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web design glossary

The web can be a confusing place and we've all come across terms (jargon) that don't make much sense to us. So I've made a list of some common technical words and explained them here as simply and accurately as I can.

Your website information must be available to everyone. If someone with a disability or impairment such as sight loss cannot access the information within your website then it can be seen as discriminative. The Equality Act came into force in October 2010 replacing the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in England, Scotland and Wales.

Alt is an attribute in HTML files to specify an alternative text to an element, generally a media source such as an image or video. When a media element cannot be rendered for any reason, the alternative text will be shown instead. It is also used by screen reader software so that a person who is listening to the content of the webpage (for instance, a blind person) can interact with this element. A good web designer will always include an alt tag.

This is Microsoft's server side script language/engine which dynamically generates web pages, generallly using ActiveX scripting. When a browser or a search engine spider requests an ASP page from a server, the server generates the web page with HTML code and sends it back to the browser or spider.

Bandwidth is the amount of information your connection to the internet can carry.

A banner is a graphic image (static, animated or rich media such as video) that is placed on websites usually as an advertisement. Banners are commonly used for raising brand awareness and generating sales.

A Bitmap is a graphic image which is composed by a pattern of dots. The individual dots are stored as data on the computer. An example of an animation that is a bitmap graphic is a GIF animation (like the moving smiley's). At large scales these images are very block or grainy looking, known as "pixelated".

A browser is the software application that you use to view, manage and access web pages by interpreting hypertext and hyperlinks. The most common browsers are Microsoft Internet Explorer (often referred to as "IE"), Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Safari (for Apple Macs), although there are many others available. Web pages often appear differently depending on the brand and version of the browser used by the end user. However, most browsers are now displaying webpages similarly.

Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. Sounds complicated, right? but this is usually a simple arithmetic sum or the swirly text you have to input when you're trying to log into certain websites. This is just a security measure that confirms you're in fact a human and not an evil automated hacker.

Client-Side often refers to operations that are performed by the client, usually the user, that requires someone (or something automated) to observe or input commands. The user provides input to a server to carry out a particular request or set of requests, for example, typing in a website address in the address bar of a browser. This relationship is known as a client-server type of computer network.

In an IT sense, compression is a method of reducing data size in order to save disk space or download time. Compression is a technique to make a file or a data stream smaller for faster transmissions or to take up less storage space. In relation to websites, compression usually concerns multimedia. In particular images, with most graphics used on the web are compressed using software that reduces as many colours in the colour palette as possible, while still retaining the maximum quality of the image.

A cookie is a small piece of data sent from a website and stored in a user's web browser while the user is browsing that website. The purpose of cookies is to identify website users and prepare customised web pages for them. Every time the user loads the website the browser sends the cookie back to the web server to notify the website of the users previous activity. Cookies were designed to be a reliable mechanism for websites to remember information (such as items in a shopping cart) or to record the users browsing activity within that website, including clicking particular buttons, logging in and recording which pages were visited. Cookies are not harmful. They cannot carry viruses or install Malware on the users computer.

A content management system (CMS) is a computer application that allows the publishing, editing and modifying of content as well as maintenance from a central interface. Content management systems also provide procedures to manage workflow in a collaborative environment. CMSs are often used to run websites containing blogs, news and shopping. CMSs typically aim to avoid the need for hand coding, but may support it for specific elements or entire pages. Popular CMSs are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.

Cascading Style Sheets, referred to as CSS, is a style language used for describing the look and formatting of a document written in a markup language, usually HTML (web page). With cascading style sheets web designers can create style templates that specify how different elements (paragraphs, headings, tables, links etc) appear on a web page. Currently not all browsers express CSS formatting in the same manner. A Cascading Style Sheet allows you to put all your page styles (colours, fonts, layouts etc) into one external file rather than manually formatting each individual page and clogging up the HTML code with hundreds of lines of excess coding. CSS is a cornerstone specification of the web and almost all web pages use CSS to describe their presentation.

The Domain Name System translates URL text addresses, such as mywebsite.com, into a numeric internet address, such as, know as an ip address. This numeric address is used by the computers to locate the requested address. Think of it like a phone directory for computers. The Domian Name System is an essential component of the functionality of the internet.

This is a common error message that means the page you are searching for has not been found on the web server. This is often due to a misspelling or the page having been removed from the website but the link from other pages still exists.

Freeware is software that is available for use for no monetary cost but with one or more restricted usage rights, such as source code being withheld or redistribution prohibited.

File Transfer Protocol, FTP, is software that allows you to transfer files from one computer to another computer. Typically this is used to upload website files from the users computer to the web server.

Graphic Interchange Format images are the most widely used graphic on the web. GIF images display up to 256 colours.

HyperText Markup Language is the standard cross-platform text-formatting markup language (or code) for creating web pages.

Hypertext is text displayed on a computer or other electronic device that can be chosen by a user and causes another document to be retrieved and/or displayed immediately, typically activated by a mouse click, key-press sequence or touching the relevant part of the screen. The text used to interconnect these documents are called hyperlinks. The links can be between the pages on the same website or another website altogether. They enable easy-to-use and flexible connection and sharing of information over the internet.

This is a service that stores your website files and information on a (web)server, allowing it to be accesssed by users on the internet via a web browser.

Java is a computer programming language designed specifically to have as few implementation dependencies as possible. It allows small applications to be downloaded onto your computer for playback. Java can be used for such simple applications as animations to more complex applications such as a calculator. Java is, as at 2014, one of the most popular programming languages in use particularly for client-server web applications. Java is not to be confused with JavaScript.

JavaScript is a dynamic computer programming language. It is most commonly used as part of web browsers and can make webpages more animated and dynamic with regards to graphics and navigation. One of the most common graphic JavaScript effects is called a 'mouse-over' and JavaScript navigation is commonly used for creating drop-down menus, although this technique is gaining popular use with CSS3. It is also used in server-side network programming, video game development and the creation of desktop and mobile applications.

.jpeg or .jpg is the abbreviation for Joint Photographic Experts Group. It is a file format for full-colour and black and white images. These images allow for more colours than .gif images and are usually smaller in file size. JPGs are typically used for photos, while GIFs are used for graphics.

jQuery is a cross-platform JavaScript library designed to simplify the client-side scripting of HTML. jQuery is a free, open source software, licensed under the MIT License. The syntax is designed to make it easier to navigate a document, select elements, create animations, handle events and develop applications.

A Local Area Network (LAN) is a computer network that interconnects computers within a limited area, such as a home, school, laboratory or office building using network media. It is often referred to as an "Intranet" when used in school and office environments. LANs are in contrast to Wide Area Networks (WAN) which cover a greater geographical area.

Meta-tags are HTML tags that are used to identify the creator of a web-page, what HTML specifications a web page should follow, identify what the web page content is about, the keywords and description of the web page and so on. The most common use of a meta tag in online marketing is the keyword and description tags, although the keyword tag is losing importance, which tell the search engines what descriptions to use in their search query results and what keywords/phrases to target. These tags are found in the head section of the webpage and are not visible on the rendered page but can be viewed if you look at the code of the webpage.

Also known as a 'hover effect', this is a popular special effect for web graphics, such as changing colour or displaying an alternative graphic when the mouse cursor is placed over a specific element. They can also be used to trigger navigation changes or 'pop-up' windows.

This refers to the means by which a user can move from page to page on a website.

In a production and development sense, open source allows universal access to a products blueprint or base code plus universal redistribution of that code, including subsequent improvements to it by anyone. It is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design. Open source code is typically a collaborative effort where programmers improve upon the source code and share the changes within the community so that other members can help improve it further.

Is the equivalent to a physical point of sale terminal located in retail outlets. Payment gateways protect credit card details by encrypting sensitive information, such as the credit card numbers to ensure that information is passed securely and safely between the customer and the merchant and also between the merchant and the payment processor.

PDF is short for Portable Document Format and was created by Adobe Systems and made available free of charge in 1993 and it is now an official open standard. Each PDF file encapsulates a complete description of a fixed layout flat document, including the text, fonts, graphics and other information needed to display it. Files can be downloaded via the web and viewed page by page, provided the users computer has installed the necessary plug-in which can be downloaded from the Adobe website.

Phishing is a type of online fraud where someone tries to trick the victim into sharing sensitive information like passwords or credit card information. Phishing is typically done through email, ads or other communication like instant messaging. For example, someone may try to send a victim an email that appears to be from the victim's bank, asking for personal information.

PHP is a recursive acronym and stands for Hypertext Pre-Processor, a server-side scripting language used to produce dynamic content on web pages. It was originally designed for web development but is now also used as a general-purpose programming language which can be simply integrated with HTML. Despite its popularity, no written specification or standard for PHP exists, instead the canonical PHP interpreter serves as a de facto standard.

PNG stands for Portable Network Graphic and is used for displaying images on the web with lossless compression. The advantages of PNG are that it supports images with millions of colours and produces background transparency without jagged edges. The disadvantages are that PNG images will not show up on older (legacy) browsers and can be comparatively larger in file size than a GIF image.

Responsive web design techniques enable your website to automatically respond to your customers/visitors behaviour as well as their chosen environment, instantly detecting screensize, platform, resolution, device, orientation and display appropriately, future-proofing your website with a holistic approach. With Google now ranking responsive websites more favourably, it is absolutely vital to ensure your website is responsive. If your website is not yet responsive then get in touch with Minternet Web Design now and take the first step to make your website achieve better rankings with Google but also deliver a far superior experience for your visitors.

In design using computers, the output colours are defined in terms of a combination of these three colours, Red, Green and Blue (RGB). Their values range from 0 to 255 so for example, the RGB value for the colour blue is 0, 0, 255. In contrast, print designers typically define colours using CMYK values (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black). Most imaging software will produce values for both formats.

A search engine is a program that searches documents, such as web pages, for specified keywords and returns a hierarchy list of results. A search engine has two parts; a spider and an indexer. The spider is the program that fetches the documents and the indexer reads the document and creates an index based on the words contained in each document. Google is the most popular search engine here in the UK. Other popular search engines in the world are Microsoft's Bing, Yahoo and Ask.

A set of practices that attempt to make a website more accessible and friendlier to search engines to encourage higher visitor traffic and rankings.

Coding to W3C standards is essential if you wish your website to work on all major browsers and be compatible with all devices. It will also make your website more accessible to the search engines and help your website rank better. This can help boost traffic to your website or at the least ensure returning visitors to a more reliable website. Always make sure any designer you hire adheres to these guidelines/standards.

Server-side refers to operations that are performed by the server in a client-server relationship in computer networking. On the internet the server would typically refer to the web hosting server where the website files are stored and accessed.

Electronic spamming is the use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages, especially advertising, indiscriminately. The most widely recognised form today is through email spamming. The goal of spamming is usually to infect devices with malicious software of varying goals by enticing the recipients to follow an action, typically opening or downloading an attachment or linking to a fake form to capture sensitive information, which is then collected by the spammer. It also refers to other forms of blanket messaging that is not necessarily malicious. It is named after Spam, a luncheon meat, by way of the Monty Python sketch in which spam is included with every dish.

A software program that search engines use to visit every website on the internet. It follows all of the links within the website and catalogues all of the text of each webpage that is able to visit, which is know as 'crawling'.

A Uniform Resource Locator is an address referring to a document, typically a website page, on the internet.

User experience, often shortened to UX, is simply a plan to execute a desired experience for the website visitor, preferably a happy and intuitive one that encourages the user to use the website and return in the future. The strategy can be taken in in-depth measures such as wire-framing individual pages or mapping out a content outline and a few discussions. However, it is vitally important that the UX strategy be in place before spending time and money on design and development of a website.

A vector graphic is an image drawn in shapes and lines, called paths. Typically, they are used for 2D graphics and they scale up well due to their mathematic base rather than pixel dependant.

A website is a set of related pages typically served from a single web domain/url and generally formatted in HTML. The pages can contain text, graphics and other multimedia elements such as videos, soundbites or animation files. A website is hosted on at least one web server, accessible via a network such as the internet or a private intranet, through an internet address, known as its URL.

Website design is more than just making a web page look pretty. It is about making something useful that your audience will undoubtedly understand. Web design is taking an idea that manifests in the mind or on paper and turning it into a beautiful and functional online experience. It should look great, for sure, but it should work great too.

Web design and web development are often confused and thought to be the same thing. Web development is often a foreign entity to many outside of the web industry. The website design is broken down into certain elements and are then constructed using web and computer languages so that website users are able to interact and engage in a set of actions (hover, click, submit etc.). A perfectly developed website is one that works beautifully for both the front-end user (visitor/customer), those who manage the content of the website and the search engines.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the main international community made up of member organisations that maintain full-time staff that work together to develop international web standards. The W3C mission is to lead the web to it's full potential.

Extensible HyperText Markup Language (XHTML) is a hybrid of XML & HTML. It is a family of markup languages that extend versions of the widely used HTML. The language which web pages are written in. Web pages designed in XHTML should look the same across all platforms and browsers.

This is an abbreviation of eXtensible Markup Language. It is a mark-up language that defines a set of rules for encoding documents in a format that is both human and machine readable.

Wow! That was a few.

Have I missed any terms out? If there is a word or phrase that you don't know what it means or stands for and would like me to add it to my list, then contact me and I will insert it on this page.

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