skip to content

World's Greatest Glossary of Website Design Project Terms

Posted on December 04, 2013
Over the years we have been known to use industry specific terminology. Here is our ever evolving glossary of web design and web development terms.  

Web Design Glossary


Accessibility in this context means web accessibility. It means that people with disabilities can "perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the web". It also benefits other groups where changing abilities require the Web to offer alternatives for them to utilize it.

It's important because it means the Web provides equal access and equal opportunity to all, including people with disabilities. As for evaluation tools to determine if a website meets accessibility guidelines, the list of available tools maintained by WAI can be found here


Generally speaking, the alpha site is static html version of your templates for internal review of the look and feel prior to any coding template integration. The alpha release takes form from the approved concept designs and then gets coded to html. Nothing functional or related to the CMS is done yet. The goal here is to get the client to see what the approved concept will look like in a browser using browser fonts and colours.  Once we get approval on the Alpha we can then proceed to coding the templates into the CMS and add the functionality to make the site dynamic.


AODA is the acronym which stands for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It’s an Ontario act which outlines the development, implementation and enforcement of accessibility standards to benefit all Ontarians. This applies to all elements of daily life including "goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures and premises.”
With respect to the web, section 2.14 outlines the guidelines for accessible websites and web content.

API (Application Programming Interface)

API's are simply a method of communicating between 2 servers to share data. They allow us to go get data from outside sources or share our website data with other authorized websites. Often an API can be used to authenticate users accounts from a 3rd party to provide a Single-Sign-On from one website to another. 


Website architecture is an approach to the design and planning of websites that involves technical, aesthetic and functional criteria. As in traditional architecture, the focus is on the user and on user requirements. This requires particular attention to web content, the business plan, usability, interaction design, information architecture and web design.


The beta release of your website is a fully working proto-type ready for client testing. All functionality is in place however all the content doesn't need to be in place since the client may use the CMS to administer content any time throughout. The release is available for a limited time with a link for external review and a round of issue tracking. At this point in the project internal testing has been completed and the goal for the beta release is for the client to find and Inorbital to address bugs and errors before the final release of the website.


When a web browser accesses a webpage, there are files associated with that webpage that are stored in the browser memory. These files could be HTML markup, images, CSS, JavaScript files and other web assets. This browser memory is termed as the browser cache, or cache for short. This is beneficial for when you visit the same webpage at a later time, the browser would determine whether it needs to re-download the files from the web server. If not, it will access the files stored in the cache. Since this cache is located on the user’s device, it will help load the webpage quicker in the browser. 


Extending the browser cache definition, if the cache is cleared, the browser would have to access all files related to a webpage from the server. This is helpful when the user would like to see the latest version of the webpage available on the server.

You can clear your browser cache by following the instructions on this page. Each browser is different so there are multiple ways clear your browser cache, not to be confused with your browser history...


A web content management system (web CMS) is a bundled or stand-alone application to create, manage, store and deploy content on Web pages. Web content includes text and embedded graphics, photos, video, audio, and code (e.g., for applications) that displays content or interacts with the user. A web CMS may catalogue and index content, select or assemble content at run-time, or deliver content to specific visitors in a requested way, such as other languages. Web CMSs usually allow client control over HTML-based content, files, documents, and web hosting plans based on the system depth and the niche it serves.


A creative brief is a document used by creative professionals and agencies to develop creative deliverables: visual design, copy, advertising, web sites, etc. The document is usually developed by the design company in collaboration with the client. The goal of the creative brief is to consult, discuss and get approval on many of the creative elements of the project prior to actually designing anything. It gets the project off to a good start by establishing project aesthetics, wireframes, existing branding and logos, personas and audiences along with colours, typography and anything else creative about the project.  


It's basically code that is also referred as Cascading Style Sheets, CSS is used to define the look and feel of a web site outside of the actual HTML file(s) of the site. 


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


Electronic commerce, commonly known as e-commerce or ecommerce, is a type of industry where the buying and selling of products or services is conducted over the internet. Any online retailer or registration form is considered ecommerce since they sell online and process the transaction online using a payment gateway to charge the customer’s credit card.


Information Architecture (IA) is a term that is used to describe different content types and how they will be organized on a website. Organizing the structure of the content is usually done at the same time as planning is done for the sitemap (pages of a website). An example of information architecture content types could be news feeds, staff bios, testimonials, document libraries, micro content or anything that is important to organize that doesn't necessarily have a page in the sitemap dedicated to it. Organizing the information architecture of a website should be inline with the strategy of the project and inform the wireframing process for key pages and components of the website.


A landing page is the page where a visitor first enters a website. Often, a special landing page is created to elicit a specific action from the new visitor (usually in connection with an advertising or marketing campaign).


Mock-ups are a way to show clients what a website will look like before it's built. More or less giving the appearance of the final web site in design only. This will include details, colour, logos, and images. Crafting mock ups is the best way to get a design out to clients so they have something tangible to see and approve. If wireframe is the skeleton, then mock-up is the skin!


Open source refers to the source code of a computer program being made available to the general public. Open source software includes both web-based and desktop applications. Open source programs are generally free or very low cost and are developed by teams of people, often comprised of volunteers.


This user interface element has become more common in recent times. Parallax describes the 3-dimensional effect achieved when scrolling occurs on a webpage with certain user interface or design elements moving in different speeds and direction. 


It is the equivalent of a physical point of sale terminal located in most retail outlets. Payment gateways protect credit card details by encrypting sensitive information, such as credit card numbers, to ensure that information is passed securely between the customer and the merchant and also between merchant and the payment processor. For online stores the payment gateway is the company that actually connects the customer’s credit card with the stores bank. Some payment gateway companies are: Moneris, Beanstream, Chase Paymentech and of course Pay Pal. 

PCI COMPLIANCE (Payment Card Industry)

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a proprietary information security standard for organizations that handle cardholder information for the major debit, credit, prepaid, e-purse, ATM, and POS cards. PCI compliance is important for websites that process transaction’s and is required by the payment card processors. Essentially Visa won’t approve transaction processing on your site if it’s not PCI compliant. There are 3rd party scanning services who scan and report your website or web server that are not compliant and will also issue a certificate if they are. This is a bit of a moving target as compliance standards do change over time so scans should be scheduled every few months. 


Personas are fictional characters created to represent the different user types that might use a site.


Responsive Design is a way of coding a website so that it adjusts according to the resolution of the user screen. Depending on the devise and size, the website will adapt to fit appropriately. All the content elements of the website will adjust, move and images will resize, making your viewing experience seamless across all devices. You can test if a site is responsive but gradually reducing your browser size from full screen which will emulate the different screen sizes and what the user sees.  


Responsive images, in the context of responsive design, define how one image should adapt in terms of dimensions, resolution and file size based on the user’s device profile. An image that is 800px by 600px which is 72ppi with a file size of 1.3MB may work well on a desktop browser. But for an iPhone with retina display, this image is too large, too low in resolution, and too big in file size. Responsive images describes the approach taken to resolve this issue.


Retina display is synonymous with Apple products now. With these high pixel density screens, images need to be optimized too so that it does not appear scaled down (pixelated). If a website design is optimized for retina, it will contain two sets of design and content images – one for retina displays and one for non-retina displays.


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


A screen resolution depicts the number of distinct pixels in each dimension that can be displayed. The first number usually conveys the width, and the second number conveys the height, both in pixel units

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) 

SEM (Search Engine Marketing)


A site map is a list of web pages. It can be either a document in any form used as a planning tool for Web design, or a Web page that lists the pages on a Web site, typically organized in hierarchical fashion.


A soft launch is the release of a website (or other product or service) to a limited audience. Usually this means allowing access to your new website to a small controlled audience prior to a "hard" fully public launch. The intention is to catch anything that could have been missed internally by a more forgiving and friendly audience before it goes out to everyone. Sometimes a soft launch can mean just friends and family.


Strategy can refer to a lot of different things in the web design / internal marketing world. For our purposes as an agency when we refer to strategy as a services related to uncovering project goals and mapping out what steps are needed in order to achieve them. This can mean anything from conducting persona research, analyzing google analytics, comparative research to consolidating sitemap items, prototyping user journeys and wireframing. Every project is unique so the approach we take depends on what is needed to achieve the goal.  


Wikipedia calls taxonomy "the practice and science of classification.” 
Taxonomy for our industry is really about organizing an unstructured collection of information. It involves analyzing context, content, and users within the defined scope. The analysis results serve as input for the site structure and users view which is primarily the site architecture. 


A template is a file used to create a consistent design across a website. Templates are often used in conjunction with a CMS and contain both structural information about how a site should be set up, but also stylistic information about how the site should look.


User Interface Design or UI Design is a term that refers to the layer of design that the user sees and interacts with. This design treatment is informed by the UX design (prototypes / wireframes). 


User Experience design or XD is a term that is used to describe the process of wireframing pages of a website. UX design is based on user goals and the focus of the design at this stage is to make sure elements of a design are in line with the overall strategy of a website.


W3C is the acronym which stands for the World Wide Web Consortium. This group, comprised of an international community with a full-time staff, member organizations and public, has a mission (link: is to develop protocols and guidelines which ensure long term growth for the Web. The standards W3C defines help make the World Wide Web work.


Are a skeleton of a website page, often lacks any aesthetic detail. These are specifically designed to understand the space and structure of the web site or app, primarily aimed at capturing the usability and functionality. It does not capture the way the web site will finally look like which is what comes from the wireframe. Look at it as a frame of what goes where without any look and design considerations. 


Is the project plan that outlines the major tasks that both Inorbital and the client will be involved in. The project plan also includes pertinent dates that work in the main milestones based on the schedule. Work plans are usually in the form of tables or spreadsheets and can evolve as the project progresses giving everyone on the project team a clear timeline for when tasks need to be done. 

Blog post author Tony


Director and Founder

Inorbital founder and digital solution architect with over 20 years’ experience planning and directing dynamic web presence and web applications for all types of savvy organizations. When not directing Inorbital you can find him actively trying something completely new.

How Can We Help

Tell Us About Your Project