Don’t be afraid to ask

As a training officer one of the first things I said to my new trainees was ‘The only stupid question is the one that isn’t asked’. That quote came from someone that trained me to be a training officer (whose name I can’t remember now) and I still apply it to this day. Especially when I’m struggling to understand or remember some of the common web design terms.

Even now, though I’ve worked in the I.T industry for over 20 years, I still sometimes feel out of my depth when I’m communicating with a web designer. I have total admiration for programmers, network support engineers, developers and designers. Anyone who can build a fully-operational website in a few hours, when I’ve taken weeks to do mine in WordPress, earns my total respect. I’m still not happy with my site but now it’s out there I will keep researching, learning and updating it until I get it right. And as I’m learning I’m continually adding to my own personal Glossary of Web Design Terms..

I’m sharing some of the common web design terms and abbreviations that I’ve collated over the years. Hopefully they’ll improve your overall understanding of the worldwide web and conversations you might have with your website designer. But remember, techies are human too, so if you don’t understand something, just ask.

TECHIE (noun) – a person who is very knowledgeable or enthusiastic about technology and especially computer technology. (

Common Web Design Terms

404 error

Web visitors see 404 error pages when they try to reach a web page that doesn’t exist. This usually happens when the web page has been deleted or the visitor has mistyped the URL.

Alt Text

‘Alternative text’ is the wording associated with an image. It can be the file name or a customised short description of that image, edited in most content management systems. Occasionally, if an image isn’t able to load in a blog or on a website, you’ll see the alt text displayed instead. Having alt text on your website images is important for search engines to understand them as well, so can help with SEO. Alt text also makes images accessible to the blind because screen reader tools read aloud the alt text. (to see more about this scroll down to Web Accessibility).

Browser Cache

All browsers save the data they need to load and display a website, such images and HTML. So when you revisit a web page, it takes less time to load because a cached version of the page was saved the first time you were there. Because of the cached version your browser doesn’t need to bring back all the data again to see that page. Whenever I’m testing websites, if the developer has delivered a new version of code to fix a bug, I always have to clear the browser cache to ensure that I’m not retesting on an old version of the web page.

Cookies - Common web design terms and abbreviations


You will regularly see a ‘this website uses cookies’ pop-up when you visit a website. It’s more prevalent nowadays because of data protection and you have the option to reject or amend the way they use your data. A cookie is small file that a web server sends automatically to your personal computer when you are browsing. The information it contains can include login details (usernames and passwords), shopping cart information, and your preferences. They are stored as files on your hard drive so servers can access them when you return to websites you’ve visited before. 



For example: have you ever gone back to eBay or Amazon and seen content tailored to your user preferences? That’s because on your first visit, a cookie was installed. When you revisited, the website server read your cookie and recognised you.


A content management system is a platform that allows us less-techy people to build websites from professionally designed templates. Popular examples of are WordPress and Wix.

Hosting Servers

The web servers where website files are housed, served, and maintained.


‘Hyper-text mark-up language’. I always have to check what this stands for. It doesn’t actually slip off the tongue does it? This is the language used to direct the style of your website, landing pages, and emails. HTML lays out the structure of your website, from the title and header, bullet point lists, to the footer. It could be described as the skeleton of your website


GUI stands for ‘graphical user interface’, or more simply as ‘interface’. An interface is the part of the software that the end user sees and interacts with.


Internet service provider’. An organisation that provides internet services, i.e. Orange, Bouygues Telecom, TalkTalk, etc.


A software extension that adds a specific feature to an existing software application. You might have heard of plugins in the context of web browsers which can add new features like virus scanners. Plugins can also be used in web design to add additional features such as the Accessibility icon on this site.

Multiple devices


Responsive Design

The method of designing web pages so that they are optimised on the majority of devices. Responsive design automatically reformats your website for all screen sizes. So your website visitors can easily interact with your site, regardless of the device they’re using. Because of the rapid increase in mobile usage in recent years I would recommend having your website upgraded to a responsive design. 



Search engine optimisation is a strategy that optimises your website, content and media so it can easily be found and promoted in online search engines.

Site Map

Site maps show a hierarchical view of a website’s pages and content. It helps website designers figure out what pages and content are needed before they start designing it. This is why it’s important in your website planning stage to decide how you want the website to look and how the user will navigate between pages. Site maps can also be web pages that present links to all of the pages on a website.


User interface’. A type of interface that allows users to control a software application or hardware device. A good user interface delivers a user-friendly experience which allows the user to interact with your website in an uncomplicated, intuitive way. This includes having a menu bar with familiar terms, toolbars, navigation buttons, etc. 


Uniform resource locator’ aka the website address, is a string of characters displayed on the top of a web browser inside the ‘address’ bar. 



The ‘User experience’ is the overall experience a customer has with a particular business, from brand-awareness through to their interaction, purchase or use of the brand. To deliver an excellent customer experience, you have to think and act like a customer, which isn’t always possible when you have been involved in designing and creating the business website. That’s why it’s always better to have someone perform an impartial review of your business. 

Web Accessibility

This refers to how easy it is for your website to be accessed by people with different physical and mental abilities, age, location, etc. Well designed websites and web design tools can be used by people with various disabilities. There are numerous ways in which your website can be designed in order to make it more accessible, alt text is just one of them. For more information visit the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative website

This is only a small selection of the more common web design terms from an incredibly large glossary I have compiled in various notebooks and files gathered over the years. I’m still adding to my list as I learn new things everyday.

Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?



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If you found this useful please let me know – and let your friends know!




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