Common Web Terminology Explained

You might have asked yourself: “What does SEO mean?” “What is a nameserver or domain?” “How does cache work?” and “What is this talk about keywords and organic traffic??” If you’ve asked questions like these, then this guide is for you! When it comes to websites and the internet, the lingo you hear can sometimes seem like another language. This may become a problem when you are needing a website of your own and you want to understand some of the terminology. At Crisp Web Services, we take care of all of the technical things so our clients don’t necessarily need to know what these things mean, but we find that many still want to understand some of the jargon. I created this guide to help anyone who is looking for a solid basic understanding of all things related to websites. Table of Contents
  1. Basic Need-to-know Website Terms
  2. WordPress Terminology
  3. Marketing Terminology
  4. Google Services
  5. Developer Terminology

Basic Need-to-Know Website Terms

Let’s start with the first and most basic terms that you will need to understand to start a website. Knowing these will help you communicate better with your web designer and be informed with the basics of how websites work. Domain name: the internet name for your website. For example, my domain is You purchase a domain through a domain registrar like GoDaddy or Namecheap. Typically, you choose a domain that is also your business name, if it is available to purchase. Once purchased, it is your property as long as you renew it each year, and can be sold or transferred. URL: the address where your webpage lives, or what you type in to your browser to see the website. For example, the url of my services page is: Browser: the software that lets you view websites, like Chrome or Firefox. Website Hosting: the service that puts your website on the internet. You pay a company (like Siteground or Bluehost) to use their servers where your website files will live. Each hosting company offers different things in terms of space, speed, security, and options. Your specific situation will determine the options you need, so be sure to talk to your web developer before choosing your host. Nameservers and DNS Records: the settings that point your domain to the correct host. This is what connects your domain name to wherever you built your website and must be set correctly for your domain to work. There are other records connected with your domain as well that may need set for other applications, like your domain email for example. Website Platform or CMS: CMS stands for Content Management System. It is the platform that you use to create your website, like WordPress or Wix or Shopify. Each platform it unique and the one you choose should match your needs. Some CMS platforms also include hosting. We use WordPress exclusively for our website builds because of its versatility, customization options, and ease of use. SSL: a layer of security between the browser and your server that encrypts sensitive information being passed through your website like credit card information and passwords. A SSL certificate is installed through your host and once installed tells the browser and visitors that your site is safe and secure. This is a must have, especially if you are taking payments. Responsive Design: a design that “responds” to the change of screen size. The design and layout will change to function and read well on any size of device, including mobile. Accessibility: the ability for your website to be used by those with disabilities, like the visually impaired or those using a screen reader. Your site should have appropriate tags (called alt-tags) associated with each image, captions to videos, etc, making it easy to use and navigate for all users. Website Optimization: process of improving the performance and stability of your website. Can include strategies to improve speed, ease of use, accessibility, SEO, and more.
wordpress terminology

WordPress Terminology

Because we are exclusive WordPress users here, I will break down some of the words you might hear related to this popular CMS. A popular platform for building any kind of professional or DIY website. Many people do not know that there are two WordPress platforms: (aka the”real WordPress” that we know and love) and (sometimes used by DIY bloggers or beginners). We only use here and honestly would never recommend the other. For a full breakdown of the two, see this article. WordPress Theme: A collection of files that work together to create the look and feel of your website. You must have a theme for WordPress to work, but you do not have to use it exclusively to design your site. We use a minimalist theme and handle most of the styling separately. WordPress Plug-ins: “add-on” software for your site that adds functionality. Some are free and others you have to purchase. Whatever capabilities your website needs, there is probably a plug-in that can handle it. Some plugins are not well made or may conflict with each other, so it is important to choose carefully which plugins you use and limit the number where possible. Plug-ins are installed in your WordPress dashboard. WordPress Templates: pre-made page designs for your websites– you just plug in your info and pictures. Many DIYers and even some professionals use these for a quick and easy way to build a website. At Crisp Web Services, we only build custom websites and never use design templates. We strongly believe that every company is unique and deserves a uniquely made website. WordPress Dashboard: the screen where you manage your website. This is where you log in, edit your content, and make changes to your site. For clients who want to be able to do this on their own, we sometimes customize the dashboard to be super user friendly and easy to manage. Header/Footer: the top and bottom section of your website. Usually stays constant, most every page on your website will have the same header and footer. Header usually contains your logo and site navigation menu.

" We strongly believe that every company is unique and deserves a uniquely made website.   "


Marketing Terminology

SEO: (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of helping your site to show up better in Google and other search engines. It can include several different strategies and techniques. On-Page SEO deals with keywords and structures being optimized on your website itself, while Off-Page SEO includes getting backlinks and other strategies to increase the reputation of your website. Things like site speed and optimization can also improve your SEO and are categorized under Technical SEO. Keywords: the words someone types into a search bar to find information on a particular subject. For SEO purposes, you use these words or phrases strategically in building your site and content to help users find your site when searching for these words. Keyword research determines which of these words will be best to use on your site and most benefit your purposes. Digital Marketing: also called online marketing, this refers to any kind of promotion that happens on the internet. It can include social media advertising, email campaigns, google ads, SEO, and more. Organic Traffic: visitors who come to your website from clicking on an un-paid search engine result. SEO work creates organic traffic. Alternatively, paid traffic comes from ads that you pay for (usually per click). Ecommerce: a website that markets and sells products directly on the site. Landing Page – A stand-alone webpage where a visitor first “lands” on your website. These are commonly made for specific marketing aims and does not refer to the homepage of your website. For example, you might create a landing page that features a specific product you are offering and make ads that lead directly to that page instead of the main page of your website. Can also be used to collect leads.

Google Services

Google Business Profile: previously called “Google My Business”, this is a listing that you can make for your business shows up when people search for your industry in places like Google Search or in Maps. It’s free and one of the easiest ways to get your business name and information out in the public. Google Analytics: a service that provides statistics about visitors to your website. You can track things like page views, user behavior, and more for marketing and analytical purposes. In order to collect analytics, you have to first put a tracking code on your website. Google Search Console: a dashboard of tools and reports that help you measure your site’s Search traffic and performance.
website developer coding building site

Developer Languages & Terminology

These are less important to know and most are probably something you will never deal with. But, for those who are curious, here are some simple explanations. Front-end vs. Back-end: The two “sides” of website development. Front-end focuses on the visual side that the user sees and interacts with, while back-end deals with the data and making it all work. HTML: the markup language used to create the main structure and content of a website CSS: the language that sets the styling and design of the website Javascript, PHP, SQL, etc: there are many languages and pieces to the back-end of the website that add functionality and handle databases. For the most part, you will never need to touch any of this. API: (Application Programming Interface) is a way to allow different software applications to communicate and interact with each other. For example, if you want your website to connect to UPS for shipping prices, you would use their APIs to get this info in real-time. APIs can add outside services to your website. Schema Markup: data added to your website that helps search engines better understand the information on your website. This allows Google to show relevant information right in the search results. For example, you can add schema that tells Google your information is a how-to guide and it can then show the individual steps in the search results. Cache: A storage location that temporarily saves data and reuses it to optimize on loading time. There are many places that may use a cache including your browser and host. You may need to clear, or reset, the cache occasionally to ensure visitors are seeing the most recent version of your site. FTP: (File Transfer Protocol) a way to transfer files from one place to another, convenient for communicating between servers and moving large files. Often used to transfer websites to another host, for example. This is obviously not every terminology used in web design and development, but it will give you the basic knowledge you need to converse about websites and marketing. And when it’s time to manage (or have someone manage for you) a website of your own, you will be ready!

Meet the Author

Jessica Crisp

Website Designer & Developer, based in Spokane Valley

I’ve been building custom websites and helping businesses succeed since 2015. I love the process of getting to know each client’s needs and building creative solutions that transform their business. To me, helping others is a great privilege, so please feel free to ask for tips or ideas while working on your online presence! Contact me here.

Interested in a custom website for your business?