Web Design Vocabulary

A basic set of vocabulary terms used in web design and development.

Server (software)
A software dedicated to a particular task for example serving web pages, printing files or storing data.
Server (hardware)
Once a server software requires too much power from the computer it is installed on for other programs to also run on it, the entire computer is dedicated to that particular task. For example: serving web pages.
Any situation where two or more computers are connected in a way that they can “talk” to each other.
Domain Name
The name of a web site, such as “duckduckgo.com” or “johnabbott.qc.ca”.
Domain Name Server
A system of servers on the internet that translate domain names into IP addresses. They function as the “phone book” of the internet.
DNS Lookup
Every time a browser needs to connect to a web site, it must first lookup the IP address of that site before connecting to the IP address. This is because computers only understand numbers, not words. For example, when the user types “duckduckgo.com” into the URL bar in Firefox the web browser connects to a DNS server and asks for the IP address for duckduckgo.com. The DNS server sends back
The type of company that sells and manages domain names. When you get a web site, you must enter the name of your site and the address of the server it is installed on in the DNS system. The registrar is the company where you do this. Many web hosts offer web site hosting and domain name registration as a package.
Web site hosting provider
A company that sells space on their web servers so your web site can be on the internet.
LAMP Stack
A set of four softwares that have become a standard combination in web design. The stack consists of the Linux operating system, Apache web server, MySQL database and the PHP scripting language.
Web Server (software)
A software program that listens for http requests coming in from web browsers. For example on the server located at, when a browser requests the home page the web server reads the index.html page from the hard drive and sends it to the browser. The most popular web server software is Apache.
Web Server (hardware)
A computer dedicated to running a web server software program such as Apache.
The Apache HTTP Server is free open-source web server software. Invented in 1995, Apache played an important role in the initial growth of the early World Wide Web and has been the most popular server software ever since the spring of 1996. In 2018, it was serving approximately 39% of all websites and 35% of the top million sites.
A software program that stores information in a structured way – often in columns and rows.
Database Server
A computer dedicated to storing, managing and delivering information. For web designers, the database often holds the text content of all pages of a web site.
The world’s most popular web database server. Often used with Apache and PHP. It has no graphic interface, so PHPMyAdmin is often used to manage it from a browser window.
Dynamic Web Site Template
A template made of HTML and a scripting language such as PHP, ASP, JSP, etc. The main difference in between a normal HTML page and a template is that the template leaves blanks where certain types of information will go. For example, the title tag will be empty in the template. These blanks will be filled in when someone requests a specific page.
A programming language that (among other capabilities) connects the Apache web server to the content stored in a database. When the page is loaded into Apache, PHP is the one responsible for “filling in the blanks” in the template with information queried from the MySQL database.
Web Browser (visual)
Software such as Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome or Apple Safari that allow users to visually browse web sites.
Web Browser (text)
Software such as Lynx that allow a user to browse a web site in plain text mode only, often inside a Terminal window. This is useful for visual designers who want to see how their site appears to other software such as Googlebot that do not see the visual presentation of the page.
Web Browser (audio) / Screen reader
A Screen Reader is a web browser for people who cannot see the visual page content and rely on the computer reading the page content out loud through a loudspeaker. Other devices offer touch reading in Braille. These types of browsers depend on Semantic HTML to try to properly interpret the meaning of the page for the user.
Semantic HTML
The writing of HTML based on using tags that explain the role and meaning of the content within the tags. For example, <header> is a semantic tag while <div id=”header”> is not. A well-written semantic HTML page is much easier to understand and maintain for web designers, is better for SEO ranking and is more accessible for people with visual disabilities who must use non-visual browsers.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
The art and career option of making web pages that show up very high in search engine results. For example, a page that shows up on the first page of Google is very optimized and most people will visit that page. A web site that only shows on Google’s page 40 is practically invisible to most users.

Author: Eric Girouard

Eric Girouard is a photography and design teacher in the Graphic & Web Design department, which he joined in 2001. He holds a BFA in Fine Art specializing in Drawing & Painting from Concordia University. His stock images were distributed worldwide by Corbis. Eric also worked at Trey Ratcliff’s “The Arcanum – Magical Academy of Artistic Mastery” and served as a photo contest judge for Viewbug.com.

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