So here it is- the all encompassing website development glossary of terms.

If ever you’ve been happily reading along with a Canny blog and we’ve used an acronym that’s left you scratching your head in confusion, hopefully this clears it up a bit.

Although we tend to try to avoid using too much jargon, because we are steeped in website development and branding all day every day, some of the things we’re familiar with might just slip in to the odd blog every now and again.

We cover off a lot of technical terms here, and it’s a pretty useful and interesting read- even if its just to help solve the times crossword next time around!


Asynchronous JavaScript and XML(Extensible Markup Language). AJAX allows developers to communicate with web servers via the XMLHttpRequest Object.

With AJAX, developers can send and receive information in different formats (JSON, XML and text files) using different HTTP verbs (GET, POST, PUT, PATCH and DELETE).

AJAX can run in the background once the page has loaded and can update various elements of a website without the need of a page reload.


API stands for application programming interface, and it allows two programs to interact with each other. In other words, an API is the messenger that delivers your request to the provider that you’re requesting it from and then delivers the response back to you.


Accessibility is how easy your site is to read and navigate for everyone, including those with disabilities or impediments that make browsing the web more difficult, or reliant on assistive technology.

ARIA (attributes)

ARIA stands for Accessible Rich Internet Applications and they allow you to add to HTML elements that define ways to make web content and applications accessible to users with disabilities who use assistive technologies (AT).


Information, normally from a Google plug in, about the people who use your site, and how your site is being used.

Auto Responder

Code that replies with a preset script to any inbound emails received.


Making things run without user or site manager input.

Above the fold

Anything that appears on a webpage before scrolling.

A/B Testing

Serving 50% of visitors to a site one thing, and 50% of visitors to a site an alternative, and collecting data to see which works best. Usually done for small copy changes and minor layout or design changes rather than wholesale changes.


How much data can be transferred per second across a certain digital pathway.


The software on your computer that allows you to browse the internet. Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge, and Opera are all examples of browsers.


A regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.

Bounce Rate

The percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.


To backup is to create a carbon copy of a website before making changes or implementing fixes, just in case some goes awry. Basically a checkpoint you can return to if anything goes wrong.


Pieces of code used to automate tasks.


A specific stopping point in any code, automated or otherwise. When a code runs, a breakpoint tells the code when to stop running- usually when it has collected enough data or fulfilled it’s purpose.

Back End

The part of a computer system or application that is not directly accessed by the user, typically responsible for storing and manipulating data. It’s where the code lives!


CSS stands for cascading style sheet and defines all of the style based elements on a website like font types, colours, layout and all of the visual aspects of a website.


A bot that visits the site, examines the sitemap, explores the website, and then takes the data it has ‘crawled’ back to wherever it came from- normally, but not exclusively, Google.

CMS (Content Management System)

A CMS, short for content management system, is a software application that allows users to build and manage a website without having to code it from scratch, or know how to code at all.


Cron is a software utility that allows developers and web engineers in development environments to schedule and run jobs at specific times.

For example:

A cron job might be used to import data from a CSV into a MySQL database at a specific time every day without manual intervention.


CRUD is an acronym that stands for “create, read, update, delete” which are the four major operations implemented by databases.

For example, in address book software, the basic storage unit is an individual contact entry. As a bare minimum, the software must allow the user to:

Create, or add new entries
Read, retrieve, search, or view existing entries
Update, or edit existing entries
Delete, deactivate, or remove existing entries

Variations of CRUD exist in other circumstances. Namely RESTful APIs which are outlined below.


The name cURL stands for “client URL.”

It’s a computer software project that provides a library (called libcurl) and command line tool that helps transfer data using various different network protocols.

It helps get and send data including files, and is often used to install or move files using Terminal.


CDN stands for content delivery network and refers to a wide network of geographically distributed servers that work together to provide content quickly and efficiently.

A CDN makes it lightning fast to transfer assets such as HTML pages, Javascript files, stylesheets, and more.

For more information about content delivery networks check out this post by Cloudflare.


CRM (customer relationship management) software is used to profile, track, and engage with customers and leads.

They’re used to store information, track interactions, score deals, assign pricing to deals, and move leads through your pipeline.

Popular choices include Salesforce, Hubspot, and Pipedrive.

CTA (Call to Action)

A CTA is a call to action. This is a point in your site or blog that asks a user to take a specific action- this is typically an action that enters the user into some sort of sales funnel. Actions of this nature are usually something like ‘sign up’, ‘get in touch’ or ‘contact us’ and are geared towards capturing contact or personal information about the user.

Conversion Rate

The percentage of users that respond to a call to action. If 100 people visit your site in a day, and 1 of them ‘converts’- signs up to the offering, contacts your business through the site etc.- then you have a conversion rate of 1%.


Delicious baked goods, typically with chocolate chip.

They are also small blocks of data created by a web server while a user is browsing a website and placed on the user’s computer or other device by the user’s web browser. Cookies are placed on the device used to access a website, and more than one cookie may be placed on a user’s device during a session.

Domain name

Domain names are used to identify one or more IP addresses. For example, the domain name represents about a dozen IP addresses. Domain names are used in URLs to identify particular Web pages. For example, in the URL, the domain name is


The Domain Name System (or DNS) converts human readable domain names (like: into Internet Protocol (IP) addresses (like: This makes it so that computers can communicate and understand the human readable domains- as computers understand numbers better.


A database is an organized collection of structured information, or data, typically stored electronically in a computer system.


Deployment in software and web development means to push changes or updates from one deployment environment to another. When setting up a website you will always have your live website, which is called the live environment or production environment.


Downloading means your computer is receiving data from the Internet. Examples of downloading include opening a web page, receiving email, purchasing music files and watching online videos.


Electronic mail. Not much to this one, it’s been going since the 1960s, and it hasn’t changed much at all. If you don’t know what an email is, it’s a miracle you found this page to be honest.

A worldwide e-mail network allows people to exchange e-mail messages very quickly. E-mail is the electronic equivalent of a letter, but with advantages in timeliness and flexibility.- Wikipedia


ECMAScript is a general-purpose programming language, standardised by Ecma International.

It is a JavaScript standard meant to ensure the interoperability of web pages across different web browsers.

Freedcodecamp have a great breakdown here.


FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol- its a way of transferring information from a server to a client.


There’s a great post on exactly what a framework is here! In short, a framework is a real or conceptual structure intended to serve as a support or guide for the building of something that expands the structure into something useful​.

Front End

A front end is the graphical user interface of a computer that makes it easier to use. It’s the user friendly version of the back end!


Git is software for tracking changes in any set of files, usually used for coordinating work among programmers collaboratively developing source code during software development.


The people who develop and manage Git.


We have a great post breaking down what hosting is too! In short, hosting is how your website gets on the internet- your website is stored-or ‘hosted’- on a server, and when people access your domain the server sends the information stored there to their browser.


HyperText Markup Language, or HTML is the standard markup language for documents designed to be displayed in a web browser.

It helps inform the CSS as well!


HTAccess file is a file that controls the high-level configuration of your website. With enough technical knowledge, HTAccess files can be optimised for SEO.


HTTP is a communications protocol. It is used to send and receive webpages and files on the internet. It encodes and transports information from the server to the client.


A HTTP with an additional layer of security- a HTTP layer with an encoded SSL certificate.


Hubl is a website syntax and Hubspot’s very own coding and programming language.

You can use Hubl to build websites, query the database, and build templates within Hubspot’s software.


Hubspot is an absolute goliath of a software company. They write and maintain one of the largest and most respected marketing blogs in the world.

Their software has many uses including; building websites, sending emails, delivering ebooks and resources, and building and maintaining websites.

IP address

An IP address is a unique address that identifies a device on the internet or a local network. In essence, IP addresses are the identifier that allows information to be sent between devices on a network: they contain location information and make devices accessible for communication.


IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) is a method of accessing and storing mail on a mail server.


An IDE -integrated development environment- is a software application that provides comprehensive facilities to computer programmers for software development. It’s basically a text editor, debugger, and compiler all in one!


Javascript is a programming language used to build websites.


jQuery is a lightweight, “write less, do more”, JavaScript library. The purpose of jQuery is to make it much easier to use JavaScript on your website. jQuery takes a lot of common tasks that require many lines of JavaScript code to accomplish, and wraps them into methods that you can call with a single line of code.


A javascript based computing language, designed to be more simple for humans to use, read and understand.


Keywords are words seeded into text that are included and targeted to signal that the content is relevant to the end user. They are used to show search engine crawlers that the content should be served to people searching for the particular keyword topics that have been included.

LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP)

LAMP is a combination of 4 softwares that make up a programming Stack. Linux is the operating system, Apache is the server, MySQL is the database, and PHP is the programming language.


In programming, a library is a collection of predefined things a program can do. These tend to be things that assist the program in running, such as protocols that configure data and message templates.


Liquid is an open-source templating language popularised and created by Shopify. All Shopify themes are built on Liquid as it forms the backbone of their architecture.

Since it’s creation, Liquid has been used and implemented in other software including; Nation Builder, Salesforce Desk, and Zendesk.

Mobile first design

Designing websites for mobile usability first and foremost, and then adjusting for desktop from there.

Mailing List

A collection of email addresses that have signed up to receive emails and marketing materials from your company, that you can send emails to en-masse. Usually used for a periodic newsletter or direct marketing purposes.


A relational database that uses SQL to query the database. MySQL is used as a database management system for web servers.

MX Record

An MX record (a mail exchange record) specifies the mail server responsible for the domain’s mail. It is the post office of your website!


Metadata is defined as the data providing information about one or more aspects of the data; it is used to summarise basic information about data which can make tracking and working with specific data easier.Some examples include: Location on a computer network where the data was created. Standards used. File size etc.


npm is the package manager for the Node JavaScript platform. It puts modules in place so that node can find them, and manages dependency conflicts intelligently. It is extremely configurable to support a wide variety of use cases. Most commonly, it is used to publish, discover, install, and develop node programs.


Node.js is an open-source, cross-platform, back-end JavaScript runtime environment that runs on the V8 engine and executes JavaScript code outside a web browser.

Object oriented programming

Object-oriented programming (OOP) is a computer programming model that organizes software design around data, or objects, rather than functions and logic.


PHP is a general-purpose scripting language geared towards web development. It was originally created by Danish-Canadian programmer Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994. The PHP reference implementation is now produced by The PHP Group. It is C/C++ based.


POP3 stands for Post Office Protocol. As the name suggests, it allows you to use your email inbox like a post office – emails are downloaded onto your computer and removed from the mail server.

When accessing your emails using the POP3 protocol, a copy of the emails is created and stored locally on your computer. The originals are usually, but not always, removed from the mail server. In other words, emails are tied to the specific device. Once the email is downloaded onto one device (and removed from the mail server), it cannot be accessed by another email client or device.


Plugins are downloadable enhancements for your CMS. Some of them make your website creation easier, optimise your website, or assist and suggest improvements.


When programming or developing a website, a query is used to retrieve information from your database.

For example:

A list of people’s favourite colours are stored in our website’s database; Tony = blue, Glen = green, Jordan = yellow.

A query is then used to fetch those results from the database and output them onto your website page.


Responsive web design is an approach to web design that makes web pages render well on a variety of devices and window or screen sizes from minimum to maximum display size.

Regular Expression (regex)

A regular expression is a sequence of characters that specifies a search pattern. Usually such patterns are used by string-searching algorithms for “find” or “find and replace” operations on strings, or for input validation. It is a technique developed in theoretical computer science


Representational state transfer (API – application programming interface).

The API conforms to the REST architecture. This is so developers follow a set of strict rules when developing their API.

A web service (with the API) that follows the REST architecture is called a RESTful web service. The HTTP verbs that can be used with these web services are POST, GET, PUT, PATCH and DELETE.

SSL Certificate

SSL Certificates are small data files that digitally bind a cryptographic key to an organization’s details. When installed on a web server, it activates the padlock and the https protocol and allows secure connections from a web server to a browser.


A staging environment (stage) is a nearly exact replica of a production environment for software testing. Staging environments are made to test codes, builds, and updates to ensure quality under a production-like environment before application deployment.


A server is a piece of computer hardware or software that provides functionality for other programs or devices, called “clients”.

Search Console

Also known as the Google Search Console, this is a collection of performance analytics collected by Google that shows the performance of your site in the SERPs.


Search Engine Results Pages- the results Google provides when people search.


Processed, canned meat… and also unsolicited communications sent in bulk over the internet or through any electronic messaging system.


The Simple Mail Transfer Protocol is an internet standard communication protocol for electronic mail transmission. Mail servers and other message transfer agents use SMTP to send and receive mail messages.


SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” In simple terms, it means the process of improving your site to increase its visibility when people search for products or services related to your business in Google, Bing, and other search engines. The better visibility your pages have in search results, the more likely you are to garner attention and attract prospective and existing customers to your business.

There are 4 main broad categories of SEO (On-Page, Off-Page, Technical, and Local) which essentially cover all SEO work.

However, there are many more subcategories of SEO, as well SEO strategies, tactics, specialisms, and discrete blocks of SEO work:

AMP SEO – Using AMP to improve ranking in search results. Using AMP can make pages load faster as they are a stripped-down (lighter) version of web pages.
App Store SEO – Working to get more downloads for an App in App Stores.
B2B SEO – focuses on maximizing SERP real estate and the importance of being on comparison websites like Capterra, etc. Also, rankings on the category pages within those sites.
Black Hat SEO – SEO techniques that are against the terms and conditions set by search engines.
Brand SEO – Any branding activities online. Being mentioned on other sites (with a link or not) can improve your ranking.
Content SEO – A form of SEO that focuses solely on content (eg blogging, guest posting etc).
Competitor SEO – A focus on searches that include the word “vs” or “alternative” as they are so common. Example: McDonalds might write an article titled “Big Mac vs Whopper” so that when people search for that term, their article is found. By doing this McDonalds can influence how people view the two products.
eCommerce SEO – SEO specifically used for increasing the likelihood of purchases online. This is different from regular SEO as there many unique factors on eCommerce sites (such as product descriptions and reviews).
Digital PR – Getting links in the press or on news sites, as well as reputation management.
Enterprise SEO – SEO for very large websites. Large sites have different problems and resources than smaller sites and so SEO work is very different than when working on smaller sites.
Grey Hat SEO – SEO techniques that are not against the rules but which are still obviously dodgy (and likely to be made against the rules in the future).
Image SEO – Optimising images to appear higher in image search results, and bring searchers to your webpage.
Internal SEO – Focussing on internal linking, site structure, and internal search results.
International SEO – SEO for sites that operate in multiple countries. This can mean localisation of content, links etc, and creating multiple versions of a page in different languages.
JavaScript SEO – Optimising sites built using JavaScript. Search Engines generally find JavaScript more difficult to read, so extra care is needed to ensure they are indexed properly.
Local SEO – SEO for a business that operates in a specific location (such as a shop, or local delivery service). This is different to other types of SEO in that it is about a business, rather than a webpage. Local SEO is about making sure all mapping sites know about the business (as well as any sites which talk about that location).
Mobile SEO – A focus on mobile related SEO issues (such as mobile usability).
National SEO – Optimising for searches within one country (or with the country of operation in mind). National SEO is similar to Local SEO but has a focus on branding.
Negative SEO – An attack on a site in an attempt to decrease the ranking of that site in search. This generally involves using Black Hat techniques aimed at your site with the hope of being caught.
Non-Competitive SEO – Where your SEO efforts are focussed on helping your sector or an ecosystem of businesses.* Example: You sell a product but don’t repair it. You create content to boost your business, but actively avoid any keywords related to repairing the product so that repair businesses can rank higher for them. Having a product that is easily repaired makes it easier to sell your product.
Off-Page SEO – Any SEO activity you do without editing the page you are working on (such as link building).
On-Page SEO – Any SEO activity you do on a webpage (such as improving content structure).
Parasite SEO – Exploit the high domain authority of sites that allow you to create pages on them (Think BuzzFeed, Wikipedia, Medium, YouTube etc) and utilize this authority to both rank and use links lower authority sites wouldn’t succeed with. First coined in the early 2000s by Eli from Blue Hat SEO.
Programmatic SEO – A method that addresses the growing amount of search traffic by publishing landing pages on a large scale. As an example, Tripadvisor has a page for almost everything travel-related. Yelp has a page for all business searches.
PWA SEO – Using Progressive Web Apps to improve search ranking and performance.
SaaS SEO – A set of optimization considerations for software as a service websites. Common SaaS SEO strategies include creating key landing pages, rich content integration, and finding blog opportunities. The most common challenges in SaaS SEO include competition from aggregator sites and limited search volume.
Semantic SEO – SEO for real-world objects or entities made up of people, places, and things (such as ideas and concepts).
SERP Feature SEO – The process of mining rich snippets and PAA (People Also Asked) for opportunities to enhance your current pages display on SERP results themselves (e.g. FAQ markup, product schema, etc).
Social SEO – Using Social Media to affect search rankings. While social signals may not affect search ranking directly, posts from some social networks do appear in search results, as do profiles.
Social media can also be used to generate 2nd order links.
Technical SEO – SEO efforts that don’t revolve around content (such as improving page speed and information architecture).
Video SEO – Optimising videos and related meta details to gain more (and better) traffic from video hosting platforms.
Voice SEO – Optimising pages for voice search. Voice search is generally more question and answer based than text search and requires a specific technical markup.
White Hat SEO – SEO techniques that aim to follow terms and conditions set by search engines.

Platform-specific types of SEO, where you try to improve results on that platform. Some of the more common examples are:

Amazon SEO
eBay SEO
Etsy SEO
Pinterest SEO
Spotify SEO
YouTube SEO

It is also worth mentioning that the term SEO is often used by people who actually do nothing which will affect search results:

Fake Guru SEO – People who overrepresent their SEO knowledge and success in order to sell courses or other learning materials at a premium. The term Fake SEO Guru was coined by Tommy McDonald at SERP Logic.
Scam SEO – Unscrupulous “SEO consultants” applying long-dead SEO techniques such as over-use of meta tags and keyword stuffing in content on unsuspecting and unsophisticated customers.

Text editor

A text editor is simply a piece of software that can be used to code websites.

This might be a simple piece of software such as Notepad that’s included on Windows machines by default. Or, you might use a more involved piece of software such as Sublime Text or VS Code.

Either way, they let you use programming languages to build websites.


Tags are a way of organising your content with a content management system. Think of them as secondary to your category.

You can apply multiple tags to a piece of content whereas you typically would only apply one category.

They’re a level down from a category heading. More information on tags can be found in the Taxonomy description below.


In a CMS system like WordPress, a taxonomy is used to organise and group your content together.

Typically, a standard post will include two taxonomies; categories and tags.

As an example:

On the Canny Creative blog, we have posts categorised as Branding. But then they could be tagged as Logo Design, Brand Guidelines, or Brand Strategy.

You can create and make custom taxonomies for your post types within WordPress, but we always recommend a skilled web developer handles that for you.


Uptime simply refers to the amount of time your website is online vs the amount of time your website is offline.

Web hosting companies will boast things like “99.9% uptime guarantee” meaning that they estimate their sites are only offline for 0.1% of the time they’re hosted with them.

Although 100% is the goal, it’s rarely achievable. Servers and technology have outages, that’s just an unfortunate fact of life. Therefore, 99.99% is considered high availability and a widely acceptable industry standard.


UX stands for user experience and is one of the most important things to consider when designing a website. It is the flow of your website, how users perceive and interact with the website elements, and how easy your website is to navigate.

A well designed website will always have excellent UX, and excellent UX leaves users genuinely pleased with their experience.

Version Control

Version control refers to exactly that. The different versions of a website or web app that you create or make.

Specifically, version control is the practice of tracking and managing changes to software code.

For example:

If two website developers are working on one project, version control allows them to see and track each others changes, merging files together and making sure not to overwrite each other’s changes.

Typically this is handled through 3rd party software or SaaS companies such as Github.


Wireframes are essentially prototypes of a website made before a final design is applied.

Web and UX designers use wireframes as a guide to show how content will be laid out and positioned on the page.

Essentially, a wireframe is typically a full website mapped out as grey boxes, with helpful notes attached. They help make key decisions about the user journey and experience of a website.

If you’re looking for more, we recently took a deep dive into wireframes, what they are, and how they’re used.


WordPress is the world’s largest and most popular Content Management System (CMS).

It’s used to power content driven websites around the world. The Canny Creative website is built on WordPress, as are big brands such as; TechCrunch, Bloomberg, Star Wars, Disney, The New Yorker, and more.

Essentially, WordPress easily connects your website’s front end (the bit you see) to your database and backend (the bit you don’t see.)

It lets you store information such as blog posts, and web page content, and then presents it visually to your website visitors.


A WYSIWIG is a ‘what you see is what you get’ editor. It is a CMS feature that allows you to input anything into the WYSIWIG. The WYSIWIG then translates the content into HTML mark up and displays it correctly. They tend to be quite imprecise.

XSS – cross site scripting

Cross-site scripting (also known as XSS) is a web security vulnerability that allows an attacker to compromise the interactions that users have with a vulnerable application. It allows an attacker to circumvent the same origin policy, which is designed to segregate different websites from each other.

Cross-site scripting vulnerabilities normally allow an attacker to masquerade as a victim user, to carry out any actions that the user is able to perform, and to access any of the user’s data.

If the victim user has privileged access within the application, then the attacker might be able to gain full control over all of the application’s functionality and data.

XML Sitemap

An XML sitemap is a file that lists a website’s important pages, making sure Google (and other important search engines) can find and crawl them all. The Yoast plug in can generate these for free.


Y can’t I find any options for this letter?

Zurb Framework

ZURB Foundation is a front-end framework aimed at creating fully responsive web applications.

All of the below are server responses you might see when trying to access a website, and what they mean. They are all typically only seen on a users end when an error has occurred.

100 Continue – Interim response. To inform client that the initial part of the request has been received.
200 OK – Request succeeded. The information returned with the response depends on the request method (GET, HEAD, POST, and TRACE).
201 Created – Request succeeded with a new resources being created.
204 No Content – Request succeeded but the server is not returning any content.
301 Moved Permanently – Request is being redirected to the new, permanent location (URI).
302 Moved Temporarily – Request is being redirected to a new, temporary location (URI).
304 Not Modified – Resource has not been modified since last request.
400 Bad Request – Request not understood due to malformed syntax.
401 Unauthorized – Request requires user authentication.
403 Forbidden – Request understood but refused by server.
404 File Not Found – No matching resource is found for the request.
405 Method Not Allowed – The request method is not supported.
409 Conflict – Request could not be processed because of conflict.
418 I’m A Teapot – One of IETF April Fools’ jokes. Code defined in 1998; remains unimplemented till date.
500 Internal Server Error – Generic error message. The server encountered an unexpected error.
502 Bad Gateway – Invalid response from the upstream server.
503 Service Unavailable – Server unable to handle the request due to temporary issue.

And that’s your lot… I think we covered off a load of different things here, pulling the best explanations available on the web all into one easy to understand page.

If this wasn’t enough, and you still have more burning web design questions that need answered before you go and redesign your businesses’ website, why not get in touch? If you’ve read through our entire glossary as a way to procrastinate searching for someone to redesign your website… you’ve ran out of procrastination materials.

The only thing left to do is contact us!

The post A to Z of web design, web hosting and website development appeared first on Canny Creative.

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