Basic Web Design Terms to Know

by Oluwatosin Alabi

The language of web design includes many web design terms you should know. Whether you build your blog or website, work with a web designer or web developer, or want to learn more about web design in general, this article will cover the most important terms used in web design. 

There are specialized terms referring to all sorts of aspects of web design. For someone just getting started in web design, or someone looking to have a site designed, all these technical jargon and acronyms can be overwhelming. Below is a guide to industry terms that should get you well on your way to understanding what web designers are talking about.

01. HTML

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language and is the language of the web.

Put simply, HTML provides a way for the web designer to tell your web browser how to treat a particular piece of content. HTML contains many different tags that allow the designer to mark up their content with semantic meaning so that paragraphs are identified as text copy, while images are imported as images, and so on.

02. CSS

HTML isn’t enough on its own to create beautiful web pages, however. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) provides a method for designers to create a visual set of rules that determine how different elements within a web page will be rendered on screen by the browser.

CSS allows things like text, shape and background colour, text and shape sizes, and position of all the different parts of a page to be set.

03. JavaScript

JavaScript is (as implied by the name) a scripting language that allows designers to create interactions on a web page.

Historically JavaScript was primarily used for form validation and provided those annoying alert boxes that popped up when you forgot to enter your telephone number in the phone field. These days there are many more viable uses for JavaScript, including special visual effects, or the ability to load new content without having to reload the whole page.

One important thing to note is that despite its name, JavaScript bears no relation to the Java programming language whatsoever.

04. Responsive design

For the past several years responsive design has been a real buzzword around the web, and it shows no signs of letting up. Clients have even started demanding responsive websites from their designers, often without fully understanding what it is that they’re asking for!

In simple terms, a responsive design adapts to the user’s device and, in an ideal world, the user’s context so that it displays the content required in the most appropriate and accessible manner, regardless of what kind of web-connected device is being used to view it. 

In practice, this means a web page will re-paginate itself as the screen size reduces or increases, displaying in multiple columns when viewed on a desktop computer, but only a single column when viewed on a smartphone.

05. SAAS

Software as a service (SAAS) is a method of software delivery and licensing in which software is accessed online via a subscription, rather than bought and installed on individual computers, freeing users from complex software and hardware management.

Popular examples of SaaS in action include the latest versions of Microsoft Office online, Google Docs, and Photoshop Express.

06. A/B Testing

A/B testing (also known as split testing) is a process of showing two variants of the same web page to different segments of website visitors at the same time and comparing which variant drives more conversions.

By continuing an iterative process of prototyping, evaluating, and adapting, A/B testing can provide a significant increase to the conversion rate of individual pages.

07. Information Architecture (IA)

Information Architecture (IA) is a generic term used to describe the semantic layout of content and information on a website. It refers to the organization of the information, dealing with “what pages go where” in a website’s structure, what content is contained on each page, and how each of these interacts with other pages within the site.

08. Content Management System (CMS) 

A software system that is used to edit the content on your website. This allows you to log in to the “back end” of your website to edit the text and images. Some examples include WordPress and Drupal. A CMS is designed to simplify the publication of website content, without requiring technical knowledge of code.

09. Hosting 

In simple terms, web hosting is the process of renting or buying space to house a website on the World Wide Web. Website content such as HTML, CSS, and images has to be housed on a server to be viewable online.

A server is a computer that connects other web users to your site from anywhere in the world. As the name implies, web hosting service providers have the servers, connectivity, and associated services to host websites. By offering a variety of hosting plans, they cover the spectrum of hosting needs, from small blogs and large organizations.

10. Wireframe 

A visual guide to show the structure and content of a web page without any design elements. This helps to focus on the layout and hierarchy of content, without being distracted by design.

Being familiar with this vocabulary will aid in productive conversations with your website design agency, whether undergoing website maintenance or a complete redesign. While your agency will certainly help you through the process, knowing these words can help make the process smoother and save time and money.

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