Glossary of Website Terminology

Glossary of Website Terminology

Nathan Duvall
Getting into web design/development can be a steep learning curve, but we're here to help! Introducing the over-simplistic glossary to website terminology.
Glossary of Website Terminology
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A Record
The A record is the DNS record that tells a server where to send website traffic. At GruffyGoat, when we launch a new website or take over hosting for a client, we typically have the client change their A record to point from their old hosting provider to ours. Changing the A record allows all other non-website related traffic, such as email, to remain intact and unchanged.
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CSS
CSS stands for “Cascading Style Sheet”. A stylesheet is a file (or set of files) on your web server that determines what your website looks like. From font style, to colors and layout — CSS code is added to a stylesheet to define your website’s appearance.
Cache & Cookies
No, we’re not talking about 💵 and 🍪. No doubt you’ve heard the phrase, “clear your cache!”. No matter which one you use, each browser stores temporary files (images, audio, video, stylesheet, etc.), called “cache”, in a folder to help a browser load more quickly. The process of “clearing your cache” is telling your browser to delete these temporary files so that you see the newest version of a website.

Like cache, “cookies” are used to store information related to the user, like IP address, login information, shopping cart history, etc. Typically, you do not need to delete your cookies when clearing your cache.
cPanel
cPanel is short for “control panel”. This is the back end admin screen used by some hosting providers where you can make changes to things like DNS records, SSL as well as access your sites files and database. Some hosting providers, like WPEngine and Flywheel have their own admin screens for managing these items.
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DNS
DNS is like a mail organizer at your home, receiving all types of mail from all different places. Your website constantly receives all kinds of “mail” in the form of web or email traffic, among other things. Each piece of traffic comes into a specific “mailbox”. DNS simply tells that mail where to go, in the form of a DNS records. Web traffic, for example is typically controlled by an A record, whereas email is controlled by MX records. The specific IP address of these DNS records tells that traffic where to go.
Domain
A domain is like the physical address of your house. To get to your house, you have to know your address. For a website, this is your URL, your www, the address you put in your browser to get to your website. Domains are purchased via a registrar, like GoDaddy, NameCheap, etc.
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GoDaddy
GoDaddy sucks. From the quality of their products and services to their support — they’re terrible from top to bottom. Avoid them like the plague. The only thing you should ever use GoDaddy for is registering your domains, and even then, support another company because… GoDaddy sucks. Did we have to put this in our glossary? No. Do they deserve this amount of shade? Absolutely.
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Hosting
Hosting is like a house – it’s where your website lives on the internet. Everything inside the “house” is your website – its design, layout & functionality. When you “migrate” a site, in essence, you’re moving out and moving in to a different house/hosting provider. Just like a house, some hosting providers are way nicer than others. WPEngine is a house in the Hamptons, GoDaddy is a cardboard box in Harlem (in our opinion, of course).
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iFrame
An iFrame is a method where you can load an external source inside of a page/post. The content/data isn’t living directly on the site but is pulled in through a “frame” to display it. A good example of this is a YouTube video embed or Google Map embed — these are iFrames used to display content that lives on another server to your website.
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MX Record
MX is the DNS record that tells the server where to send email traffic. Each email provider (like GSuite, Outlook365, etc.) has their own set of MX records. By adding the providers MX records to your DNS settings, you are letting your server know where all email traffic needs to be routed to.
Migration
Like geese flying south for the winter, “migration” for a website is moving its physical location from one hosting provider to another. There are many different ways to migrate a site, from manually exporting the files and database from one to the other or automated ways, using a plugin. If you’re on a crappy host, like GoDaddy for example, you should definitely consider migrating your site to a more reliable hosting provider. The process may seem daunting, but we can help!
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Nameserver
A nameserver is a special type of server that houses all DNS records for a domain. By default, when you purchase a domain, your website is automatically assigned the nameserver of that registar. So if you’ve purchased your domain at GoDaddy but want to host your website somewhere else (which you should definitely do!), you can change the nameserver of your domain to point to your new hosting provider. You can also use a service like Cloudflare to manage your DNS settings. Simply put, the nameserver’s job is to house all DNS records for a website.
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Registrar
A registrar a bit like a landlord – it’s where go to purchase and lease your domain name. Typical registrars are GoDaddy, Namecheap, etc. You can also purchase additional services through registrars, such as hosting and email. However, you do not have to host any services through your registrar if you don’t want to. These can all be hosted elsewhere.
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SEO
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization”. This is a process of enhancing your website to get website visitors to your site through search engine results.
SSL
SSL is like the fence surrounding your home, protecting it from intruders. For a website, SSL is the technology that establishes a secure/encrypted link between a web server and a users browser. SSL ensures that all data passed between the web server and browser remain private.
Server
A server (or web server) is like the neighborhood where you live. For a website, it’s the physical/virtual place where it resides. The main job of a web server is to display website content through storing, processing and delivering websites to users through a browser. Server space is leased through hosting providers, like WPEngine, Bluehost, Siteground, etc.
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Theme
A theme is a set of prebuilt templates used to define the look and feel of your website. Themes come in all shapes and sizes and also contain different levels of functionality; from flashy animations to full eCommerce themes. Themes are a great way to jumpstart a website project.
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