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Website Lingo 101: Website Building Terms Explained

Website Lingo 101: Website Building Terms Explained
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You know when you start something new (in this case, you’re diving head on into building a website for your business) and people use all sorts of confusing, unexplained terms that leave you feeling super intimidated and confused?

I try to be mindful of this in my content, but jargon is a fact of life. Every industry has its insider terms so they can chat about their thing without explaining every concept in great detail – and website building is no different!

Well, friend… I want to feel empowered on your website building journey and aren’t left out in the dark. Here’s a glossary of website building lingo:

Nuts & Bolts

Platform: The website building platform is referring to the software that you’re actually using to build your website with. In the old days, people made websites by writing lines of code into word documents and then uploading them to the internet. Luckily those days are looong gone. Now almost everybody uses online programs that help you visually put together your website. Popular ones are WordPress, Showit, Squarespace, and Wix.

Domain name: Your domain name is your website’s “address”. It’s what you put into the browser to tell it to take you to a certain website, with the .com or .org or .net at the end … like littlebeastdesign.com for exanple.

Domain provider: Your domain provider is a business that you buy your domain name from.

Website hosting: Okay, so let’s imagine your website (which you build with your platform), is your house. Your domain name is the address so people can find your house. And your hosting would be like the land you put your house on, which you rent from a landlord.

WordPress, for example, is free to use but it’s just your house. Without the land, it’s nothing… you need to put the house on something, which is why you need to buy yearly website hosting to “host” your website so that it can appear on the interwebs. Examples are Siteground (my fave), Dreamhost, Bluehost… the list goes on and on.

Showit, Squarespace, and Wix, on the other hand, are both the house and the land… you pay for a subscription from them and they give you the platform to build the site as well as host it for you.

Website Building & Design

Frontend: The front end of your website is your live site… when someone visits your website in their browser, they are viewing the front end of your website.

Backend: The backend of your website is behind the scenes where the public doesn’t get to see. It’s where you actually build, maintain, and update your website.

Page Builder: This is the interface in your website-building platform where you actually create your website on the backend – ex. add images, add text, etc, and see it all come to life visually. With Showit, Squarespace, or Wix, you can only use their particular page builder that comes with the service. With WordPress, there are hundreds of page builders you could use. The one I use to build WordPress sites is Elementor. Other examples are Divi or Beaver Builder.

Section / Panel / Canvas: When you build your website, you’ll be building it section by section as you go down the page, and generally each section has a different background. For example, maybe the first part of the page has a background that is pink. Then the background turns to white. Then it turns pink again. Most platforms call this a section, but some call it a panel, and Showit calls it a canvas.

The Hero Image / Hero Section / Banner: The first section on the web page — usually involves an epic image that sums up your business, called the Hero image or Banner.

Element: Website elements are all the things that go inside the sections. For example photos, text, videos.

White Space: The amount of space that surrounds elements – like how far away they are from each other and the edges of the page. White space is good – we want lots of it so the page is pleasant to look at and read.

Margins & padding: Almost all page builders work on an invisible grid system (which admittedly can get frustrating when you can’t put things exactly where you want). You can place elements inside particular places in the grid and then adjust the margins and paddings to move the elements further or closer to other elements, thus creating more or less white space. The exception to this is Showit’s builder, which is why I love it – you can place elements anywhere you want on the page and have complete freedom! No grids!

Mobile View: People look at websites on all sorts of different devices… some big, some small like phones. So when you design and build your site, you also need to make sure it looks good on “mobile view”, and make any adjustments. Your page builder should have a way to do this built in.

Hex / colour code: There are millions of shades of colours. So when you go and you want to change the background colour of a certain section to a very specific shade of off-china-white, you’ll need to enter that colour’s hex code into the page builder. The codes are a combo of six letters & numbers and have a hashtag in front of them. They look like this: #fa8072 or #a9cdd1. To get a hex code, just google “color picker” and it will bring up a thing where you can choose your shade and it will give you the code.

Parallax: The effect you often see on websites where when you scroll down the page, the background image is moving at a different rate as the images or text in front.

HTML Code, CSS Code, and Javascript: Even though kind folks out there have built services for us so we don’t have to deal with code anymore… code is still what lies beneath everything to do with your website. HTML code tells your browser what elements should appear on the page and in what order. CSS code tells the browser what the element should look like (ex. colour, size, font). Javascript adds animations to elements.

Occasionally your page builder won’t have an option for what you want on your page (every page builder has different features & limitations), which is when you may need to hire someone to go behind the scenes and put in some custom code for you in order to have things appear the way you want.

Embed code: Let’s say you want to put an instagram feed onto your website. You want it to display your real-time like count, and update the images automatically every time you post. This may not come with your page builder, but there are third-party services (like in this case LightWidget) that you can sign up for and then they give you something called an “Embed Code”. This looks like a scary bit of code for sure, but don’t worry – you just copy and paste the code into your website and the widget appears on your site (aka you ’embed’ it).

Plugin: This really only applies to WordPress. Plugins are kind of like the embed thing we talked about above in that the purpose of them is to add functionality to your website, except they are services or programs that are installed directly into WordPress. The endless functionality potential is awesome, but plugins also conflict with each other a lot and cause big headaches which is a WordPress downside.

Favicon: The little tiny icon that shows in someone’s browser tab to represent your website.

Email Marketing & Freebies

Freebie / Opt-in Gift / Lead Magnet: This is a free digital gift that people often give away from their website in exchange for someone’s email address. Like a free report, checklist, cheatsheet, or quiz for example. This allows you to keep in touch with your potential clients and customers over email, which leads to more sales.

Email list: The list of people and their email addresses that you’ve collected via your freebie

Email Marketing Service / Provider: This is where your email list lives. It’s an online software that collects the names and email addresses from your freebie and at the same time automatically sends people their freebie gift. This is the also what you use to email your list with, rather than manually from your gmail account. Examples of email marketing services are Mailchimp, Mailerlite, or Convertkit (just to name a few).

Sign up form / opt-in form: The form that you place (aka “embed”) on your website that is connected to your email marketing service. People enter their name and email address into it, and it then adds them to your email list. If someone does this, it’s said that they’ve “opted in”.

Popup: A little box on your website that offers your freebie and contains the sign up form. The popup is not normally visible, but then will pop up on the screen in front of your website visitor as they explore your site. This increases the amount of people who opt-in for your freebie.

Sales & Selling

Website copy: The words on your website. Copy, specifically, is words written with the purpose to woo, persuade, or sell, which your website should aim to do.

E-commerce: An online shop, where you list out all your products for sale, and then people can click on each product to read a bigger description and purchase. E-commerce shops generally sell a wide range of physical, material products or lots of smaller priced digital products. Big e-commerce shops are often not hosted directly on your website but instead on e-commerce services like Shopify, or Big Cartel, or Etsy, and simply linked to from your website.

Sales Page: If you are selling services or fewer, higher price products (like an online course), instead of a whole e-commerce store, you’re more likely going to create one page on your website that goes into great detail about why someone might want to buy that particular thing.

Buy Button or Add to Cart button: When someone is ready to buy something from your sales page or online shop they will generally click a large, colourful rectangle that either adds the item to a cart page (more common on e-commerce), or takes them directly to a page where they enter their credit card (more common with sales pages).

Order form or checkout page: As mentioned above, the page where they actually enter their card and complete the sale. If you have a cart where they can add multiple items, this is the page that comes after that.

Shopping cart service: The online software that provides you with the cart and order form pages, tells the payment gateway to charge the credit card, and if you are selling digital products, is often the service that will automatically send the person their digital goods after they purchase. Examples are Thrivecart, SendOwl, or as mentioned Shopify, Big Cartel etc. I use Simplero for this.

Payment gateway: Yes, there is yet another thing in the process! Payment gateways are what actually have the authority to charge the person’s credit card and transfer the money to you. Examples are Paypal or Stripe. They don’t generally charge an up-front fee, but they do take a small percentage of every sale.

Conversions: The conversion rate is the amount of people who see your sales page or product page vs those who actually buy. And you may see people talking about “websites that convert” or “content that converts”, they mean those things are ace because they convert visitors into buyers. This term could also apply to other things.. like how many people opt-in when they see your freebie form.

Call-to-Actions: A call-to-action is a direct statement telling your website visitors to take a certain action that you want them to take (often directing them to buy something or opt in). For example a button with “Buy Now” on it is a call to action. Or a button that says “Send me the free thing” so they can get your freebie. Or the line with a link to your sales page at the bottom of a blog post that says “Click here to learn more about my course”.

SEO & Site Speed

SEO: Stands for Search Engine Optimization… basically it’s a collection of things you can do with your website that make it more likely that search engines (mainly the one everyone uses, Google) will rank you higher, so your website appears higher in the search engine, and so your website will get found by more people.

Traffic: Traffic means the amount of people that visit your website on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. More traffic = good.

Google Analytics: This is a free service from Google that you connect to your site and it measures your traffic.. aka how many people come to your website and tells you how they find it.

Crawl: Google sends out little robots to everybody’s websites on the regular, which “crawl” the site and look for any changes. It then goes and adds this info to its database that then decides how things get ranked in the searches.

Index: When your site is indexed by Google, it basically means that their robots have come to your site for the first time and has added it to the Google searches. By the way, this happens automatically – sometimes when you sign up for a new domain name, scammers will email you and tell you that you need to pay them to index your site. That’s not true.

Bounce Rate: Your bounce rate is the percentage of people who land on your website from the search engines and then immediately leave. Google takes this into account when ranking your website.

Backlink: Backlinks are links from other websites that link to your website. Google likes it if you get backlinks from lots of high quality websites and then ranks you higher in the searches.

Cache: Caching is a thing you can use with your website to speed it up. Google likes a fast site because people get impatient and don’t stick around if site is slow. Try ‘clearing your cache’ if you make changes to your website and they aren’t showing up on the front end.

Image Optimization: Also something you may want to do to speed up your site is to optimize your images so the browser doesn’t take as long to load them. This often means resizing them smaller before uploading them to your site, but it is also a collection of other actions.

That’s all, folks!

Woohoo! You made it through that whole thing and you’re precisely 177,329,203 X smarter than you were before. I’m sure you look forward to impressing everyone at nerdy dinner parties with your dope vocab (no need to thank me).

Now go out and make the best website ever!

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Picture of Tracy Raftl - Brand Strategist and Web Designer for Purpose-Driven Women

Hi! I'm Tracy

My team and I do custom, strategic brand & web design for women with purpose. ​Click here to learn more about us!

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