30 Common Web Design Terms Explained

Julia Delk
Web Design
Mar 2, 2017


Knowledge is power.  

For the average web user or someone looking to have a website designed, the assortment of terms used by the web design industry can be confusing and overwhelming. In today's post, I will be providing a simple guide of 30 common web design terms and their meanings.

Please note that these are simple explanations meant to help beginners build their web design knowledge. Some of these terms could be explained in more detail but for the sake of keeping things simple to understand and not overwhelming, I have chosen to offer simplified but accurate meanings of these common terms.


Back End 

The back end of a website is the sub layer that website visitors never see. More importantly, the back end usually  houses the structure, applications, CMS, and databases of the website.


Backlinks are links featured on other websites that lead back to your own website. Serving an invaluable purpose in regards to SEO, generating a large number of backlinks from high- ranking websites can greatly boost your search engine rankings and efforts.

Browser ( Web Browser)

 A browser is a program that a website visitor uses to explore the internet with. Examples: Firefox, Safari, Chrome.

Cache/ Caching 

Cached files are files saved/ copied/ downloaded by a browser to help to increase a web page's load time for reoccurring visitors. Cached files increase load speed and can temporarily display your website when it's down.

CSS ( Cascading Styling Sheets) 

CSS is responsible for the look and feel of a website. While HTML used to include styles, in recent years CSS has been combined with HTML to provide a more organized and efficient set of code. With CSS, HTML is simplified and you have the ability to change a style of a website via one file.

CMS ( Content Management System) 

A CMS is a back end tool used to manage content on a website separate from the design and functionality. Usually, a designer will implement a CMS for clients needing to add and change content on their site on their own, without having previous coding knowledge.


Depreciated code is code that is no longer being used and included in the language specifications.

DNS ( Domain Name Server) 

A DNS, to put it simply, converts your IP address into a domain. IP addresses are structured as notations such as, As you can see, an IP address is a bit less user friendly than a domain which is created with letters and symbols usually spelling out a name or phrase. When a visitor types your domain into their browser, the DNS then translates it to your IP address in order navigate the visitor to their desired destination.


The domain is a website's name and can have a variety of extensions such as .com, .net, .org, .me, etc. Domains are associated with IP addresses.

 Example: RedPixieMedia.com

E- Commerce ( Electronic Commerce) 

 E- Commerce refers to an online store/ shop and the act of buying and selling goods through a website. You can sell both physical and digital products through an online store.


 Favicons are extremely small icons that are displayed on the web address bar in most browsers. Favicons are usually 16x16 pixels and can be customized to match your business logo.

Front End 

The front end of a website refers to the aspects of a website that are viewable and accessible to visitors ( pages, content, etc). This can also be referenced to as the User Interface.

HTML ( Hypertext Markup Language) 

HTML is the standard markup language used to develop web pages. HTML mainly focuses on providing content but can also determine how content is displayed. Traditionally, HTML was both style and content but in recent years developers are being directed towards using HTML for mostly content as stated above, with CSS as a pairing to provide the style and layout options.


A hyperlink is a link that connects one web page to another. Usually, you'll see a hyperlink represented as underlined text that may change color when hovered but hyperlinks can be in the form of images of too.


To put it simply, keywords are the terms or phrases that someone types into their browser's search engine to find your website. Your keywords should represent the main message of your website page.

Landing Page

 A landing page/ splash page is the first page a visitor sees when visiting your website. More specifically, a landing page is used to elicit some sort of call to action from the visitor be it signing up for a subscription, or purchasing a product.  

Meta tag 

Meta tags are HTML tags that contain meta data. Meta data is not viewable on the front end of the website but offers important information about the web page to search engines. Meta tags are placed inside your web page's header.  


Navigation refers to the system and tools implemented onto a website that allow a visitor to move freely throughout the website. The most common and pronounced form of navigation are menus but things like backlinks, related links, links within pages, etc are also used often to enhance the visitors ability to travel within a website.

Open Source 

Open source refers to a program's source code being easily accessible to the public. Open source software is usually free to use or sold at a very low cost. A lot of designers and developers have favorable views of open source content as it gives us free/ inexpensive tools and materials to further our work with and acquire more knowledge and skills in our field.

Permalink ( Permanent Link)

Usually used for blogs, a permalink is a link that is the permanent web address for a post or page. For blogs or news websites, the content is constantly changing and moving locations. In order for visitors to be able to bookmark or save links to specific posts, they must have permalinks.

Plug- In 

A plug- in is a piece of third party coding that performs a specific, and limited action. Plug- ins are used to extend the capabilities of a website without having to alter or recreate the core structure of the website. Most often, plug- ins are used with a CMS or blogging platform.

RSS ( Really Simple Syndication)

Most commonly used on blogs, RSS is a standardized XML file format used to syndicate content from one site to another.


Resolution refers to the number of  distinct pixels on a computer screen's display. Normally, a computer's resolution is presented as Width X Height and in pixels. 

Example: 1024 X 768.

SEO ( Search Engine Optimization)

SEO is a technique used to create high ranking webpages with hopes of steering more traffic and potentially more business to the website's owner. SEO involves creating useful content for visitors and making a website's  webpages more easily found and read by search engines.  

Site Map

A site map is a page of quick links to all of the pages located on your website. It's important to have a site map so search engines can "crawl" your site and better rank your site for visitors.

URL ( Uniform Resource Locator)

A website's URL is it's address, which specifies it's location on the internet.

Web Hosting Service ( Hosting/ Web Hosts)

 A web hosting service is an internet service that provides organizations and individuals the ability to make their website live, and accessible on the world wide web. Web hosts are companies that provide space on web servers ( which can be owned or leased), as well as provide internet connectivity.  

Web Server 

A web server is a computer with the sole purpose to host websites. In order to host the multitude of websites that it does, a web server requires networking capabilities as well as specialty software installed.

Web Standards

Web standards refer to the guidelines expressed by the World Wide Web Consortium in regards to standardizing web design. These standards are suppose to help designers and browser developers create consistent experiences for website viewers.

XML ( Extensible Markup Language)

XML is a markup language that defines a set of rules involved in converting data to a format that is both man and machine readable.


While my list isn't all inclusive, I hope that it can provide a great jumping off point for those interested in expanding their web design knowledge. It's easy to get overwhelmed with the jargon used for the web but remember, you're not alone and you don't have to run before you can crawl. Watch a "how- to" video on YouTube once a week, or try to learn a new term once a day- small steady progress on building your knowledge can go a long way! 

Don't see a web design term that's been baffling you? Let me know in a comment! I'll be more than happy to explain.

Julia Delk
Julia Delk is the owner of Red Pixie Media Solutions.She loves building websites,being a kick- ass graphic designer,and learning new things.

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