Common Web Design Terms – Technical Edition

Here at Visceral, we recognize that some of the terms we use every day might sound a little bit like a foreign language to you.  To make things easier, we have created this guide that defines many of the technical terms and acronyms that we use frequently so that you can familiarize yourself with the terminology before diving into a website redesign.

301 Redirects – A permanent redirect from one URL to another.  This is like setting a forwarding address with the post office when you move so that you (or your webpage) can be found even though your address has changed.

AJAX – Asynchronous JavaScript and XML – AJAX is a combination of web languages that allows a webpage to update data without reloading the whole page.  Simple examples of AJAX in action include when a blog or social network (Facebook) will load new posts as you scroll down the page, or when you successfully submit a form and the page does not refresh.  Ajax is also the name of our web developer’s awesome dog.

Analytics – Website analytics is data that is captured and analyzed about the behavior and demographics of visitors to your website, social media channels, etc.  The purpose is to understand and optimize the way users interact with your web properties online. Visceral generally uses Google Analytics for websites.

API – Application Program Interface – software-to-software interface that allows two separate applications to share data or events.  APIs are often used when integrating 3rd party services such as email marketing or CRM tools.

CDN – Content Delivery Network- A system of servers that deliver a webpage (or other digital content such as your iTunes or Google Play downloads) to a user based on geographic location making the content distribution faster the closer the server is.

CMS – Content Management System – The software that we setup to allow you to manage the content on your website.  It allows you to create, edit and publish content and media onto your website without having to do coding.

Copywriting – Copywriting is the creation of the content that is on your website.  All of the words on your site are considered copy.

CRM – Customer Relationship Management – Powerful software used to manage connections and interactions with an organization’s current or future customers, donors or members. Often, a website will have its “Contact Us” form go into a CRM so that a company representative can track and follow up with potential customers.  Popular CRM’s include, Blackbaud and CiviCRM. CRMs can be highly customizable and very powerful business management tools.

CSS3 – Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a language used to control the look and formatting of a document coded using a markup language (such as HTML5).  CSS controls the presentation layer of a website, and things like fonts, colors and page layout.  In short, CSS helps make your website pretty.

Domain Name – The domain name is the URL or web address of a website.  For example, is our domain name.

Drupal – a CMS that Visceral has extensive experience with.  Drupal is used by 5.1% of the CMS-driven websites on the Internet, and is the 3rd most popular and a powerful CMS options.  While the learning curve tends to be higher for content administrators, it could be argued that Drupal is a more robust platform for websites with very unique requirements.

DNS – Domain name system – A service that maps domain names to IP addresses.  IP addresses are the unique Internet location of your server.  Think of a DNS server as the phone book for the World Wide Web.

E-commerce – The buying and selling of products and services electronically.  Every time you get a donation, make a donation, buy clothing or purchase a book online you are making an e-commerce transaction.

HTML5 – Hypertext Markup Language version 5 – It is a set of tags that tell a web browser how to structure a page’s information.  You’ve likely seen this type of code before.  Tags look like <p> which denotes a paragraph or <li> which is a list item.  HTML5 is simply the most recent version of HTML.

JavaScript – JavaScript is a client-side programming language, which means that the code is processed by the user’s browser (vs. server-side script which runs on the server).  JavaScript is used to create dynamic and interactive front-end elements, such as a rotating homepage promotion or an accordion toggle.

jQuery– The most popular cross-browser Javascript library in use today, jQuery allows for simple document element selection, manipulation and event handling.

LAMP – Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP- A set of components used to build dynamic web sites and web applications. It is the common foundation (often called a “technology stack”) that many platforms like WordPress and Drupal run on.

Open Source – Open source software is software that can be freely used, changed, and shared (in modified or unmodified form) by anyone.  The open and collaborative nature of Open Source platforms like WordPress has played a large role in their success.

PHP – Hypertext Preprocessor – A scripting language used on web servers to create dynamic websites.  PHP can be inserted into the HTML code on a web page by a programmer or by a CMS like WordPress (WordPress itself is written in PHP). While PHP can be used for many things, it’s most often used on the web to write dynamically generated pages quickly and easily and/or to add additional functionality (such as a searchable database) to a website.

Plugin – Plugins are like accessories for your website and they can take many different forms.  They are blocks of functional code that can be added to a website to add specific features or services in a neat and simple package.  In the CMS world, WordPress extensions are called plugins, but Drupal calls them modules and Sitefinity calls them widgets.

SEM – Search Engine Marketing – the process of affecting the visibility of your website on search engines.  SEM includes SEO (below) and advertising like PPC (pay per click-paid ads), Google AdWords and re-marketing campaigns.

SEO – Search Engine Optimization – the use of techniques to increase the traffic to your site organically.  This is done by embedding keywords, meta descriptions and tags into content and adding relevant links throughout the site in order to be placed higher on search engines.

Server – A computer that provides data to other computers.  Servers can have many purposes such as sending email, storing files or housing databases.  Web servers are responsible for hosting and literally serving files to web users on request, kind of like this blog post.  The type of web server you have along with its features is commonly referred to as your “hosting plan”.

SSL – Secure Sockets Layer – A technology which keeps websites secure by encrypting transferred data so that no one can intercept it and get your personal information. You’ll know that a site that you are on is using this technology if you see “https” protocol in the URL versus just “http”.

UX – User experience is the overall experience that the viewer of your website has.  UX includes user ability to navigate through the site easily, design and relevant content. UX factors heavily into Visceral’s process.

WordPress – the most popular CMS used on the Internet today, it is used to create custom websites and publishing platforms.  Many websites are still built without a CMS but of the sites that are, 61.0% of them use WordPress.  At the time of this post, WordPress powers an incredible variety of websites from The New Yorker to The Rolling Stones.  WordPress is Open Source. Its flexibility and ease-of-use make it a great choice for a new website. WordPress is Visceral’s preferred CMS platform.

WYSIWYG– Pronounced “whizzywig”, WYSIWYG stands for What You See Is What You Get and refers to the Microsoft Word-style editing in many popular content management systems. A good WYSIWYG system allows you to get a realistic look at how content will appear on your site before you publish it.

We could probably go on but this is a great start!

Now that you are fully equipped with all of the technical lingo you are ready to begin any website redesign.  Let us know how we can help!

Dana Jensen

Production Director

Describe your role at Visceral As the Production Director at Visceral I am responsible for both our project management practice and the operations of Visceral. In short, I make sure everything is getting done on time...

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