Web glossary

Definitions of commonly used web terms.


Accessibility this is the ability of a website to be used by people with disabilities, including visually impaired users using screen readers, hearing impaired users using no sound, colour blind people, or those with other disabilities. 

Back end

The back end of a website is the part hidden from view of regular website users. The back end generally includes the WCMS controlling content on the site and other software applications. 

Bounce rate

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 accessible via analytics. This can be an indicator of how good a website’s navigation is, as well as an indicator of the quality of the site’s content. If the bounce rate is high it is likely there is a problem with navigation and content. 


Browser refers to the software a website user is using to view the web site. Examples include Safari, Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera and Internet Explorer.

Cache or caching

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. If changes have been made to a site you may need to clear your cache before you can see them.


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 layout of 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.

Client side

Client side refers to scripts that are run in a viewer’s browser, instead of on a web server (as in server-side scripts). Client-side scripts are generally faster to interact with, though they can take longer to load initially.

Dropdown list or select list

A dropdown list or select list is an element that allows the user to choose one value from a list. When activated, it displays a list of options, from which the user may select one.

Elastic layout

An elastic layout is one that uses percentages and ems for widths paired with a max-width style to allow the site layout to stretch when font sizes are changed. Its ability to flex to accommodate the browser width and reader’s font preferences are where it gets its name from.


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 customizable icons displayed in the web address bar in most browsers next to the web address.

Front end

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

Graceful degradation

Graceful degradation refers to a website’s ability to have elements that may take advantage of the capabilities of newer browsers done in a way that allows users with older browsers to still view the site in a manner that at least allows access to basic content. It also applies to making sure that if one small portion of your site doesn’t work in someone’s browser, it doesn’t break your entire site for them.

Hexadecimal colour

Also referred to as hex numbers, they are a base-16 numbering system used to define colours online. Hex numbers include the numerals 0-9 and letters A-F. Hexadecimal numbers are written in three sets of hex pairs. Because screen colours are RGB (Red, Green, Blue), the first pair defines the red hue, the second pair defines the green hue, and the third pair defines the blue.


Stands for Hypertext Markup Language. It’s the primary language used to write web pages. HTML is primarily intended as a way to provide content on websites (with CSS handling the layout and stylistic options), though it can also be used to determine how that content is displayed.


Short for Inline Frame. An iframe is used to display one or more web pages within another web page.

Inline style

Elements with CSS written directly around the element it affects, instead of in a separate style sheet or header style.

Landing page

A landing page is the page where a user first enters a website. Often, a special landing page is created to elicit a specific action from the new user, 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.


Metadata is the data contained in the header that offers information about the web page that a user is currently on. The information contained in the meta data isn’t viewable on the web page (except in the source code). Meta data is contained within meta tags.


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


Pagination is a mechanism which provides users with additional navigation options for browsing through single parts of the site using numbers, arrows, words like previous and next, usually on buttons.


A pageview is a request for an entire web page document from a server by a user’s browser. In other words, for each page view your site had, someone (or a search engine spider) looked at that page.


A tab is where content is separated into different panes, and each pane is only viewable one at a time. The user requests content to be displayed by clicking the content’s corresponding tab control. This allows users to access content that they are interested in rather than having to read all the content to find what they are looking for.


URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. A site’s URL is its address, the item that specifies where on the Internet it can the found.


Usability refers to how easy it is for a user 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 user will not need any special training in order to use your site. 

Web Content Management System

Also known as a CMS, a Web 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 WCMS generally makes it easier to change the design or function of a site independent of the site’s content. It also makes it easier for content to be added to the site for people who aren’t developers. 


WYSIWYG is an acronym for What You See Is What You Get. A WYSIWYG allows you to edit content without having to know the HMTL for and appears similar to its published appearance.


Extensible Markup Language or XML is used for writing custom markup languages. In other words, XML describes how to write new languages (it’s sometimes referred to as a “meta” language because of this). It also serves as a basic syntax that allows different kinds of computers and applications to share information without having to go through multiple conversion layers.