The 2020 Web Design & Development Glossary

At Good & Gold, we take pride in tracking the front edges of the industry, but we also aim to simplify things for our clients, and pay attention to what’s truly important. In other words, we separate the wheat from the chaff to develop strategies and benchmarks for ourselves and our clients that are built to deliver concrete results—not bells and whistles. We’re here to help you make sense of the chaos so that you can focus on what matters most: your business.

When it comes to web design and development, things can get pretty confusing. For that reason, we find it really helpful to develop a shared language, so that we can be sure we're talking about the same things when describing ideas, issues, requests, and goals. Below, you’ll find the terms we talk about most when building websites for our clients. Whether you’re new to web design or a seasoned pro, this little glossary should provide a helpful shared language.


Basically, this is the ability of a website to be used by people with disabilities, including visually impaired visitors using screen readers, hearing impaired visitors using no sound, color blind people, or those with other disabilities. A website with low accessibility is basically going to be impossible for those with disabilities to use. Accessibility is particularly important for sites providing information to those with disabilities (healthcare sites, government sites, etc.), though it is an important aspect to consider when designing any site.


The term "agile" refers to an iterative, incremental method of managing design and development. In an agile workflow, requirements evolve from sprint to sprint, and teams work in a collaborative structure. In an agile project, code is shipped and features are released continually, unlike in a fixed-bid, fixed-timeline, single release waterfall project.


The text a link uses to refer to your site. This can make a big difference in your site’s search engine results. See also: Backlink.


An API (Application Programming Interface) is a mechanism that allows different systems to communicate. It provides a method of accessing or manipulating data from a system, usually provided by the system's implementors. A "system" could be anything. Examples include applications like PayPal, Shopify, and Salesforce, but it could also be a custom application that stores shipping rules, product inventory and prices. Developers create APIs so that data that exists in their system can be made available in other places. For example, if you want data that exists in your CRM to display on your website, your website developer would check to see if there is an API that would allow the information to be accessed. If the API exists, the website developer can write code that will display it on the site. They could potentially also use the API to push information from the website into the other system.


The back end of a website is the part hidden from view of regular website visitors. The back end generally includes the information structure, applications, and the CMS controlling content on the site.


Back-end developers are engineers who take working proofs of concepts (prototypes) and write all the code that makes them fully functional and populated with real data. For websites, a back-end developer will connect your website to some sort of content management system that lets content owners manage and update website content themselves. They will also build in any integrations that pull or push data to and from other sources, such as a database or a third-party system. A back end-developer will specialize in one or more programming languages.


A website’s bounce rate is the percentage of people who leave the site from the same page they entered the site, without clicking through to any other pages. This can be a good indicator of how good a website’s navigation is, as well as an indicator of the quality of the site’s content (a very high bounce rate doesn’t bode well for either of those things).


Breadcrumbs are the bit of navigation elements that generally appear near the top of a give web page that show you the pages and subpages the appear before the page you’re on. For examples, on a blog, the breadcrumbs might look something like: Home > Category > Year > Month > Post (or they might be a lot simpler that that). The breadcrumbs term comes from the fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel.”


Cached files are those that are saved or copied (downloaded) by a web browser so that the next time that user visits the site, the page loads faster.


Also referred to simply as CSS, Cascading Style Sheets are used to define the look and feel of a web site outside of the actual HTML file(s) of the site. In recent years, CSS has replaced tables and other HTML-based methods for formatting and laying out websites. The benefits to using CSS are many, but some of the most important are the simplification of a site’s HTML files (which can actually increase search engine rankings) and the ability to completely change the style of a site by changing just one file, without having to make changes to content.


The Content Management System is a backend tool for managing a site’s content that separates said content from the design and functionality of the site. Using a CMS generally makes it easier to change the design or function of a site independent of the site’s content. It also (usually) makes it easier for content to be added to the site for people who aren’t designers.


A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system is a tool used to manage customer information. It will typically store things like customer contact information, customer status (lead, prospect, active customer), sales or service history, etc. Popular CRMs include Salesforce, Zoho and HubSpot.


Deprecated code is code that is no longer included in the language specifications. Generally this happens because it is replaced with more accessible or efficient alternatives.


Discovery is a focused period where teams are dedicated to developing a deeper understanding of: a client, their business, their users, and all the context and restraints that surround current and future projects. In discovery, learning goes both ways. It's an opportunity for a web team to learn more about a client and their business, and for the client to learn more about the design and development process. The amount of time spent in discovery can vary depending on the activities planned and outcomes desired. A typical discovery might consist of 2-4 sequential full days of interviews, workshops and presentations onsite with a client. Or, in other scenarios, discovery might be an entire "learning" phase of a project.


In GIF and certain other image formats, there is a limited color palette used for each image. Because of this, not all colors in an image are presented. Dither is used to approximate these colors by combining pixels of different colors side by side.


Stands for Domain Name Service (alternately Domain Name System or Domain Name Server). Basically, it’s the thing that converts IP addresses into domain names. DNS servers are provided with the IP address of your web server when you assign your domain name to those servers. In turn, when someone types your domain name into their web browser, those DNS servers translate the domain name to the IP address and point the browser to the correct web server.


Stands for Document Object Model. It’s a language-indpendent, cross-platform convention for representing objects in XML, XHTML, and HTML documents. Rules for interacting with and programming the DOM are specified in the DOM API.


Em is a unit of measurement for sizing fonts and other elements within a web page relative to the item’s parent element. A 1em font is equal to the point size for the font already defined in the parent element (2em would be twice the current size; .5em would be half the current size).


Favicons are tiny (generally 16x16 pixels, though some are 32x32 pixels), customizable icons displayed in the web address bar in most browsers next to the web address. They’re either 8-bit or 24-bit in color depth and are saved in either .ico, .gif or .png file formats.


Font family is a group designation for defining the typefaces used in CSS documents. The font family tag generally lists multiple fonts to be used, and usually ends with the generic font category (such as “serif” or “sans-serif’).


In CSS, the font style refers solely to whether a font is italic or not.


The font weight refers to how thick or thin (bold or light) a font looks.


The front-end is basically the opposite of the back-end. It’s all the components of a website that a visitor to the site can see (pages, images, content, etc.) Specifically, it’s the interface that visitors use to access the site’s content. It’s also sometimes referred to as the User Interface.


Front-end developers write the code that controls how a website looks and interacts when it's displayed in a browser. The primary tools of a front-end developer include HTML (code that makes content render on a page), CSS (coded stylesheets that apply color, typography, style and layout to the HTML) and JavaScript (code that handles advanced interactivity). A front-end developer will also work with a handful of other frameworks that help expedite, enhance, and organize the coding process.


Also referred to as an HTML element, an HTML tag is the bit of code that describes how that particular piece of the web page it’s on is formatted. Typical tags specify things like headings, paragraphs, links, and a variety of other items.


A landing page is the page where a visitor first enters a website. Oftentimes, a special landing page is created to elicit a specific action from the new visitor (usually in connection with an advertising or marketing campaign).


This refers to the coding applied to a text document to change it into an HTML, XML, or other Markup Language document.


Navigation refers to the system that allows visitors to a website to move around that site. Navigation is most often thought of in terms of menus, but links within pages, breadcrumbs, related links, pagination, and any other links that allow a visitor to move from one page to another are included in navigation.


Short for “permanent link.” Generally used only on blogs, a permalink is a link that is the permanent web address of a given blog post. Since most blogs have constantly-changing content, the permalink offers a way for readers to bookmark or link to specific posts even after those posts have moved off the home page or primary category page.


A plug-in is a bit of third party code that extends the capabilities of a website. It’s most often used in conjunction with a CMS or blogging platform. Plug-ins are a way to extend the functionality of a website without having to redo the core coding of the site. Plugins can also refer to bits of third-party software installed within a computer program to increase its functionality.


Property is a CSS term and is roughly equivalent to an HTML tag. Properties are what define how a style should appear on a given web page.


A prototype is a proof of concept used to evaluate a design idea. For example, rather than creating a static mock up of what a web page will look like and then asking stakeholders to "approve the design", a team might create a prototype that everyone can interact within the browser. This gives everyone a more realistic, interactive facsimile of the website to try out. Prototypes help teams test ideas and make necessary changes early on—before committing the effort, time and cost that go into building a fully functional product.


Quantitative data refers to any aggregated, measurable pieces of information. Typically, it refers to data (analytics) that reflects website/application traffic and usage. On its own, quantifiable data will provide information about what is happening on your website, but not why it's happening. Being able to quantify what's happening (or not happening) on your website can help you determine the best place to focus your UX research, design and development efforts.


Qualitative data is information gained through direct observation or interviews with the people who use a product or system. Usability testing is a form of user research that generates qualitative insights. Whereas analytics and metrics may provide quantitative information about what's happening on your website, qualitative research will help you understand why you are seeing those results. Your qualitative insights will help you know what changes might improve things like conversion rate or user experience.


A roadmap is a living document that paints out planned strategic activities across a stretch of time. Roadmaps are used to help teams and stakeholders visualize the timeline of moving pieces that need to be aligned as part of big initiatives. A typical roadmap will display key project deadlines and feature releases, often tracked across months or quarters.


A specification is a document that offers an explicit definition and requirements for a web service or technology and generally includes how the technology is meant to be used, along with the tags, elements, and any dependencies.


A sprint is the determinate window of time a team has to successfully complete a chunk of work. Sprints are used to deliver design work, deploy code, and ship new features incrementally. Sprints help teams organize development tasks into manageable stand-alone pieces. Each team's individual sprint-cycle should reflect a specific interval of time. For example, a team in a 3-week sprint cycle will plan, execute on, complete and deliver work for testing every 3 weeks.


A tag is a set of markup characters that are used around an element to indicate its start and end. Tags can also include HTML or other code to specify how that element should look or behave on the page. See also HTML Tag.


A template is a file used to create a consistent design across a website. Templates are often used in conjunction with a CMS and contain both structural information about how a site should be set up, but also stylistic information about how the site should look.


UI (User Interface) Design is the design of how things on screen look. Color, layout, typography, style, and animation effects all exist within the domain of UI design. UI designers will have a solid understanding of the principles of graphic design and website usability. It's not uncommon for web designers to have multiple areas of expertise, for example a web designer might be versed in both interface design and user experience or front end development.


Usability refers to how easy it is for a visitor to your site to use your site in its intended manner. In other words, are navigation, content, images, and any interactive elements easy to use, functioning the way they were intended, and that your intended target visitor will not need any special training in order to use your site.


Usability testing involves sitting down with a user of a website, product, or application and observing what they do. This can be done in person, or remotely via screen share. A typical usability testing session combines a general interview with guided and unguided walkthroughs of the interface being tested. When guided, the tester will ask the user to complete a series of tasks and identify what things the user can do easily, and where the user encounters friction (has difficulty). When unguided, the user will take the lead in an open walkthrough of their thoughts and the tasks they would most naturally try to complete.


Any of a toolbox of techniques used to gather insights about people, their motivations, and their behavioral patterns—specifically as they pertain to interactions with products, websites or applications. User research can include a combination of quantitative and qualitative techniques.


UX stands for user experience. User experience, as a discipline, is the application of design tools and techniques to uncover user goals and needs. This all works toward the goal of crafting products, applications, and systems that are useful, desirable, and easy for people to use. User experience is also used as an umbrella term to reflect the overall degree of satisfaction a person will have interacting with a product or website. Everything that impacts user satisfaction: how quickly a screen loads, how well-written and relevant content is, how easy it is for users to navigate or complete tasks all contribute to the overall user experience.


Standards are specifications recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium for standardizing website design. The main purpose of web standards is to make it easier for both designers and those who create web browsers to make sites that will appear consistent across platforms.

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