Website 101

Terminology for Everyday Web Users

As web designers, we realize we have a language all our own. And sometimes we forget it can be confusing for our clients and people who aren’t too familiar with website design.

Websites are complex. That’s why people spend years learning how to design and build them. But you shouldn’t have to take a college course to understand a web designer’s email. Instead of cracking open a textbook or a dictionary, this terminology guide can help.

iMac Computer on Wooden Desk

You’re more familiar with websites than you realize, but let’s start with the basics. There are many different types of websites, each of them serving its own purpose. You probably read news stories on media sites like The Wall Street Journal and turn to entertainment websites like BuzzFeed when you want something a little more lighthearted.

A business website focuses on a company and its offerings, like the site you’re on now. Blogs are dedicated to articles, reviews, and literature. And social media websites like Facebook or Twitter help you connect with friends.

All of these websites are made up of pages that contain text, images, and other media. These pages link to documents that can be displayed using a web browser such as Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Internet Explorer.


Your domain is a unique name used to identify the location of your website. Each domain is associated with an IP address, a long string of numbers that acts like your website’s street address. Domain names were invented so that web users wouldn’t have to remember an IP’s long sequence of numbers.


A website needs to be hosted on a webserver to be live on the internet. Hosts use server computers to house your website, allowing users to connect to your site via the internet.


A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate establishes a secure link between a site and its visitors. It encrypts the communication and prevents data from being compromised by hackers and cybercriminals.


A Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is a web address. More precisely, it specifies where to find a file on the internet. A URL can represent a website, image, video, or document.


Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is code used to write websites. This code is compiled into a text file that web browsers can read. Every website is made up of HTML. However, many web designers do not write code. Instead, they use pre-written HTML code from web developers and computer programmers.


A content management system (CMS) is software used for managing a website’s content and design. This tool helps you build a site without needing to write code from scratch. Instead, the CMS handles all of the necessary infrastructures so designers can focus on a website’s look instead of its programming.


Short for electronic commerce, an e-commerce website allows for the selling of products or services. These websites include a shopping cart and an exchange of funds, whether processed directly through the site or a third-party company like PayPal. E-commerce sites can have a small catalog or can sell thousands of products like Walmart or Target.

Man Holding White Tablet with Screen Showing Shoe E-Commerce Website


A sitemap is a document that shows the hierarchy of a website’s pages and content. Typically, the sitemap is a list of the pages within a website’s navigation. Some sitemaps are made for people, but others are made for search engine crawlers.


A website’s navigation is made up of links, typically located at the top or left side of a page. The navigation allows users to move around the website and find what they’re looking for by organizing pages into a logical order. When a site is viewed on a mobile device, the navigation usually transforms into an icon with three stacked lines since space is limited.


Responsive design, also known as mobile-friendly design, allows users to successfully view a website on a variety of devices. This type of web design changes depending on the user’s screen size. If you have to zoom in while visiting a site on your mobile device, it’s probably not using responsive design.


SEO refers to configurations made on a website that help search engines, like Google, understand its content. By combining high-quality information with proper formatting, a website can potentially rank higher within search results.


Accessibility is the idea that everyone can read and interact with your website without barriers. A website is accessible if people with impairments can successfully use the site with their preferred adaptive technology, like screen readers. While accessibility is ideal for inclusivity, many of the standards overlap with SEO best practices.


Google Analytics is a program that tracks, measures, and reports website data. It gives you statistics about your website, its pages, and its users.


Our best tip is to ask for clarification if you’re unsure about a term, especially if it appears on a website proposal. Be sure that you understand the concept enough to know what you’re agreeing to. You don’t have to be an expert in it, but know what services you’re receiving, even if that means asking for a vocab list or extra reading material.