Glossary

Current and potential clients often have questions about the technical side of Web development, which isn’t surprising given that four computer languages and three design applications are needed to develop our average Web site. While we encourage you to contact us with any questions you have, we hope the list below will help decipher the meanings of the most common Web-related terms at your convenience.

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Browser
A program or interface whose primary function is to display information from Web sites. Browsers receive information by requesting it from a server. Typical browsers, such as Internet Explorer and Firefox, display information as visible text and images on a computer monitor. Alternative browsers for the visually impaired read the content of the page out loud to the user or convert it to Braille. Creating Web pages that are accessible to all types of browsers is an integral part of usability.


CMS (content management system)
Software that streamlines creating, editing and publishing Web content. Most professional-quality content management systems are designed so that a person with no knowledge of Web languages can edit a Web site’s content. Most of the sites we develop (including this one) use WordPress, a robust and user-friendly CMS made specifically for small and medium sized businesses.


CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)
The style language of Web pages. CSS allows the appearance of HTML documents to be displayed according to the designer’s wishes. For example, Web designers can customize attributes like font size and color, and insert background images into HTML pages using CSS.


Domain Name
Nothing more than a unique, human-friendly nickname for the server that hosts your Web site. When you purchase or rent a domain name, you are entitled to the right to “point” that domain name to any server that you rent or own. At that point anyone who types your domain name into their browser will be directed to your server, and consequently to your Web site. The technical side to setting all this up is handled by your hosting provider.


GIF (Graphics Interchange Format)
A popular file format for graphics displayed on the Web. The GIF format is excellent for displaying graphics with large areas of solid color, such as logos, without any loss in quality. The main downside to GIF is that it only supports 256 colors, so more complex images must suffer serious loss of quality to be saved in this format. GIF is currently being phased out in favor of PNG, which is much more flexible.


Hosting Provider
A company that rents out server space, allowing you to place data on the Web without having to buy your own server. Good hosting providers can also help you handle administrative chores like setting up domain names and email accounts for your Web site.


HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)
The structural language of Web pages. The great majority of Web site data is written in HTML. Each part of an HTML document is marked up according to its data type (titles, headers, paragraphs, images, etc) using tags. Tags tell the browser how to display each data type so that it makes sense to the viewer—for example, automatically adding the appropriate numeral before each item in an ordered list. The appearance of data contained within HTML tags can be customized using CSS.


JavaScript
A scripting language that enables enhanced interactivity on HTML Web pages. To see an example of JavaScript at work, visit the home page of this site and click on the red arrow underneath the tree that says “Next Project.” You should see a new portfolio image with accompanying text slide into view. That animation is powered by JavaScript code that instructs the browser to move the appropriate HTML tags into view when you click your mouse on the red arrow.


JPG or JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)
A popular file format for graphics displayed on the Web. The JPG format is ideal for decreasing the file size of photographs and large, complex illustrations so that they load faster in the browser.


PNG (Portable Network Graphics)
A file format for displaying graphics on the Web that is similar but superior to GIF. The PNG format is excellent for displaying graphics with large areas of solid color or gradients, such as logos, at a small file size without any loss of quality. The PNG format also supports transparency, so it is ideal for layering one graphic over another.


Server
A computer, much like the one you’re using right now, that is configured specifically to serve Web pages to browsers. Even entry-level servers can handle page requests from multiple browsers simultaneously. As you might have already guessed, owning or renting a server is necessary if you want to have a Web site. This is easily and affordably accomplished via a hosting provider.