14 Web Design Definitions You Need to Know

Every industry has unique lingo and specific terms that are important to know to navigate that field effectively. Below are 14 design terms and definitions that absolutely must be in your vocabulary, whether you are aiming to communicate more effectively to your web designer or seeking to become a web designer professionally.


This term is about a website’s ability to be utilized by all people – including those with disabilities like visual or hearing impairments. When a website has low accessibility, this means that it will be difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to use. Accessibility is a critical element of design. You can find resources on accessible web design here.


A browser refers to the software a website visitor is using to access the internet. Some browser programs include Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, and Opera. Sometimes, coding errors can result in issues on one browser, but not another.

HyperText Markup Language (HTML)

HyperText Markup Language, or HTML, is the primary language of code used by developers to communicate to your web browser how to respond to certain content. HTML is usually used to provide content on websites, and CSS (or another coding language) is used to provide the layout and stylistic options. However, HTML can be used by itself to determine how content is displayed.

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)

Cascading Style Sheets, usually referred to as CSS, is a language of code used by developers to manage how your web page should be presented to your audience. In other words, CSS manages the look and feel of a website. In CSS, you usually manage fonts, colors, images, menus, and more.


Javascript, not to be confused with the Java programming language, is a scripting language that allows for more complex, interesting interactions on a web page. For example, when filling out a form, javascript is what enables a pop-up box to appear to inform you that you have forgotten to complete a box. It can also be used to load new content without reloading the entire web page, display interactive maps, and more.

Content Management System (CMS)

A Content Management System is a computer application or database that creates, edits, or manages digital content. The benefit of CMS is that it is meant to simplify the process of publishing website content by eliminating the need to be fluent in a particular coding language. Instead, a CMS allows you to input and edit text and images in a more user-friendly manner. One example of CMS is WordPress.

User Experience (UX)

User Experience, or UX, is a term that describes experience of an individual when interacting with a business and its offerings. UX is an important component of web design. For example, accessibility (defined above!) can make or break the user experience. Consistently negative user experiences on a website might result in a high bounce rate, whereas positive user experiences may lead to a higher conversion rate. User Experience can also be used to assess whether a product is well-designed. For example, a remote control that is confusing to use might result in a poor user experience because the user was unable to turn on the TV.


This term is meant to capture all the elements of a website that direct the user throughout the site. For example, the navigation tool may be a “menu bar” located across the top or down the side of a website, but it can also include links at the bottom of a page. Any links that allow a website visitor to move from one page to another can also be considered aspects of navigation. Smooth and intuitive navigation contribute to a positive user experience.

Web Content

Web content includes any content that is textual, visual, or aural. On a web site, web content can include a wide variety of elements, including but not limited to: blog posts, downloadable PDFs, YouTube videos, and images.

Web Copy

Web copy is the text on your website that imparts meaningful information for the visitor, like on your About Us page, in product taglines, and more. You can read more about web copy and why it is important for your business on my blog post here.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process or strategy of increasing the visibility of your site in relevant search engines. Basically, well-done SEO should boost your website to the top of search engine results to attract potential and existing customers to your website. There are many SEO factors that contribute to an optimization strategy, and search engines periodically adjust their search algorithms to provide users with an optimal search experience. As an example, when I type “fiji water” into a search engine, SEO impacts whether my top results are websites about the quality of the water in and around Fiji, or direct me to the website for the popular bottled water company.

Call to Action (CTA)

A Call to Action (or CTA) is an encouragement or directive that prompts your audience to commit to an action. For example, a call to action can ask that people sign an online petition to support an initiative. A call to action might also look like encouraging people to take advantage of a limited-time offer or to download a PDF guide.

Conversion (or Conversion Rate)

The conversion (or conversion rate) is the ratio of visitors fulfilling your specific, desired action to the total number of visitors. If, for example, the goal of your business is to sell a product from your website, then the conversion rate would reflect the number of people who purchased the product to the total number of visitors to the website.

Bounce Rate

A bounce rate is the ratio of people who land on your website and immediately exit, to the total number of visitors to your website. You can read more about the bounce rate and how to improve yours on my blog post here.

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