on blogs. RSS also allows visitors to subscribe to a blog or other site and receive updates via a feed reader.
RECIPROCAL LINKS: When website A links to website B and B links back to A and both link to the other on condition that they receive a link back, this is reciprocal linking. The principle is that if site A ever removes the link to site B, site B will remove its link to site A and vice versa. This is a (not great) tactic for gaining more links pointing to a website in the hope that Google will increase the site’s ranking as a result.
SEARCH ENGINE: A program that collects, stores, arranges and normally ranks the various resources available on the internet. It is most commonly on a website and used to find other websites – much like the yellow pages is used in the brick and mortar world.
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 optimised and not breaking any of their rules.
SEARCH ENGINE LISTING: When someone searches for something using a search engine, all the sites that are listed in response to that search have a “search engine listing”.
SEARCH ENGINE RANKING: Different to a search engine listing because a listing means the site appears anywhere on the list. Ranking relates to exactly where on the list it appears. Closer to the top means it has a higher ranking. A critical consideration in having your website found on the internet.
SEARCH RESULT: When someone searches for something using a search engine, the list of websites and links that the search engine responds with is the search result. The aim of any website is to appear high in the search result.
SEO: Stands for “Search Engine Optimisation” 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 specialise 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. Servers are normally provided by hosting companies who keep the servers in special premises, under special conditions and with permanent connections to the internet.
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.
SITEMAP: This is an index to all the content on a website. It is normally accessible from at least the front page of the site and is used for two purposes: to help people find what they are looking for on the site and to help search engines find all your links.
SPAM: A somewhat controversial word which has different extremes of meaning to different people. Very simply, spam is junk mail, normally sent out in bulk and normally with no regard as to whether you want to receive it or not. Serious spammers will in fact use your protests as proof that you are seeing their emails and spam you even more.
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. A sub domain address would be written like: www.something-else.yourdomain.com.au The “something-else” is the sub domain.
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.
THE NET: A shortened version of “The Internet”. Refers to the entire network that exists worldwide, making communication and information accessible to anyone with a computer and connection.
TIMEOUT: If you try to connect to any server on the internet – to view a website or collect email – and it takes too long, you will have a time out. It purely means it has taken too long, so the process was aborted. This is often what has happened when you get an error while trying to send or receive email, or when you try to visit a website and instead get a page that tells you the site cannot be found. Often just trying again immediately fixes the problem.
TRAFFIC: Much like the physical world, traffic refers to all the people and computers that are using a particular route at a given time or who access a specific resource. The number of visitors to a website, for example, is also referred to as traffic. Traffic is also often spoken about when it comes to hosting. If a host tells you that you are allowed X amount of traffic, they are telling you how much of the server resources you are allowed to use. This is also called “bandwidth”. Please see the explanation of “bandwidth” for more information about “traffic” in the context of hosting.
TROJAN HORSE: A type of virus (malicious code) that arrives posing as something harmless (or even desirable) and infects a computer by getting the user to activate it. It achieves this because it supposedly performs a function that the user wants – like install a piece of desirable software, open a presentation, show a picture, etc. while in fact it is activating itself. Trojan horses either do something harmful (like erase files) or open a backdoor to your computer so that someone else can get access to do something – like retrieve private information. A Trojan Horse can only infect a computer if the user invites it in by performing an action – clicking a link, opening an email attachment or downloading it from the internet.
UPLOAD: For a website to be visible to the world, it has to be put on the server that is hosting it. This process is called uploading because you are literally loading your information, pages, pictures, etc. up onto the server.
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. http://www.thinkingit.com.au is this website’s url and http://www.thinkingit.com.au/glossary-website-terminology is this exact page’s url (notice the extra part after the .com.au).
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.
VIRUS: A computer programme that reproduces itself and that is frequently malicious. The most common terms that are heard with regard to viruses are Worms (not really a virus, but often referred to as such) and Trojan Horses, because these are the most commonly experienced amongst internet users. A good firewall or anti-virus programme can offer protection from viruses as long as the programme is regularly updated and consistently used. It is a good idea to install software such as Trend Micro’s Maximum Security Titanium or similar to keep your computer free of viruses, especially if you are uploading files to your website.
WEBMAIL: Email that you can check from any computer anywhere in the world using software on a server.
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, although browsers such as IE – Internet Explorer are slow to add the latest standards for website design.
WEB PAGE or PAGE: Just one page rather than a complete website (see below). A page is not the same as, for example, the page in a book. The length is not limited by a fixed height and width, but by user-friendliness, good practice and practicality.
WEBSITE: The actual website itself. The website is the content that dictates what people see and do when they go to your website address, normally containing a number of web pages not just one page.
WEBSITE ADDRESS: This is the location of your website and is normally typed as www.the-name-of-the website.com.au
WINDOWS: The most common type (make) of operating system. Windows is built by the software company Microsoft.
WORM: A type of virus (malicious code) that looks for security loopholes in a system and uses that to replicate itself. It then scans the internet for other computers that have the same flaw and spreads to them, often creating a new identity for itself in the process so that it evolves. Where a virus uses a host file to spread, a worm is imbedded in an actual document, like a Word or Excel document.
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.
If there is a website term you are unsure the meaning of, or you maybe you have found conflicting definitions of a term, feel free to add a comment below. Thinking IT will reply to you and post an accurate definition of that term in the Glossary of Website Terms.