The Ultimate Web Terms Glossary
Being a team of digital natives, it’s not uncommon for it to sound like we’re speaking a completely different language during a typical day around the office. Digital designers, web developers, digital marketers, and techies in general speak and think in this language every day, so it’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you aren’t a long-time friend of the web. CMS, UX, SEO, CSS, SVG, PWA, PHP – acronyms are being thrown in left and right, mixed in with developer speak, design lingo, web terms, internet slang…
Whether you’re trying to put together a website yourself, briefing your web developer or trying to troubleshoot what has gone wrong with an existing site, getting a project up and running can often be daunting and a little confusing. There’s nothing worse than sitting on an online chat to your hosting provider in the middle of the night trying to get your site back up and running with no clue in the world how to explain your problem.
In a digital world where it feels like a new programming language is being invented every day and old ways are becoming obsolete at the speed of light, it can help to have a bit of background knowledge about how the whole thing works together!
If you’re a webophobe, technophobe or both, we’ve put together the ultimate A-Z glossary to put you in the know to make it easier to start and finish your next project.
Accessibility refers to the practice of making sure your website can be used and accessed by all people, with all abilities and impairments. Some examples of accessibility include ensuring the contrast between your font and background is clear enough for people with visual impairments, that the videos on your website all have captions for those with hearing impairments, ensuring that you can tab through forms without a mouse for those that are mobility impaired, and ensuring your content is written using plain language standards for those that are cognitively impaired.
A good place to start to check your website for accessibility is the Website Content Accessibility Guide (WCAG).
The back-end relates to how the site works, updates and changes. It’s basically everything the user can’t see from the front-end. Back-end development is essential for any dynamic site that includes features that need to change often and update regularly, e.g. blogs, news sites and aggregate websites.
The back-end consists of databases and servers – all things concerned with security, structure and the manner in which content is organised. A database is required to store all information such as user profiles, images, posts, text, and keep them categorised in a way that makes sense for the site. Back-end developers work with programming languages like PHP, Java, Python and Ruby.
Websites with blogs are considered dynamic sites since their content is constantly changing and updating. A dynamic site requires a database to work properly. All information such as user profiles, images uploaded, or blog posts, are stored in a website’s database.
Web developers work with programming languages like PHP or .Net, which are different from front-end languages since they need to work with something the database understands. The code they write communicates with the server and then tells the browser what to use from the database.
Simply put, a backlink is a link from one website to another. Backlinks are used as a ranking signal by Google to determine the authority of a website. The more backlinks your site has from credible websites the better your chances are of ranking, with websites with high numbers of backlinks typically seeing greater organic search rankings.
But not all backlinks are considered valuable. Domain authority describes the relevance of a website in regards to a subject matter or topic. It is important that the majority of backlinks pointing to your website have a good domain authority and are ideally similar or connected to your industry. Otherwise, Google will find the link to be low quality or irrelevant and will penalise your site.
Bounce rate represents the percentage of visitors who enter the site and then leave (“bounce”) rather than taking an action, such as clicking on a link, filling out a form, or making a purchase. An average bounce rate range is between 41 and 51%.
A bounce rate in the range of 26%–40% is excellent. 41%–55% is roughly average. 56%–70% is higher than average, but may not be cause for alarm depending on the website. Anything over 70% is disappointing for everything outside of blogs, news, events, etc.
CMS (Content Management System)
A CMS, or Content Management System, refers to an online platform in which end-users can create, change and edit website content through the use of an editor that doesn’t require HTML knowledge. These systems are often built by developers and used as a program so that non-developers can edit their content more easily. If a website did not make use of a CMS for content editing, any changes to text, images, or other content would have to be made through editing the code for a particular web page. WordPress is one of the world’s leading CMS for its ease of use and compatibility with other tools such as plugins to create better user experiences with limited coding knowledge.
Computer code is written for a variety of purposes, from web pages to computer desktop software to app development. Each purpose is associated with a different programming language. In order to write in a language that the program can understand, developers need to write code.
HTTP cookies (also called web cookies, Internet cookies, browser cookies, or simply cookies) are small blocks of data created by a web server while a user is browsing a website and placed on the user’s computer by the user’s web browser.
Cookies serve useful and sometimes essential functions on the web. They enable web servers to store stateful information (such as items added in the shopping cart in an online store) on the user’s device or to track the user’s browsing activity (including clicking particular buttons, logging in, or recording which pages were visited in the past). They can also be used to save for subsequent use information that the user previously entered into form fields, such as names, addresses, passwords, and payment card numbers.
Authentication cookies are commonly used by web servers to authenticate that a user is logged in, and with which account they are logged in. Without the cookie, users would need to authenticate themselves by logging in on each page containing sensitive information that they wish to access.
Tracking cookies, and especially third-party tracking cookies, are commonly used as ways to compile long-term records of individuals’ browsing histories – a potential privacy concern that prompted European and U.S. lawmakers to take action in 2011. European law requires that all websites targeting European Union member states gain “informed consent” from users before storing non-essential cookies on their device.
Think of HTML as the skeleton/backbone and CSS as the looks. CSS, which stands for Cascading Style Sheets, the most common way of setting a look and feel of a website. While HTML tells the browser what goes on the page, CSS will tell the browser how it should be presented, for example: colours, fonts, layout and more.
A web developer works to write in a variety of programming languages of different functions in order to create digital products. A web developer will either write code in programming languages designed for the purpose of the front-end or back-end of a website (see Front-End & Back-End).
A web developer who has the expertise to take a project and see it through from conception to completion can also be called a full-stack developer, someone who is well-versed in all the layers of computer or web software/product development.
A domain, or domain name, is your website address. Typically this looks like ‘yourcompany.com’ but could also end with country specific options like .com.au, .co.uk, .co.nz or hundreds of other variations.
Just like your physical address, it’s just an address on the internet that specifies where your browser should go to look for information. Some people confuse their domain with their website.
Think of the domain as your house street address. It’s an easy way for people to find your house. Then think of your website as the house itself, contents and all. The domain is just a simple way for people to be able to find you.
When you register a domain name on the internet (and pay the registration fees), you are buying the right to use that domain name for a year (or whatever term is specified).
A front-end developer will use these languages to write code that the browser will translate in order to show you a website. So in short, all the features that you see, including fonts, colours, menus, images, forms are all specified by the languages of HTML and CSS. (see HTML & CSS)
With the proliferation of digital platforms, enterprises are often crippled by a proliferation of CMS (Content Mangement System) instances — dozens, or even hundreds. As a result, they have to duplicate content from a website CMS to an app CMS and then to a digital display CMS. This is where Headless CMS solutions really shine.
A headless CMS is any type of back-end content management system where the content repository “body” is separated or decoupled from the presentation layer “head.” Content that is housed in a headless CMS is delivered via APIs for seamless display across different devices.
The term “headless” comes from the concept of chopping the “head” (the front end, i.e. the website) off the “body” (the back end, i.e. the content repository). A headless CMS remains with an interface to manage content and a RESTful or GraphQL API to deliver content wherever you need it whether that be a website, iOS app, Android app or any other platform, and another advantage is that if you ever want to change your technology stack you don’t have to worry about your content.
Some headless CMS options you might like to assess to find your best fit: Contentful, Prismic, Sanity.
Understanding the role of your hosting provider is a hugely important part of running your own website. A hosting provider provides space on their server to host your website so that other computers can access it live.
Generally, hosting providers charge a fee for the service which is charged either monthly or annually – plans differ in the level of support they provide, security features, speed etc. Plans can range from limited and low-cost to high-level business plans. As a general rule, you get what you pay for with hosting plans.
HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language. It’s an essential language for developers to use in order to specify content for a web page. It consists of tags and attributes that tell the browser what content the web page contains.
Having basic knowledge of HTML is extremely handy if you have anything to do with entering content into a site. Things like images and text are all specified with HTML.
Pixels, Snippets and Tags
Analytics and heat mapping tags enable marketers to better understand how users behave on a website, while a tag can be used to quickly install functionality that would otherwise require website developers to redeploy the entire site with the updates.
The repository, when speaking about a website repository, is a location where all the data is kept, maintained and organised. These files will be hosted on a server which has a physical location, but anyone given administration access can download information and modify it.
The files will contain specific databases, files or documents which compile to create a website.
The Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is, as the name suggests, the first page of results you see when searching on Google, Bing or any other search engine. The SERP will show a list of results that the search engine deems most relevant to your search query (taking into consideration your past searching behaviour too!).
Typically the SERP will display 1-3 paid ads at the top, before showing a list of 10 organic search results, sometimes followed by additional ads at the bottom of the page. When looking at users coming to your website from the SERP, the traffic will fall into two categories: Paid Search and Organic Search. Paid Search refers to the ads at the top and bottom of the page, where companies are bidding against each other to achieve the highest rankings in an effort to acquire your click to visit their website.
Organic Search refers to all the other non-paid results that are displayed. While these results are not paid, there is still heavy competition to appear as high on the SERP as possible, as the vast majority of clicks will go to the results listed first. The process of ensuring your website lists as high as possible on the SERP is known as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – but that topic needs an entry all of its own!
Put simply, your web server is a big computer that exists just to host and run websites. The more powerful the computer, the more powerful the server. The server exists to fulfil requests from clients – it stores, processes and delivers web pages to users.
When you type in a URL, your browser requests a webpage from the server. So it’s like your browser is making a phone call, through the line which is HTTP, to reach the web server of that website. The server relays the information back to your browser which displays the information in HTML and CSS.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. Since the rise of the Internet and the complete saturation of web pages on the world wide web, it has become more and more important to optimise your web page for search results. This simply means, getting your website found through search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. However, Google is the main search engine to target, being the world’s most popular search engine by a long run.
A range of procedures can be executed to make sure you are following best SEO practices. Whilst site ranking factors are solely up to Google, who are free to change their algorithm at any time, it is important to follow basic optimisation exercises when building and updating your website – allowing your business to be found.
SEO generally refers to the entire practice on and off-site actions that will lead to a higher or more targeted ranking on a Google web page.
A URL is different from a domain in that it contains the ‘hypertext transfer protocol’ (HTTP), which basically tells the browser that you’re using a domain name instead of an IP address. HTTP is the underlying protocol that allows users to exchange information. If ‘test.com’ is your domain, ‘https://www.test.com’ might be your website URL.
You might also find HTTPS as a prefix to some web URLs, instead of HTTP. This just means that you have a secure connection to the server and no other computers can listen in on the conversation! Look out for this when entering personal details on any website, it is designated by a green ‘lock’ symbol in the address bar of your browser.