Demystifying web design terminology

Brush up on your web design acronyms, abbreviations and jargon so you can impress your web designer with your web design lingo.

There are relatively few industries that can trump the world of web design and development for the sheer number of acronyms, abbreviations and jargon. So if you are about to embark on a journey into the world of web design it's worth brushing up on the meaning of a few of the more commonly used terms.

Whilst we always try not to use jargon when communicating with clients it can sometimes feel a bit like the yes/no game (where you have to respond to questions without saying "yes" or "no") if we have to avoid every term that could be considered jargon. So understanding a few of the more commonly used terms makes for easier and more efficient communication.


Hypertext Markup Language is one of the core technologies of the web. It's used to describe the structure of a web page semantically. HTML is used by the vast majority of websites on the internet to deliver content to users. In a web design project creating HTML templates is the step that often follows a design being approved so when you're looking at the first iteration of your website in a web browser that's when your design has been transferred into HTML.


Cascading Stylesheets is a style sheet language used for describing the presentation of a document written in a markup language. In the context of a web design project CSS is the technology used for presenting the data contained in HTML. CSS can describe the finer details such as the font, font size and font colour right through to the broader details such as the layout, how the page adapts on different devices and how it looks when printed. The CSS is sometimes referred to as the website's "styles" and the task of creating those styles is sometimes referred to as "styling".


JavaScript is an interpreted programming language, it is a high-level, dynamic and untyped language. JavaScript's role in web design projects often includes things such as form validation in the web browser, animation such as sliders and interactivity such as tabbed user-interfaces and video players. JavaScript is the last of the triad of cornerstone web technologies in this list that also includes HTML and CSS.


Every website exists somewhere on a computer connected to the internet, each time you access a website that computer has to respond with the web page and related assets such as CSS, JS, images, etc. that make up that page. The computer that performs this role is commonly referred to as the "server". This is of course a simplified view, with many modern websites and web applications there are several layers/clusters of servers, each with their own role and rather than there being just one server there may be a fleet of servers to handle a greater volume of website visitors.


Uniform Resource Locator is a reference to a web resource that specifies its location on a computer network and a mechanism for retrieving it, an example URL is "". In a web design project URLs are very useful, much like if you were talking to someone about a page in a document you might reference the page number, URLs are a similarly useful reference. So referencing a URL allows your web designers or developers to know exactly the page you are referring to.


Following on from the earlier terms of Server and URL, when you enter a URL into your web browser and hit enter, the web browser sends a Request to the server for that particular web resource. So if your web designer or web developer refers to a "request" or making a "request" this is what they are referring to, the instruction sent from your web browser to request a web page from a server.


Domain Name System is a hierarchical decentralised naming system for computers, services, or other resources connected to the Internet or a private network. It translates more memorable domain names such as to a corresponding network IP address. DNS is an essential component of the functionality of the Internet, that has been in use since 1985.

Web Browser

This is the software application you use to navigate and consume information on the World Wide Web. The most popular web browsers by market share are Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Microsoft Edge and Opera (at the time of writing).


When a web designer or web developer is referring to the client, they might not be referring to their customer, it might be the web browser they are actually referring to.  In more technical conversations web designers often talk about the "client" and "server", where "client" effectively means in the web browser.  These terms can also be suffixed with "side", so they might refer to "client-side" meaning in the web browser or "server-side" meaning at the web server.


When web designers and developers refer to the "front-end" they are talking about the technologies that exist in the web browser so those are generally HTML, JS and CSS. A front-end developer's role therefore includes composing these three important technologies to deliver the user-interface for website visitors.


When web designers and developers refer to the "back-end" they are referring to the server or server-side.


PHP is a server-side scripting language designed primarily for web development. PHP is often used to assemble web pages using content stored in a database or used to customise the web page for each user.


ASP.Net is a server-side web application framework designed for web development to produce dynamic web pages. It was developed by Microsoft to allow programmers to build dynamic web sites, web applications and web services.


When web designers talk about content they are referring to the information a website or web page presents to visitors so this content could take many forms such as text, images and videos.


A Content Management System is a web application that enables users to manage the content on their website and add, edit delete that content. There are many content management systems available, such as Craft CMS.


Search Engine Optimisation is the process of improving the rankings of a website or web page in search engine's natural (also known as organic) results. The aim being to increase the volume of traffic to the website or web page from search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo.


Transport Layer Security (TLS) and its predecessor, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), both frequently referred to as "SSL", are cryptographic protocols that provide communications security over a computer network. SSL is used by websites and web applications to encrypt the data transmitted between the client and server. You can often identify websites that use SSL by the presence of a green padlock in the browser's address bar.


Git is a version control system (VCS) for tracking changes in computer files and coordinating work on those files among multiple people. In web design and web application projects Git or similar version control systems are employed to keep track of changes to the source code of your project and enable individual members of a team to contribute work to the project without interfering with the simultaneous work of others on the same project.


Pay-Per-Click is a model of digital advertising where advertisers pay the advertising network or publisher an amount for each click on their advert. Search engines such as Google and Bing offer Pay-Per-Click advertising, with the ads often placed above, below and to the side of the natural (also known as organic) search results. The cost-per-click (CPC) vary broadly from a few pence to over £100 depending on the particular keyword(s).


Hypertext Transfer Protocol is an application protocol that provides the foundation for data communication on the World Wide Web. When your web browser requests a web resource such as a web page, HTTP is the protocol that issues that request and provides the response so it couldn't be more fundamental to how the web works.


Amazon Web Services is the cloud computing platform launched as a subsidiary of in 2006. The service offers on-demand cloud computing of almost limitless scale and is an integral part of our own web hosting infrastructure.


Google Cloud Platform is a cloud computing service by Google that offers hosting on the same supporting infrastructure that Google uses internally for end-user products like Google Search and YouTube. GCP was launched in 2011 to compete with AWS and Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platforms.

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