Glossary of Website Design Terms
In order to have productive conversations with team members you need to be able to talk to the talk. That’s why I’m putting together a growing Glossary of Website Terms. Suggestions for terms you want defined can be sent to chris @ alltimelowe.com.
* Buzzword alert. Any term marked with an asterisk indicates a buzzword alert. These terms are subject to mis-use and over-use. Please speak responsibly.
The software that you use to visit websites. Common examples include Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox or Safari. Browsers on mobile devices include Safari for iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer for Windows Phone, an Android browser for Android devices and on, and on. Browsers are becoming increasingly transparent with browsers being included inside of popular apps like Twitter and Facebook.
- Content Management System (CMS)
A platform for adding, editing and managing your site content. Common CMS’s include WordPress, Drupal, ExpressionEngine and Joomla.
A company that offers server space for websites or other web services. Some are free (be aware) and some are very expensive. My host of choice is Dreamhost.
Also see plugin; this could refer to a specific block of code or functionality on your site. This term is used for many things, so if you hear it it would be a good idea to ask for clarification.
Gaining increasing popularity within the industry, this term typically refers to the speed web pages are downloaded and viewed on a user’s web browser. A couple tools I like to use for testing performance are Google’s PageSpeed Insights and WebPagetest.
Also see module, a plugin often refers to a package of code that adds some pre-built functionality to your site. WooCommerce is an eCommerce plugin for WordPress, for example, that gives you extensive eCommerce functionality. There are a plethora of plugins available for most CMS. A word of advice though is that every plugin adds extra code and typically extra resources for your site to load. Too many plugins can greatly reduce the performance of your site.
- Responsive Web Design*
An approach to designing websites that focuses on independence of the screen size or device in which it will be experienced. RWD has become a standard in many ways and I would be wary of anyone who either doesn’t currently practice RWD as their own standard or charges extra for a new project.
A template in web design terms can also mean a number of things. Technically it means a preset format for a document, i.e. a page of your site. When talking about WordPress page templates are common and include instructions for WordPress to display the contents of a page in a new format.
A theme typically refers to the grander, top-level formatting of your site. WordPress deals with themes—many are available from free to very expensive. I built custom theme for my clients. Themes can be as simple as changing the visual style of your site to as complex as introducing advanced functionality.
The ease of use of an interface. Ideally, this can be measured with specific goals and metrics, such as reaching an end point in the minimum number of clicks. You could measure the average number of clicks to get to a contact page over time and work on elements such as the visual design, information architecture, and copywriting to try to improve the usability.
- User Experience (UX)*
User experience is the overall experience felt when interacting with a user interface. Specifically for websites, user experience is the focus of ease of use or usability. This term has grown outside of computing and many companies are considering the “experience” of a brand in many contexts. How a person feels when they push a Coke button on a vending machine, click a link on the Coca Cola website, or come across their Twitter account all builds toward a total user experience.
- User Interface (UI)*
Where a user interacts with a system. For web systems, such as websites, mobile apps, etc. the user interface is the visual representation of the site. Users interact with your site by reading content and clicking links. The design of those elements with the focus creating a good user experience is User Interface Design, or UI Design.
WordPress is just one of many content management systems (CMS) available. Open source, meaning the platform is free to use and supported by a community of volunteers, WordPress powers over two million websites and accounts for approximately 68% of a CMS in use (Source).