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Glossary of web design terms

Common Internet Terms

Our glossary will help you understand the internet and the web design industry.

Print Terms Glossary
Web Glossary

Web Glossary

Address - the url of a Web page, such as

Bandwidth - the amount of information that can pass over an Internet connection, usually measured in bits per second (bps).

- bits per second, a measure of connection speed. The higher the number, the faster the connection. Dialup connection is usually 28,800 or 56,600 bps (28.8 or 56.6 kbps) while a fast Internet connection may be as much as 60,000,000 bps (60 Mbps). "kbps" is "kilobits per second" (1,000 bits) and "Mbps" is "Megabits per second" (1 million bits).

- a program used to view Web pages. The most popular browsers are Internet Explorer, America Online, Safari, Netscape Navigator, Firefox, Opera.

Cache - When you view a Web page, the information is stored in "temporary Internet files" or cache files. Your browser displays information from cache files before it downloads new files. This means that the second time you go to a specific Web page, it usually doesn't take as long to load. However, it also means you don't always see the latest updates.

Cascading Style Sheets - abbreviated CSS. CSS is used to make text appear consistent throughout a Web site. This site, for instance, uses one style for the headers at the top of the page and another for the main text. CSS is not supported by older browsers.

Cookie - a string of letters and numbers that Web servers sometimes attempt to store on your computer. This can be useful, allowing you to customize a Web page to your settings, or letting an e-commerce site remember who you are on your next visit. Cookies cannot be used to transmit viruses, but they CAN be used to track your computer and collect personal information about you, usually in order to send you personalized junk mail.

- the old-fashioned way of connecting to the Internet with a modem. Your computer connects at a set speed via a modem connected to a telephone line. Of course, if your computer is on the phone, you can’t be - prompting many people to get second telephone lines. Dialup connections are notoriously slow. Most dialup connections are 56.6 kbps, 33.6 kbps, or 28.8 kbps, though some are considerably slower. Dialup connections are increasingly being replaced by "fast Internet" connections.

Directory - an online catalog of Web sites of a particular category, such as dentistry Web sites. While more limited in scope than search engines, they give more targeted, accurate results.

Domain - the name of a Web site. It's a convention that makes the Internet easier to use. Computers refer a domain name to numbers, but who would want to go to is much easier to remember.

- online shopping. "True" e-commerce completes the transaction online, using secure forms to take your order and collect your contact information, shipping address, and credit card number.

- If you type your credit card number into an e-commerce site, you want to make sure nobody else gets ahold of it. Encryption allows that information to pass securely between your computer and the server you're connected to. Encryption is limited by your browser's capabilities. If you can't view a secure Web site, your encryption may be too low. Typical encryption is 40-bit or 56-bit; high encryption is 128-bit.

Fast Internet - Internet connections that don't require a traditional modem. Your computer hooks up to the Internet via a digital phone line (ISDN and DSL) or a television cable (Cable Internet). True to its name, "Fast Internet" is much faster than a dialup connection, moving at up to 8 Mbps!

HTML - HyperText Markup Language, the language that Web pages are written in. A variation of regular HTML is DHTML, which means Dynamic HyperText Markup Language. It allows for the use of floating boxes which can change location and interact with other items.

Hyperlink - a "hypertext link," something on a Web page that "links" to another Web page. When you click a hyperlink with your mouse, you go to the new Web page. Hyperlinks are often (not always) blue, underlined text.

Internet Service Provider - abbreviated "ISP." No matter how you connect to the Internet, you need an ISP. Popular services include MSN, Earthlink, Qwest, and Comcast (AOL is more of a content provider).

ISP - Internet Service Provider.

- a single HTML file, viewable in a browser.

PDF - Portable Document Format. A popular format for files that are ready to be printed. If you've ever printed a Web page, you know that what you see is not always what you get. With PDF files, you can download a file that is clean and ready to print. You need the Acrobat Reader in order to view PDF files, though.

Plugin - Your browser can't do everything on its own. Certain files - usually movies and sounds - which can be included in a Web page require a plugin in order to be used. The most popular plugins are Shockwave, Realplayer, and Quicktime.

Resolution - Your monitor display breaks everything down into tiny elements called pixels. Resolution is the number of pixels your monitor can display. With higher resolution numbers selected, you can display more information in your browser window, but the text and images will be slightly smaller. If you need to use scroll bars at the bottom of your screen in order to read all the text on many Web pages, your monitor may not be set at the most ideal resolution.

- a small application that can be embedded in a Web page, allowing the Web page to create new windows, provide a search feature, or something of the kind. A script may require a plugin; scripts may not be supported by older browser versions.

Search Engine - an online catalog of Web sites, enabling you to search for information on a specific topic. Popular search engines include Yahoo!, Excite, Google, and Metacrawler. Not to be confused with a directory.

Server - usually used loosely to refer to a Web host, a company that stores Web sites. Strictly speaking, the server is not the company that stores a site, but the computer itself where the site is stored.

Site - a term used to refer to the collection of Web pages on a specific domain.

URL - Uniform Resource Locator. The "address" of a Web page. Each page has a distinct, specific url, such as "" or ""

Web Host - a company that stores Web sites. Also known as a "server" or "Web presence provider."

Web Presence Provider - another name for a Web host, a company that stores Web sites.

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