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Plain English


Every profession has its own jargon and the web industry is no exception. We have over 10 years experience in working with people who did not grow up with computers (i.e. digital immigrants).

Even though we make every effort to use plain english when talking about technology, there are some technical terms that are helpful to know while planning for a Web site. As part of our commitment to reduce access barriers and to help people make effective use of computers and the Web, we offer the following glossary. If there are any terms or resources that you would like to see added or clarified, please contact us.

Mini Web Glossary

Browser
A Browser (or Web browser) is a software program that allows users to retrieve and display Web pages and to move between them. The browser locates and retrieves the Web page content and downloads it to your computer from a Web server. Web page files contain the text of the Web page plus special computer text (e.g. HTML, CSS or Javascript to name just a few). What a browser does is interpret the special computer text and display the Web page in a more user friendly format according to those instructions. Firefox, Mozilla, Internet Explorer, and Safari are the most well known browsers. See also: HTTP, Web server.
Content Architecture
In some contexts this concept is referred to as information architecture. In order for a Web site to effectively deliver its content and accomplish its purpose, the content architecure is more crucial than the look and must be carefully planned. Content architecture is essentially the layout and organization of page components and how they interact with each other. E.g. What is to be included on each page and where? How will a user navigate between pages?
CSS
Cascading Style Sheets are a set of style rules that are used to define how elements of a page such as, text and paragraphs, should be displayed on a browser. Using CSS for a Web page is analogous to using the Styles formatting feature in an MS Word document. Most Web sites use a CSS style sheet page that works in conjunction with HTML. Theoretically, no matter which brand of browser you use, the CSS used on a Web page should display in exactly the same way. However in practice, this is not always the case which makes life difficult for Web designers and developers.
Digital Image Manipulation
Images or pictures have to be prepared for display on the Internet. Since Web pages typically contain one or more images they have to be as small in digital storage size as possible so that browsers can display these Web pages as quickly as possible. Preparing an image for the Web is called optimization and can include: cropping off parts of the image that are not required, adjusting the height and width of an image down to the minimum size acceptable, and compressing the image without losing essential image quality.
Domain Name
A domain name is part of the web address of a Web site or Web page. It must be unique and people can reserve a particular domain name for their exclusive use by registering it (for an annual fee) with the appropriate Internet registration authority. The ending on a domain name is significant because its use may have restrictions. For example, ".com" represents a business, ".ca" also represents a business but it must be Canadian and ".net" is unrestricted but usually represents an internet service provider. For domain names ending in ".ca", CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority) is the registration authority. See also: URL.
FTP
File Transfer Protocol is a generally accepted standard format that is primarily used for uploading and downloading files over the Web. E.g. When your Web site files are copied from your Web designer's computer to your Web Server, this is referred to as uploading and usually uses FTP.
Host
A computer containing data or programs that another computer can access by means of a network or modem. You will be paying a hosting company to rent space on their server for your Web site.
HTML
HyperText Markup Language is a generally accepted standard language used to create most Web pages. It is a set of about 86 commands, called tags, that tell a browser how to display text. Theoretically, all the different browsers are supposed to display a Web page in the same way but in practice this is not always the case and can drive Web designers and developers crazy!
HTTP
HyperText Transfer Protocol is a generally accepted standard format for that is primarily used for transferring a copy of a Web page from a Web server to your browser so you can view it. See also: browser, Web server.
META Tags
These are specialized HTML instructions included at the top of a Web page. They do not effect the appearance of a Web page but instead their purpose is to provide information about the Web page to search engines. They are not as important as they once were because search engines now de-emphasize or ignore META tags, preferring to gather information from the contents of the Web page.
Robots
Robots (or Spiders, Crawlers, Webbots, Spambots) are programs that are designed to automatically go out and gather information from the Internet for a variety of purposes. Google and other search engines use robots to record and catalogue the contents of Web pages. Other purposes include marketing companies monitoring trends on the Internet as well as the unpopular use of robots to collect e-mail addresses from Web pages.
Search Engine
A search engine is Web page that allows you to search for information on the Internet by typing in a keyword, a phrase or other search criteria. Google, Yahoo and Ask Jeeves are examples of search engines for general information. Business.com is a search engine for industry specific information. Each search engine company uses its own techniques for gathering information from the Internet, categorizing the contents of Web pages, determining the topical relevance of a Web page and storing this information into searchable databases. If you are old enough to remember a time when computers did not exist in libraries, the category card index files performed a similar function to the modern day search engine.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO refers to techniques used to get a Web page listed with search engines and then placed toward the top of their lists. Search engine companies are very secretive about how they rank Web pages on their lists, so there is much speculation on which techniques are effective and which are detrimental.
URL
Every Web page on the internet has a unique URL (Uniform Resource Locator.) or Web address so the page can be searched for and found. For example, the URL for GingerMedia's home page is, http://www.gingermedia.ca. See also: domain name.
Web Server
A Web server is a computer on the Internet that stores Web Pages. It sends out the information that make up a Web page, such as text and images, in response to you making a request (e.g. by typing in a Web address) with your browser.

More Resources

Beginner's Web Glossary
from Case Western University
Here is a more comprehensive list of definitions. Memorize this and your friends will start avoiding you!
Read More »

Encyclopedia of Computer Terms
from Webopedia
If you can ignore all the ads, this is an excellent resource for computer and Internet technology definitions. Being able to search by category is one of their many handy features.
Read More »

Plain English

Even though we make every effort to use plain English when talking about technology, there are some technical terms that are helpful to know while planning for a Web site.
Read More »

Getting Started

Acquiring a Web site can be overwhelming. Here at GingerMedia, we guide our clients through the process step by step.
Read More »

Cost

What is a Web site going to cost? Estimating the price can be difficult because project parameters often change as clients immerse themselves in a project and discover new possibilities.
Read More »