Jargon buster for web design & development projects

The web can be confusing and we’ve all seen terms used that seem like a foreign language. Like CSS. Or wireframe. Or API. So we’ve decided to compile a little list of technical terms that we, as web developers, use frequently, and explain them as plainly as we can. Hopefully knowing the lingo will help with your next web design project.

absolute link
An absolute link is a hyperlink containing a full URL (web address), which includes all the information needed to find a particular site, page or document or other addressable item on the Internet.

By law websites need to have a certain degree of accessibility. This means that the sites can also be used by blind or partially sighted people. The added benefits of making a website accessible is that it also makes sites available on all sorts of other devices.

(Not to be confused with Responsive). An adaptive website is more dynamic as it builds a model of user activity and modifies the information and/or presentation of information to the user in order to better address the user’s needs.

Is basically a way of managing projects that involves iterative improvements every few weeks. The project is broken up into smaller pieces and built in phases called sprints.

With so much data immediately available at your fingertips, making sense of it is difficult, but crucial.  This is where data analysis steps in. It lets technical people or marketers make sense of what is happening on websites, and means that users will find what they need more efficiently.

Application Programming Interface (API) makes the modern Web what it is today. APIs are often used by 3rd parties. For example: Twitter provides an API that allows developers to write a script to fetch and display tweets on their site.

back end
All the code and stuff that the user never sees, but that makes the website work.

The bounce rate of a website is the percentage of visits in which users view only a single page of your site. A number of factors contribute to your bounce rate. For example, visitors might leave your site from the entrance page if there are site design or usability issues (bad). Or visitors might leave the site after viewing a single page if they’ve found the information that they need on that one page, and had no need or interest in visiting other pages (good). Either way, it might be best to find out quickly why people do not hang around and explore the site further, and what you can do about that.

You definitely don’t want one of those. A bug is an error in the software which stops it from functioning the way it was intended to. Bugs need fixing as soon as possible.

Stores recently used information so that it can be quickly accessed at a later time.

A Content Management System (CMS) is a web database management tool that allows a user to maintain a website without needing to do any coding. This is often used for blogs or sites where content needs to constantly change or be updated. There are many different kinds of CMS, so be sure to select the most appropriate to meet your needs.

continuous integration
This basically refers to code changes that are integrated into a live system on a regular basis.

This is for hungry people. Only kidding. Cookies are tiny bits of data that get downloaded when you visit a website. They live on your PC or device and can track what you do. For example, they can tell if you have been to a website before. On one hand marketers use it to find out your shopping habits. On the other hand your bank, for instance, loves it because it lets it know that you visit the site regularly, and so are a trusted visitor. There are strict laws as to how a website can use cookies.

Cascading Style Sheets control the appearance of your website and gives it a consistent look and feel. The magic of CSS is that it is an external file ie. it isn’t part of the actual web page, but is linked to it – and every other page of the website. So if you decide to change say, the colour of the text on your site, you only need to change the CSS file – and hey presto, the entire site changes too. Magic.

dedicated server
In the Web hosting business, a dedicated server refers to the rental and exclusive use of a computer that includes a Web server, related software, and connection to the Internet, housed in the Web hosting company’s premises.

A Domain Name System (DNS) converts domain names (e.g. alberon.co.uk) into the address a computer needs to contact (e.g. – a bit like a phone book. Also see IP Address.

domain names
A domain name is a unique name that identifies a website, for example ‘alberon.co.uk’. A URL is the full address for a web page, like https://www.alberon.co.uk/about

dynamic content
Put it this way. A ‘static’ website just sits there and never changes. In contrast, a dynamic site changes. It may have blog content that is updated frequently, can include animations, video or audio, or consist of twitter feeds and news articles. Or, in the case of a retail site, new merchandise is added and seasonal promotions run.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is the way you transmit files between computers on the Internet, usually to servers where websites are hosted.

front end
Refers to all the visible elements of a web page. From images and text to buttons and videos.

Where the files for your website or software application live. To host a website it gets placed on a server, which is just another computer in massive server rooms at hosting warehouses.

The magical coding language used on websites. It’s come a long way since the beginning of the internet, and the latest version everybody is using is called HTML5.

Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is a communications protocol for secure communication widely used on the Internet for secure sites ie. for billing or sites that store personal data. You’ll see a little lock symbol next to the https link which tells you that this is a secure site.

IP address
A set of numbers (e.g. that identify a particular computer so it can be contacted over the internet – a bit like a phone number. See also DNS.

A programming language commonly used in web development and is meant to run on any platform, removing the need to keep programming it to be compatible on different devices.

keyword density
The percentage of times a keyword or keyword phrase is found in your page content amidst all the other content. Search engines take this as a sign that you specialise in one thing or another, and so find it easier to class and rank your site – which can result in higher search engine ranking.

meta tag
Meta tags describe your website to search engines – in just a few words. For example, the meta tags for this website could be: software, website design, oxford, experts.

mobile first design
Websites or applications designed with the mobile in mind. You may want a standalone website created specifically to work on a particular type of device, or you might want to replicate your main website so that it’s optimised for mobile use.

open source
Refers to software that is freely available to be used/changed at no cost. Some of these may be credited with a Creative Commons licence, others are collaborative projects with multiple users contributing to the development.

progressive enhancement
A programming approach that starts with the most basic feature and then adding features based on capability.

A website that has been designed to work well on devices with narrow screens, such as mobiles and tablets, as well as larger screens. Here are examples of responsive websites we have designed and built for our customers.

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a software delivery method that provides access to software and its functions remotely as a web-based service.

secure server
A secure server is a web server that guarantees secure online transactions. Secure servers use the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol for data encryption and decryption to protect data from unauthorized interception. See HTTPS.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid (“organic”) search results. Or simply put: this is about setting up your web page (the hidden backend matters as much as the visible front end) so that search engines can scan the site and decide how to rank you in the public’s search results.

static content
Static content is website content that is basically just that: static. It doesn’t change or do any fancy dynamic stuff. This content, once uploaded, stays there for a long time without any changes, e.g your logo.

A Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is the web address you type into a browser to reach a website. These URLs are actually lots of numbers – a bit like a telephone number – but because it was hard for people to remember too many numbers, it was agreed to mask the numbers with names. See domain names.

The waterfall model is a step-by-step design process, used in software development, in which progress is seen as flowing steadily downwards (like a waterfall) through the phases of: conception, initiation, analysis, design, construction, testing, production/implementation and maintenance.

Rather than doing a full website design – and then getting wrapped up in discussions about what colour works best – a wireframe is just that: a simple outline sketch of the website, with the aim to concentrate everybody’s minds on the structure and function first (the clever bit) before looking at the look and feel (the pretty bit).

error 404
Not a good place to be. It means that the link to a page isn’t working or ‘broken’. Either a page was deleted – or more likely, someone didn’t add the correct URL.

About Alberon

We have been designing and building bespoke software solutions and websites for organisations in Oxford for over 12 years, helping them to work more effectively and realise their full potential.

Our friendly, highly experienced team of web designers and software developers are dedicated to helping our clients achieve the outcomes they want. From web design and development, to complex software solutions, we apply our creative and technical know-how to deliver the perfect solution.

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