The following guide is an ever-growing list of common web and WordPress terms. Feel free to contact me if there is a term you’d like to see listed here, or elaborated on in a blog post.
A domain name is a unique word or phrase that identifies a website and acts as an address where people can locate that website; it is the same as a URL, but without the “https” or whatever comes before the address. Each domain name is also associated with one or more IP addresses – the URL represented in numbers instead of words.
“The domain name system (DNS) connects URLs with their IP address. With DNS, it’s possible to type words instead of a string of numbers into a browser, allowing people to search for websites and send emails using familiar names. When you search for a domain name in a browser, it sends a query over the internet to match the domain with its corresponding IP. Once located, it uses the IP to retrieve the website’s content.”
According to Google Support, “When you register a domain, ICANN requires [your domain registrar] to publish the registrant’s name and other contact information in the WHOIS directory. The WHOIS directory is open to the public, which means published contact information is available to anyone at any time.”
Some registrars, including Google Domains and Cloudflare, keep this information private for you at no extra cost. To see if your domain registrar offers free privacy protection, follow the instructions listed in this article.
Certain changes to your website need time to take effect, or to propagate. Primarily, this refers to updates to your DNS. When these records are updated it can take 24-48 hours for the changes to be recognized across the entire internet. If you try to access your website before the changes have propagated, you may not see any changes or your website might be down temporarily while the transition is occurring. Your website will go down for some period of time during propagation.
Google Web Tools
A service that tracks website usage statistics and can be integrated with other tools to determine the efficacy of different marketing strategies. Analytics captures information about website users such as number, location, and time spent on the site. Access Google Analytics here: http://analytics.google.com/.
Google Search Console
A service that lets website owners track and adjust search engine performance, site indexing, and overall visibility. Access Google Search Console here: https://search.google.com/search-console/about.
Google Page Speed Insights
A tool that assesses the different elements on your site and provides a detailed report on how long each element takes to load. It shows overall speed performance for desktop and mobile, and gives suggestions for improving load time. Test your site here: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/.
Google My Business
A free service that allows people to manage their Google business profile. Google business profiles are created automatically and include things like contact information, hours, maps, and reviews. Creating a Google My Business profile gives you more control over how your profile appears in search results and what information it contains. Check out this article for more information on how to create your Google My Business account, or sign in here: https://www.google.com/business/.
Web accessibility refers to the practice of developing sites that are usable for people with disabilities, such as hearing, vision, or cognitive problems. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is the standard reference for judging accessibility and includes considerations such as making sure text is large enough to be easily legible, and ensuring that images and other page elements have been properly labeled so they can be described by a screen reader. Web accessibility is often referred to by the shorthand “a11y”, which stands for “‘a’ 11 letters ‘y’.”
“Backend” refers to the part of your website that can only be accessed by logging in. It is not visible to the public. This part of the site houses your dashboard – the control center you will use to manage and edit your website’s content.
Web browsers are the applications we use to access the internet. The browser fetches content from a web server and displays it as web pages on your computer or mobile device. Common browsers include Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Microsoft Edge.
Caching occurs when a copy of a website’s data is stored on a browser or server. This copy is then retrieved and shown to you when you access the site. Because you’re just getting a copy, the website can load much faster than if your browser had to process and serve up the fresh site data. However, sometimes the cached version of the site is out of sync with what’s actually there, meaning that you won’t see certain changes until you clear your browser cache or do a hard refresh.
CDN can stand for “content delivery network” or “content distribution network,” but the meaning is the same. A CDN is a network of proxy servers and data centers set up in different geographic locations. Being able to serve website content from the most relevant location improves site performance. Say you are accessing a website that uses a CDN, and you live in Toronto. If there are servers located in Alabama, Hong Kong, and Montreal, the CDN will know to send the website data from Montreal to reach you the quickest.
Cloudflare is a popular CDN service that improves site performance and security.
A CMS, or content management system, is an application that uses a database to store and organize information. CMSes come in a variety of flavors, some more powerful or complex than others, and are frequently used to build websites. WordPress, Drupal, Wix, and Magento are all CMS platforms.
Call to Action (CTA)
An element on your website that encourages users to engage with or purchase your products or services. Newsletter sign-up forms and prominent “buy now” type buttons are two common types of CTAs.
Ecommerce simply refers to selling products and services online. There are many ecommerce platforms available, including Shopify, Square, PrestaShop, and Magento. Most CMSes, such as WordPress, also offer ecommerce options. WooCommerce is a popular extension for WordPress that allows you to create an online store. To fully set up your store you will need to connect to a service that can accept payments, such as PayPal or Stripe. If you are shipping items, you will also need to decide which shipping service to use and consider things like taxes and product weight/dimensions.
Building an email list of your customers and sending out regular communications is a great way to grow your business and keep your audience engaged. The most effective way to handle your email marketing is by signing up with a service like MailChimp or Constant Contact that will help you manage your list of contacts, create professional-looking emails, and target specific parts of your audience if necessary. Many businesses capture user emails through a “subscribe” form on their websites.
When visitors come to your site, the portion of the site they interact with is called the “frontend.” This is what we typically think of when we talk about websites – the publicly visible side of things.
FTP (file transfer protocol) is a way of uploading, downloading, or moving files on the internet. Your hosting provider will allow you to create credentials to access your site files via FTP. There are a variety of free and paid FTP programs available for download online, but your web host will usually offer an FTP interface inside the hosting control panel as well.
- JPG format is for photos (even if the photo has text on it).
- PNG is for simple graphics that need transparent backgrounds, like icons and logos, and in rare cases, a photo that has a cutout and needs transparency. Pngs are high-quality images and if used incorrectly – like for a photo – they will be huge file sizes that take longer for browsers to download. Rule of thumb: Never use png for a photo; use jpg instead.
Canva Users: Canva defaults to saving out files as png which creates unnecessarily huge file sizes. Select jpg instead.
- SVG is an advanced type of image similar to a PNG but at higher resolution, smaller file size, and infinitely scalable. It is most likely used on your website for icons and logos.
- GIF format is used for animations.
LazyLoad is a feature many websites use to improve performance. Instead of loading everything on the page at once, your site will wait to load images and other objects until they are actually being viewed or used.
LMS stands for Learning Management System, and refers to applications such as LearnDash, Sensei, and Teachable, which facilitate online training and education. These systems can integrate with your WordPress site to help you manage and provide online course content for clients or students.
A kind of plain text syntax that allows you to use basic keyboard symbols to easily format your text for HTML. Many services such as Slack, Facebook chat, and Reddit, as well as the Gutenberg Editor allow you to use markdown elements to do things like create bulleted lists or make bolded headings. For instance, putting asterisks around a word or phrase *like this* will make it look like this when you publish your content.
You can see the full list of syntax elements here.
Just like it sounds, migration is the process of moving your website from one place to another. If you change domains or hosting providers you will need to transfer your site over to the new location. To successfully migrate a site, you will need to copy all the site files, assets (ie. images), and your database and import them into their new home.
Password management applications store all your passwords in one online vault. Like your browser, when you log in somewhere the password manager will ask you if it should remember your password. The only password you will have to remember is the one for your password manager account. There are a few pass management options out there, but the one I use is LastPass. You can read my post for more details on how it works.
Search engine optimization refers to increasing the quantity and quality of organic (unpaid) traffic to your site. There are many factors that determine how relevant your site looks to search engines, including content quality, outgoing and incoming links, accessibility, speed, and frequency of updates. Because of the way WordPress is structured, it is primed for good SEO from the get-go, however it’s important to realize that great organic search results don’t happen overnight. SEO is a process that requires continuous work and time to maintain.
When people copy others’ behavior because they don’t know the appropriate or expected way to act in a situation, and they assume other people do. In web design and marketing, social proof usually means demonstrating the legitimacy of your products or services through user testimonials, expert or celebrity recommendations, or industry certifications or awards.
SSL (Secure Socket Layer) is a secure connection. An SSL certificate encrypts all the data that passes between your visitors’ web browser and your website’s server where your website lives. This secures your website and makes it much harder for malicious parties to read the information coming to and from your site.
Websites using SSL can easily be identified by their web address:
Note the “s” in the address – it stands for Secure and signals that an SSL certificate is used.
Various indicators that help demonstrate the legitimacy of your website. A site that is well designed and professional, for instance, inspires trust and confidence in users. Other trust signals may be the use of custom photography (vs. stock photos), testimonials, information about your company or team, and including payment badges at checkout. Social proof is also a kind of trust signal.
Web hosts provide a space for your website to live on the internet. According to namecheap.com, “Web hosting makes the files that comprise a website (code, images, etc.) available for viewing online.
The amount of space allocated on a server to a website depends on the type of hosting. The main types of hosting are shared, dedicated, VPS and reseller. They are differentiated by the kind of technology used for the server, the level of management provided and the additional services on offer.”
That said, not all hosts are created equal in terms of the speed and performance they can offer for your website.
“The term web server can refer to hardware or software, or both of them working together.
- On the software side, a web server includes several parts that control how web users access hosted files. At a minimum, this is an HTTP server.
At the most basic level, whenever a browser needs a file that is hosted on a web server, the browser requests the file via HTTP. When the request reaches the correct (hardware) web server, the (software) HTTP server accepts the request, finds the requested document, and sends it back to the browser, also through HTTP. (If the server doesn’t find the requested document, it returns a 404 response instead.)”
WYSIWYG (pronounced “WIZ-ee-wig”) stands for “What you see is what you get”. This refers to a type of rich text editor that shows you within the editor more or less how your text will look once it is published. WYSIWYG editors usually include a toolbar that lets you control things like font face, weight, style, and color. They typically let you insert things like links and images as well. The classic WordPress editor and the Gutenberg text block are both types of WYSIWYG editors.
Gutenberg / WordPress Block Editor
Gutenberg is the WordPress backend editor, introduced in 2018. It employs a drag and drop builder that uses blocks instead of a plain WYSIWYG editor. To learn more, check out my post on the basics of Gutenberg and how it differs from the old WordPress interface here, or read this post to learn what different block types can do.
When you upload an image or other file such as a PDF or sound clip to WordPress, it is automatically stored in your Media Library. You can access your Media Library from your Dashboard at any time to view and manage your saved files, or to upload new files.
The Media Library does offer basic image editing capabilities, although it is better to edit images before uploading them to WordPress. Files will appear in the library in the order they were uploaded, so it is a good idea to name your files with descriptive titles that you can easily search for them later if you need to.
When editing a WordPress page or post with the WYSIWYG editor, you can use the “Add Media” button to upload new files or access what already exists in the Media Library. If you are using Gutenberg blocks, there are several block types that will pull from the Media Library, including Image and Gallery.
A drag-and-drop interface for WordPress that replaces Gutenberg, allowing you to design layouts and add content elements to your WordPress pages. Page builders can be included with your theme or uploaded separately as Plugins. They may be free or paid. Some popular page builders include Divi, Elementor, WP Bakery, and Beaver Builder.
A plugin is a tool you can add to your website to add a new function or feature to the site. In the world of WordPress, there are plugins for everything you can think of – photo galleries, membership frameworks, social media, even plugins that will add a virtual chessboard to your site. The purpose of a lot of plugins is to connect third-party services and applications to WordPress. For instance, there are a number of different plugins that will link WordPress with your Mailchimp account, making it easy for you to manage your mailing lists and add custom subscription forms from your WordPress dashboard.
According to WP Beginner:
“In WordPress, a theme is a collection of templates and stylesheets used to define the appearance and display of a WordPress powered website.”
Themes can be accessed and managed from your Dashboard under Appearance > Themes. They have different features and offer different ways of styling your site and adding content. Some themes are based on Pagebuilders, such as Divi or Elementor.
A package of features or capabilities that developers can add to their theme. Essentially, these are sets of code that can help build/develop a theme.
WordPress is a free, open-source CMS. Originally created for blogging, WordPress is now a powerful and widely-used tool for building websites of all sizes and types. Part of the platform’s popularity comes from its ease of use. A well-designed WordPress website can make it easy for the site owner to maintain and update their own content without professional help.
As of 2021, WordPress is said to power 40% of all websites!
The WordPress platform is coded in PHP and uses a MySQL database to store information.
This is essentially your home screen when you log in to the backend of your WordPress site. It includes the admin menu on the left with links to all your tools and pieces of your website, as well as a group of widgets in the middle. The default widgets included on the dashboard are: Welcome – which includes some quick links – Quick Draft, Site Health, At a Glance, WordPress Events and News, and Activity.