Website Design Terminology

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I have put together this glossary of terminology you are likely to encounter when you start building your website. Hopefully it will serve as a resource that you you can drop in and out of as required. I hope you find it useful, so without further ado let’s take a look at some Website Design Terminology.


Accessibility – how easy is it to use your website? All websites, tools, and technologies must be designed and developed so that everyone can use them. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web stated that;

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect”.

It is important to acknowledge the diverse range of people using the internet and the equally diverse range of devices used to access the internet. Although your website should be accessible to all, there is no need to panic. It is mainly the soft/hardware designers that ensure their products are accessible. From our point of view as website designers there are tools available to us that check our websites work on all devices.

If you would like to learn more about accessibility the Web Accessibility Initiative have lots of information. 

Address Bar – quite simply the (normally white) bar near the top of your screen where you type the website address.

Anchor text – the clickable text in a hyperlink. Usually highlighted blue. The text must be relevant to the information the reader will be taken to.  


Backlink – these are links from other websites that take visitors to your site. Useful for increasing traffic to your site and for SEO. 

Bandwidth – for our requirements as website owners, bandwidth is the amount of data that you are allowed to transfer to and from your web hosts server. This will vary depending on your web host (there are usually various plans to choose from). When starting, your site bandwidth is unlikely to be a problem but as your site gets larger and you gain more traffic, the bandwidth you use will also increase, si is something to bear in mind when choosing a web host.

Beta (testing) – this is the live stage of testing changes to your site eg. new software or added widgets. You are able to see how your changes perform ‘live’ with real users. 

Blog – an informal style of post on a website, similar to an online journal. 

Bounce rate – a websites bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave your site from the same page they arrived on without clicking on any other pages. A high bounce rate is not good and may point to your page having poorly designed navigation or content.

Branding – this relates to the style of everything you produce that is visible to the public. It is the consistency of your style of writing, the font, size etc. that builds your brand. A brand is not a logo, the logo merely represents your brand. Consider a car manufacturer, you can often identify the manufacturer just by looking at the car style, interior, fixtures and fittings etc. there is no need to see the manufacturers logo. 

Browser – a browser is what you use to view a website. Without a browser you would just see pages of computer code, the browser contains software that presents this code in a visual manner. Examples of browser include Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge, Firefox and Opera etc. 


Cache – is a block of memory used for temporary storage of data to speed up future requests for that data. A cache can be stored in the computer’s CPU or HDD and web browsers or servers.

Call to Action (CTA) – a method used to encourage a visitor to a website to perform a particular action. Careful phrasing of action orientated text is usually reinforced with the use of banners, images or buttons etc. As an example, at the bottom of this post is a banner inviting you to click on a button to sign up for our newsletter, this is a CTA.

Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) – CSS is used to define styles for your web pages. This includes the design, layout and variations in display for different devices and screen sizes. CSS was designed to save a lot of work as it removed style formatting from the HTML page.

Content Management System (CMS) – this is the software that enables the creating, editing, organizing, and publishing of digital content without the need to understand coding. WordPress is an example of a CMS and is what I am using to create this post. 

Code – in its simplest form, code tells a computer what to do. Software and programmes are constructed from lines of code.

Cookie – data sent by a website and stored by the web browser on the users computer. Cookies can perform a hugely diverse range of tasks – tracking cookies are used to record your browsing history, these  hold information that for example enables you to log into a site without entering you details each time. Affiliate links on a website use cookies to confirm that a user has been directed to their page from your website, thus allowing you to be acknowledged and paid if the visitor makes a purchase.


Database driven – most blogs are usually what’s known as static page websites. This means that the content a visitor views on the page doesn’t change unless the page is manually edited. Database driven pages differ in that the content viewed on the page is not created on that page, it is created by information stored in a database. This allows the same information to be viewed in many different ways using formulas and variables. 

Display type – this refers to type such as headlines and titles – used to grab people’s attention.

DNS – Domain Name System. We access websites through their domain names and the internet accesses websites through their IP (internet protocol) addresses. It is the DNS that translates the domain name into the relevant IP address.

Domain name – basically the name of your website. It is the bit that comes after www. in the web address. Every website has a unique address made up of a string of numbers, this is fine for a computer but not so good for us, so websites are given a name which a computer links to the numbers.  

Download – anytime information that is not stored remotely on your computer but is accessed via a server is viewed on your computer you are downloading. 

Drop-down – a drop-down list or menu allows information to be hidden until clicked by the user. Usually denoted by a small triangle which when clicked (or hovered over) will present a list of options to choose from. Very useful for maintaining a tidy menu bar or for offering selected choices to questions.


Fold – this is a term from the newspaper industry where it referred to the physical fold of the paper. In website design it refers to any information not visible on the page and which requires the user to scroll down to see the additional information.


Gif – this is the abbreviation for ‘graphic interchange format’ which is a bitmap image format. The limitations in colour pallette restricts its use for reproducing colour photography but is ideal for graphics and logos. The format supports both static and moving images. 


Host – a company that provides you with your IP address, the physical space to store your website and/or email data and the bandwidth that allows the transfer of that data.  

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) – This is the base language used to describe the function of a web page. Made up of elements, it is the elements that tell the browser how to display the content. For example, HTML ‘tags’ label each piece of content such as “heading”, “paragraph” or “table” etc.

HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) – this is the underlying communication protocol used by the World Wide Web to deliver data. 

HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) – the secure version of HTTP. This is recommended for all websites, it is identified by the padlock symbol in the address bar. 

Hyperlink – a link between one page and another, either on the same site or another. Can be linked to an image or text (usually highlighted in blue and/or underlined) which when clicked takes the user to the ‘linked’ page. (See anchor text).


Indexed – when a search engine ‘bot’ finds your content, makes a copy and files it in its database, your content has been indexed and is available to be searched.

Inline frame – referred to as an Iframe. Used to embed another document within the current HTML document.

IP Address (Internet Protocol) – this is the real numerical address of your website (see domain name)


JPG file – an image that has been saved in a compressed image format. JPG are one of the commonest forms of digital image file used by most digital cameras.  The format was standardised by the Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG)


Keyword – A keyword is the word or words that are typed into the search bar of a search engine. The search engines algorithms then search for and select the best matching results. The keyword/s help identify the topic or niche that the page covers. For a more in depth explanation see our article ‘how to perform keyword research’


Landing page – a page specifically designed to fulfil a purpose, most commonly a call to action. The landing page can be a standalone website or can be the page where people arrive when they click on a link to your site. They differ from homepages in that a homepage is a gateway to your website, you can promote and access any part of your site from your homepage. The landing page however has one goal in mind, to convert visitors, either to buy something or sign up for something for example. The point is, it is focused on one action, this is why landing pages are so efficient at converting visitors. Visitors to your landing page should do one of two things click on the call to action and/or click on the link to your website, nothing more.


Metadata –  provides a summary of the basic information held in other data. This makes finding and working with the data easier. Think of it as data provided in shorthand.

Metatag – describes a pages content. They sit in the HTML code of the page and are used by the search engines to identify what the page is about.


Optimisation – most commonly refers to the optimisation of images on your website. Optimisation involves decreasing the size of the image file to speed up loading (and so speeding up your site).


Permalink – short for permanent link. The permalink is the website link to a specific post in your blog. You may produce many posts a week on your blog which may all be contained on one page, so it doesn’t take long for your post to be moved way down the list of posts. The permalink provides a way of linking directly to a specific post. 

Plug-in – a piece of software that enables a computer program to do something it couldn’t do by itself. For example Adobe Flash Player is a plugin that allows the stream and view audio and multimedia and Rich Internet Applications on your computer. Other plugins include Java SE and Quicktime.

PPC – Pay Per Click, relates to internet marketing. PPC allows you to bid to get an advertisement in say a search engines sponsored links. Using Google Ads as an example, someone performs a search in Google which matches your keyword or is related to your business, Google checks for any PPC campaigns that match the users query, if there are many matches, Google will pick the best matches based on who was willing to pay the most and a quality score based on the click-through rate, relevance and the quality of the landing page. The PPC campaign that gets the highest score gets top billing etc. Every time someone then clicks on your advert and is taken to your page you pay Google. 


Ranking – this is the position of your webpage in a search engines results for your keyword. When a query is typed into a search engine there are often thousands of results which are ranked based on the what the search engine feels provides the best match to the query. It takes time to climb up the rankings in the search engines but ultimately we are aiming for position 1 page 1 of the results when our keyword is typed in.

RSS – Really Simple Syndication is a standardised HTML format that automatically update information. By signing up to a websites RSS feed an aggregator will automatically check for new content and pull the information over to your own feed. This enables you to keep updated on information from multiple sites automatically.  

Reciprocal links – an agreement between two websites eg. website A will link to site B on the understanding that site B will link to site A.

Rollover – text or image that changes as a user rolls their cursor over it.


San serif – typeface that does not have small decorative serifs on the letters. See Serif.

Search engine – A program that collects, stores, arranges and normally ranks the various resources available on the internet. See our Basic SEO guide for full details.

Serif – typeface which includes small decorative strokes (serifs) at the end of vertical and horizontal lines of letters.

SEO – Search Engine Optimisation involves making your content as attractive as possible to the search engine algorithms. Details of how to achieve this are available in our Basic SEO guide.

Server – the storage facility provided (usually) by your host company where your website is stored. Without a server your website would not be visible. 

Sitemap – an index (usually an XML file) that informs the search engines of all the content on your site. 

Style guide – useful if outsourcing any work on your website. Includes all the fonts, colours and branding guidelines to the developer.


Tag – markup characters that define the start <>and finish </>of an element. 


Upload – the act of placing information on to your hosting server. 

URL – Uniform Resource Locator, the address that contains everything required to go to the exact location of the website or content.


White space – the space around elements, not necessarily white, which allows elements to stand out. 

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