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Web Development Terms You Should Know

Web development has its own language — literally and figuratively.  


We try and stay away from jargon-y language when we can, but unfortunately, sometimes it’s unavoidable. When that’s the case, it’s really helpful to have a quick reference guide for those terms you don’t know but are too afraid to ask about.


With that in mind, here is our glossary of website terms you should know, organized by the phase you’re most likely to encounter them.


And, of course, please ask us if we ever use a term not listed here that you’re unfamiliar with. We’re always happy to explain anything we discuss more in-depth.




RFP – Request for Proposal. When you have a problem but you don’t know how you want it solved, a Request for Proposal will ask a company to supply you with potential solutions along with an estimate for the work.


RFQ – Request for Quote. When you have a problem and you know how you want it solved, and you just want to know how much a company will charge to do that specific work.


Tech Blueprint – A signature 5by5 service for our clients who know they need a new website but aren’t  exactly sure what all that means for them. The Tech Blueprint process takes clients through a proven model to identify key audiences,  define necessary functionality, and establish a strategic web site architecture so they build exactly what they need and nothing they don’t.


Hosting – Where your site lives on the internet. A host keeps all your information on their servers and will charge you to keep them. And their backups. ALWAYS have backups.




Responsive design – A design philosophy where you create a web page that changes based on which device the user is viewing your site on.


Mobile-first – A design philosophy that focuses on delivering a great experience for the mobile user first and foremost.


A/B testing – Creating a controlled experiment where one portion of your audience sees one thing while another group has a different experience.  Good for testing the effectiveness of landing pages, button placements, copy, etc.


Information architecture –  Information architecture simply refers to a system of organizing, structuring and labeling content.  Good information architecture is easy to use, accessible and intuitive.


Landing pages – A landing page is a page built to be the first page a user “lands” on when coming from a specific place.  For example, if users come to a site through a Google search ad, they may see a landing page relevant to that ad.


CMS –  Content Management System. Where all of your content lives, is organized and is published from. Popular CMS systems include WordPress, Wix, Squarespace and Shopify


Site map –  We usually talk about two kinds of site maps. The first is a visual one that helps you plan out the page hierarchy of your site and how the user will get from point A to point B. The second is an XML sitemap, which is the exact same thing, but for search engines to help them identify and structure your site.


Navigation –  The act of a user moving through your site to get where they want.




Adaptive design –  Adaptive design (as opposed to responsive design) is a design philosophy where you create multiple versions of a page that could load based on which device they are viewing on.


Wireframe –  Wireframe is an outline of a given webpage to help illustrate what kind of content will be on the page and where. It will often have placeholder copy and images, it’s purpose is just to show layout. 


UI/UX – User Interface/User experience. This is how someone interacts with your site. It’s a broad term that covers everything from functionality to small details like what color buttons should be.




CSS – Cascading Style Sheets. CSS is used to specify the “style” of your website. It structures and defines things like page layouts, fonts, what colors are used and more. 


HTML – Hypertext Markup Language. This is the cornerstone language of pretty much everything on the web. While CSS handles aesthetics, what HTML is used determines the structure of a site


JavaScript – JavaScript is one of the most popular programming languages used today. It can be used to affect both HTML and CSS. 


Agile –  Agile is a project management approach that breaks a project into smaller parts rather than focusing solely on the finished product


Sprints –  In agile, a sprint is a relatively brief period of time where a team focuses on short-term goals.


Backend – Refers to the “behind the scenes” part of your website that your users can’t see or access.


API –  Application Programming Interface. This is a piece of software that lets two applications talk to each other.


Dev site vs Live site –  A dev site is a working version of the site that is not publicly accessible. A live site is one that is available to the public


Database – A repository. You can have a media database with pictures and video as well as an informational database like Google Drive.


Migration – Migration means moving a site from one host to another.




Cache – A temporary storage of website information. This can be images, video or entire pages. Computers will store information from a website to help it load faster the next time.


Embed –  Placing an image or video directly into the webpage. This is different from linking the media, where it will show up in another window such as a pop up or redirect.


Conversion – A conversion is what happens when the user does what you want them to do. This is different from site to site. If it is an e-commerce site, a conversion is a sale. If it is a nonprofit, a conversion is a donation. If the purpose is awareness a conversion could be when the user downloads an informational ebook. 


CTA –  Call To Action. This is where the site makes a request of the user to do something. “Buy Now”, “Schedule a Consultation”, “Sign Up”, etc.


SEO – Search Engine Optimization. This is an umbrella term for everything you do to make your site show up higher in search results. There is on-page SEO, which represents changes you make that are visible to the user.  There is technical SEO, which are changes you make that are invisible to the user and are only for the search engines. Finally, there is off-page SEO, which is ways you can improve your site’s rankings with changing the site itself.


DNS –  Domain Name System. This is the way in which we categorize and name websites. Your site’s URL is it’s doman, such as 


Traffic –  The people who come and visit your site


301 Redirect –  A way to point traffic from one place to another. For instance, if you have an updated version of a site with a new domain name, you can use a 301 Redirect to keep 90-90% of the link equity instead of starting from zero.


Beta –  An unfinished version of a product or site for testing purposes.


Beaver Builder –  A WYSIWIG website editor. WYSIWIG (pronounced whizz-e-wig) stands for “What You See Is What You Get”


Server –  The server is where the data that makes up your website is physically stored.


SMTP – Simple Mail Transfer Protocol.  So an SMTP Server is one whose purpose is to accept and distribute email.,


QA/QC – Quality Assurance/Quality Control. This is testing your site and looking for bugs or design flaws.


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