The Business Owner’s Guide to Website Design Terminology

For a business owner looking to build (or redesign) a website, being familiar with some web design terms will ultimately make the process much much more enjoyable—more understanding, and less head spinning.


Do you know what it means to… leverage an open-source plugin to generate a lead form for display within your responsive design (accessed after clicking on a CTA of course)?

Or how about… edit the meta tags within your PHP-based CMS via a WYSIWYG?

Does it sound scary? If you don’t work in the web industry, it might. But that’s only because those two statements use A LOT of website design jargon.

Technical Website Design Jargon Explained

Be “in the know” with Web Design Terms

The web design industry has just as many (if not more!) buzzwords and jargon as others. While a good designer will always educate their clients, it’s helpful to get the conversation started if you know a few web design key terms. You’ll be more informed during conversations with your team—which means being able to make better business decisions for your website project.

Here’s our A to Z list of website terms and jargon that will help any business owner understand what the heck their web team is yammering about!

“Above the Fold”

Derived from the newspaper industry (where the paper was folded). “Above the fold” simply means anything that is visible before the user has to scroll. Many designers are still “stuck on the fold” in their design (meaning they try to put everything above the fold), but it’s not as critical as it once was. With the advent of the mobile web, larger monitors, smaller monitors, etc. the fold is different on every device, and users know to scroll. In fact, many modern designs are based on embracing the scroll, and leverage the fold line (for each device) as a way to encourage scrolling.

Adaptive Technology

A way to display unique content to specific users based on specific criteria—specifically on which type of device they are viewing your site. Adaptive design can be used instead of, or as a complement to, Responsive Design (see below). This topic often causes confusion, so much so that we have a full post dedicated to explaining the differences between adaptive and responsive design.


This one should be easy on you as analytics is not a term unique to the web design industry: it’s the analysis of data statistics. For your site, it refers specifically to analysis of site traffic, user behavior, and content performance. It’s how you know what is and isn’t working.

Browser Testing

We’re not testing to see if a browser works, we’re testing to see if the display code is displaying, and the functionality code is functioning in every browser. Browsers can react differently to code, and there are different browsers for each device and operating system. Due to the sheer number of combinations, we tend to limit testing to popular browsers and combinations that your analytics show to be high traffic for your site.


Stands for Content Delivery Network (another initialism that starts to make sense once you spell it out!) Basically, it’s a way to speed up your site, and provide an additional level of security, by leveraging a network of servers that deliver a cached version of your site to users based on their geographic location.

A CDN does not replace the need to have a website. It’s a layer on top of your website to improve performance and security.

Here’s a great visual from Cloudflare (our CDN of choice).

Conversion Rate and CRO

A conversion rate is a way of analyzing how well your efforts are working. A conversion is any action you want users to take: sign up for emails, purchase a product, download an offer, place a phone call, etc.

Divide the total number of conversions by the number of visitors to your site to obtain the conversion rate.

CRO simply stands for conversion rate optimization. It is a method and process of testing and analyzing to improve your overall conversion rate. Basically, making changes to a site, monitoring the results, and continuing to improve based on those results. Sounds easy right? But it’s not. It can be a very complex process if you don’t fully understand the variables in place for even one small change. That’s why we leverage our CRO experts for our CRO clients.


A Content Management System is a program that resides on a web server. On the face, it allows you to log in and edit the content on your site. What it’s doing is storing data in a database, and then displaying that content to your users via a template defined within the CMS framework. Our CMS of choice is WordPress (see below).


This is a term that you will probably hear and see most when dealing with the design and site build-out. Cascading Style Sheets are used to define the style of HTML elements within your site. CSS defines things like font style, size, background color and image, rounded corners, and even drop shadows. The beauty of CSS is that we can fully separate the content from the display; which allows us to streamline the process of making changes for CRO, and even full site redesigns, as well as to provide clean code that is readable to the visually impaired.

It’s important that the CSS for your site is coded to be clean and optimized in order to be efficiently delivered (and thus rendered) to your audience. Ever see a site that looks like plain text with blue links, and you hit refresh and BAM the design loaded? That’s due to an issue with the CSS delivery—which could be the result of a slow server, high traffic, or a slow internet connection, and can be avoided by the use of a CDN.

CSS is also created for different displays of your site: one style for mobile, another for tablets, and then one for desktops is quite common.


I bet if I spell it out, you’ll get it: Call To Action. Initialisms are a blessing and a curse. Aren’t they?

Basically, a CTA is any element (a link, button, image, etc.) that users can interact with to do what you want them to do: download an eBook, subscribe to your blog, purchase a product, request a demo, etc.

Customer Personas

Also called Audience Personas, these are detailed descriptions of your ideal customers and are used to pinpoint key marketing areas, actions, and campaigns. They are a must for effective branding, website design, CRO, and inbound marketing.

Personas help keep every member of the team on track and contain information such as demographics, goals, pain points, influencers, and key messaging.


File Transfer Protocol is how you can connect your computer to a web server in order to transfer files.

Host vs. Domain

A domain is the URL of your website (our domain is and is registered under your name with a domain registrar (like GoDaddy).

A web host is a company that provides a server for your web files to reside on (often uploaded via FTP).

While the two do not have to be with the same company, they often are.

We recommend Nexcess for hosting WordPress and Magento sites.

Inbound Marketing

While not solely about developing or designing a website, inbound is critical to a successful website. Basically, inbound marketing is having answers to questions people are asking, and being there when they ask. Inbound efforts involve social media, content development, SEM, and email campaigns to name a few.

JavaScript and jQuery

JavaScript is an object-oriented programming language used to create interactive effects on a website. JQuery is a JavaScript library with many standard effects such as smooth scrolling.

Landing Page

While any page of your site can be a “landing page” in that it’s where the visitor first enters your site, in marketing terms a landing page is a lead-generating page that is focused on one single purpose (a strong CTA). It often does not have full site navigation and always has a form allowing you to collect the lead’s information.


I love this term: data about data! Specifically related to websites though, Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions are two key pieces of metadata that search engines utilize to describe your site in their search results.

Open Source

Open source is a type of software that can be freely used, changed, and shared by anyone. Many CMS platforms (like WordPress) are open source. They are free to use, so you do not have to purchase a license, and the cost incurred for building your site is based on the labor your designers and developers expend in customizing the software for you.


A plugin is a small piece of code that plugs into your CMS in order to add functionality. Plugins are one of the things that make WordPress so powerful – many functionalities are ready to go via existing plugins, while custom functionality can be built into a custom plugin.

Responsive Design

Responsive design is an approach aimed at providing optimal viewing experiences across a wide range of devices. As the name implies, the site layout responds to the size of the screen. Often confused with adaptive design. Read the full article on Adaptive vs. Responsive Design.


Redirects are used to tell search engines and users where an old page has moved to. When you launch a new site, it is quite common that your old URLs have changed. Your SEO team would create a set of redirect rules that point visitors to the new URLs.

SEM (with SEO and PPC!)

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) includes Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and advertising, like PPC (pay per click-paid), and remarketing campaigns.


When planning a site a “sitemap” is created that lists all of the pages you plan to have, and often includes notes about what type of content and functionality is on those pages. This is useful when planning your site’s information architecture.

Once the site is developed, a “sitemap” page is created: a single page that lists all other pages on your site. It’s like an index.

An XML sitemap is yet another list of all the pages on your site, but it includes markup so search engines know which pages are more important than others.

Templates and Themes

A theme is a collection of template files that define the look and feel, and sometimes some of the functionality of your site, within a CMS. A CMS can allow you to select a different template from your theme for each, or just some, of your pages—such as a landing page that has limited navigation vs. the services page that has full navigation.

UI (User Interface)

What most people refer to as design, the UI is the look and feel of your site.

UX (User Experience)

What most people don’t realize is part of the design, the UX is the experience the user has when interacting with your site (both the visuals and the functionality).


A wireframe is a rough layout of the site, created in the planning phase, which allows you to define the UX, prior to starting on UI. It confirms and/or defines the functionality, information architecture, and administrative needs for your site.


WordPress is a PHP-based, open-source CMS platform that we love. It’s simple for our clients to learn, is widely supported, and lets us help our clients get sites up and running in just a few weeks. is where you download the open-source software and install it on your own host, for your own domain, and customize it any way you want. is where you can sign up to use the WordPress software as a service. You are limited to themes and plugins within the WordPress repository. You can also pay a premium to use your own domain vs


Pronounced “whiz-ee-wig”

What You See Is What You Get, or WYSIWYG, editors allow site admins to style content (text, images, and links) on a page or post without knowing HTML.

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