A useful guide to website terminology
January 14, 2022

Common website terms:

Starting a website can be overwhelming, especially when you don’t know what half of the things you’re being quoted on mean. Like, what the heck is a domain and hosting and why do I need it – just make the website and stop speaking gibberish to me!! We try our best to cut the hard website terminology and speak plainly when we’re talking to clients, but sometimes it’s just unavoidable. 

So, to help out those of you that don’t live, breathe and eat websites we’ve put a lil something together; a crash course in website terminology for all the ‘non-techies’ and ‘website-noobs’. By the end of this read, you’ll be an expert and we can’t wait for all the exciting, websitey conversations to come!!!

Domain name

A domain name is used to identify the location of your website on a web server. Each domain name is completely unique and specific to your business. Ours for example, is zenzeroagency.com. You have to buy a domain before we can make your site live. 

You can purchase one for your website from Afrihost, GoDaddy, domains.co.za, Xneelo and many other domain providers, but these are the ones we use most often. 

Hosting

So, now that you’ve got a name for your website (yay) you need to get your website online. To do this, you need to use a web server that is connected to the internet to save or host your files. Think of it like building a house – before you build you’re going to need to buy land to build on. Hosting providers allow you to access your website without having to purchase your own web server. 

We’ve had plenty of clients buy a domain but not hosting. This is problematic because we can’t build your website if we haven’t got anything to build it on. It sounds complicated, but we’ll make it all easy and breezy for you.

You can use the same provider for your hosting and domain. 

SSL

A secure sockets layer (SSL) is a certificate that encrypts (converts information into a code to prevent unauthorized access) data from a web server to your browser so that hackers are unable to read the data. You can tell if a website is secured by SSL if there is an icon of a padlock in the address bar of your web browser. You can also tell if the website you are on is not secure if the URL begins with “http” rather than “https”. The ‘s’ stands for secure and means the site has an SSL certificate. Pro tip: never make a purchase on a side without an SSL certificate! 

Your SSL certificate can also be purchased from the same provider as your domain and hosting. 

WordPress

WordPress is a Content management system (CMS) which helps to manage the creation and alteration of the digital content that makes up your website. You could liken WordPress to an operating system for your website, like Windows is for a laptop or iOS for your iphone.

We use WordPress the most, but we’re also skilled in other CMS’s like Shopify, Wix and Equid. What, we’re not bragging – who said?

Back-End or Dashboard

The back-end of your website is what is hidden from the visitor, it’s all the technical stuff that shows through on the front-end (explanation coming). You need a username and password to access the back-end of your website. CMS’s use the back-end to push changes to a live website. 

Once your site is complete you may want to make changes later on by yourself. If that’s something you’re interested in, we would record a video crash-course for you, showing you what to do and how to navigate it. Alternatively, you could stay on a retainer with us and have us do all your updates for you (highly recommend btw).

Front-End

The front-end is the opposite of the back-end, who woulda guessed huh? This is everything that the viewer can see – the pages, the content etc. It’s basically all the pretty stuff that we love to make. The front-end is where visitors can interact with your content. 

Plug-in

Plug-ins give your website functionality by extending its capabilities. They are essentially third-party code that allow the designer to add cool things such as contact forms, galleries or chatbots. When you get a new phone, you have to download your essentials to access specific functions – like whatsapp to message and call your peeps. So plugins are pretty much like apps for your website. 

You may see that your quote includes plugins, and that’s because not all of them are free and we will have to purchase them in order to add them to your website. In other instances, the plugin may be free but it could take the designer hours to make the plugin work the way you want it to and we sometimes (but not always) charge for that time. 

SEO

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and is the process to improve a website’s rankings on a search engine such as Google. Good SEO will have your website appearing at the top of search results for keywords and phrases associated with your business. This results in more traffic to your website which is always a goal.

Now we know that that sounds wonderful and easy, but SEO is a complex task and in order to get great results you need to produce content that is super high in quality, content that people genuinely want to see and share and that is properly and ethically formatted. 

It’s also not an overnight fix, SEO takes a while to kick in effectively and like all marketing can have a testing period where we experiment with different terms and see what will give you the best traffic. It is not a 1 fix all solution and only works effectively when combined with a properly designed website that google can effectively read. We’ve had some really great success with SEO we’ve done for some clients and it’s super rewarding when we see results.

Mobile Responsive

If a website is mobile responsive, that means that it changes or responds to the size of the screen from which it is being viewed. Not only does the size of fonts and images change, but the layout and the navigation transform to be user friendly on a mobile device. If you struggle with the layout or if you have to zoom in or out to read or view things properly on your phone, the site is not mobile responsive. We’ve all had the frustration of a site not working on our phones and its super off putting. 

We often get asked by clients why their website looks different on a phone than on their laptop. Well, not everything that works on the wide, spacious layout of a desktop is going to work on a mobile device. And on a phone, viewers are scrolling with their fingers rather than a mouse which will change how they interact with the site – a good designer will take all of this into account when designing (we definitely do). 

Accessibility

Accessibility refers to how accessible your website is to people with disabilities. This may involve larger fonts and icons or simple copy. This is a design aspect that often goes unconsidered by designers but is important should you want your reach to be far and wide. 

Having a website for example that interacts through sound won’t work for individuals with hearing disabilities. Similarly, a website for an eye clinic with small text in counterintuitive. Your designer should take your target audience into account when designing and arranging your content. 

The header is the most top part of the website, it generally has the company logo and the navigation menu for the site. The header stays visible as visitors move around the website. 

The footer is very similar to the header, it stays constant on each page and often has a sitemap for easy navigation. However, the footer is at the bottom of the page. Anything can go in your footer but it’s usually home to your contact information, terms of use, privacy policy and all the serious stuff as well as your social media icons which link to your social pages (we’ll follow you ;)). 

Navigation is made up of the links at the top of the page that take the visitor to different pages on the website. They help the visitor to find the information that they are looking for. Complex sites with a lot of pages may have what is called a ‘mega-menu’ which is essentially a drop-down menu that branches off of the main navigation links and acts as a sitemap.

Slider

A slider is like a slideshow on your website, it displays images that slide from one side to the other. Sliders are most commonly used on homepages but are becoming a bit dated as the focus shifts to quick loading speed and mobile responsiveness. 

Website Content

This is the stuff that your visitors come for. ‘Web copy’ or ‘body copy’ or even just ‘copy’ refers to the written text on your website. Website content or just ‘content’ refers to the copy, images, audio and any other elements you want on your website. We strongly advise getting a copywriter who specialises in web copy to write your content for you. We have a copywriter on our team along with copy checkers who ensure that all grammar and spelling across your site is correct. (Spelling errors on a website – huge cringe.)

An important note on content and one of the (many) reasons you should hire a web designer rather than trying to make your website by yourself is the placement and organization of your content. You can have the most beautiful pictures and some really captivating copy but if your content isn’t arranged well, your visitor is not going to hang around long enough to even notice the quality content. A web designer will seamlessly arrange your content so that the visitor feels welcome and is guided through your site.

Have a look at our blog about what a look and feel is for more insight into your website content

Homepage

Homepage is also sometimes referred to as the main page or front page. This is like your virtual storefront, it’s the page your visitor first sees when they open your website, so it’s gotta be captivating! It is a web design best practice for your logo to link back to your homepage so that visitors have an easy reset. 

Sometimes clients want a website that is only one page, this page will be the homepage but will also include all the necessary information needed to communicate the business and their services. 

Landing Page

The landing page is often confused with the homepage, but they are not the same. The landing page is where your visitor lands when they follow a link that you have put out – this could be from a Google ad, YouTube video or anywhere really. What makes landing pages quite different is that they are designed to encourage the visitor to take action – make a purchase, sign up to receive blog notifications etc. The landing pages’ aim is to make conversions and as such all distractions are limited. That could mean removing or making the footer and header smaller to really highlight the call to action (more on that coming soon). 

Bounce Rate

The bounce rate of your website is the percentage of visitors that leave your site from the same page they entered it – so they didn’t click through to any other pages or have a look around. We want the bounce rate to be low! 

Your bounce rate is a great indicator of the quality of your site’s content as well as if your navigation is working effectively.  

It’s important to note that if your website is only one page, your bounce rate will automatically be 100%. There aren’t other pages to click through, so your visitors will be leaving from where they entered. 

Call To Action (CTA)

Your call to action asks your visitor to do something specific, like ‘click here’ or ‘sign up’ or ‘buy now’. They come in all forms like buttons, slide-ins or popups. It’s important to note though that your call to action does not have to be, and in fact shouldn’t be pushy or obnoxious. A gentle nudge in the right direction will do the job. 

Favicon

This is the little icon that appears next to your domain name in the address bar. It’s common to use your company’s logo as the image but anything related to your business will work just as well. It doesn’t look great when a website doesn’t have a favicon, or worse, when the wordpress logo is the favicon!  That’s some amatuer hour stuff. A good designer will add one in for you (we always do). 

Wireframe

The wireframe is a visual guide that shows how the content of your website will be structured. It has no design elements but rather focuses on the layout. Think of it as a floorplan for a house that hasn’t been built yet.

Mock-Up/Prototype:

A mockup is basically a preview of your design, it’s non-functioning but shows you what your website will look like when it’s done. A web designer designs the mockup to show you before they begin to create the site, this is so that the client is able to give feedback and make changes. This saves the designer time and you money as changes are much more difficult to make once the creation of the website has begun. 

404 Page Not Found:

This is the page that a visitor will see when they attempt to reach a page on your website that does not exist. It usually happens if a page has been deleted or if the URL has been entered incorrectly. If the 404 error is effective, it should say why the page is not available and direct the visitor on what to do next.

301 Redirect:

This is a permanent redirect from one URL to another one and is usually from an old website to a new one. 

Congratulations! You are now a fellow website boffin! Now that you’re all clued up and know what you’re talking about – call us! We’re excited to make your website dreams a reality, and we also just can’t wait to talk about websites some more (we’re geeks and we’re proud).

Kayla Manfredo

Author

Kayla is our head designer and blog post gal. She works hard every week to bring you new and exciting posts along with Vanessa, who talks about marketing, and Mirko, who talks about buisness.

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