Web site lingo can be confusing. If you hired a company to build your business website, it may be difficult to understand the conversation with your designer unless you are familiar with the terms they use.

Not only that, you may not know if you are agreeing to something you only partly understand but aren’t completely sure about. We thought we would take you for a tour of website terms so you will feel more confident.

The Front End Versus The Back End

The Front End Is What Your Site Looks Like

The front end is not exactly like the front end of a car, but with websites, there is a front end and back end. When you hear the term “front end”, this is the same as “user interface”which is unfortunately just as confusing.

Essentially, the user interface is what people see and use. It’s similar to a drawing on a blank sheet of paper. Whatever is sketched will be the web page elements that people see. However, unlike paper, people can also interact with a web page by pressing buttons, clicking links and watching videos.

A front end designer is also called a  user interface engineer or web designer.  As their skills advance, they may be called a user experience designer, whose job is to design a satisfying experience for everyone who visits a web page.

Another way to look at it is that the web designer is the artist. This is why so many have backgrounds in graphic design.

To create a well designed user interface, art is blended with computer programming skills and human behavior research so that we discover the best ways to create and design tasks, place content, position pictures and buttons and persuade people to stay on the page.

The Back End Is What’s Under the Hood

The term back end refers to your web developer, who is a computer programmer responsible for knowing how to activate what your web designer has sketched out in a series of diagrams or wireframes. They are also known as coders.

Their world is filled with technical marvels, starting with your server. A server is also known as your website host. Hosting companies are networked with computers that connect them to the world wide web and domain name servers (DNS).

Your domain name is like your company name. You purchase and register it and renew your domain every year from an official domain registrar company. That domain name is also known as your URL.  For your website to be built, it needs a place to live.  The host provides you with a computer called a server. Its job is to serve your URL to anyone who types it into a web browser, search engine, form, email or message that allows website links.

How does the server know your domain name? When your domain name is purchased from a domain registrar, you or your web person provides it with an address to point to. That address is your host and the precise server holding all the files, images and videos that make up your website.

The back end is where much of the mysterious parts happen, much like how an automobile works or TV provides your favorite TV shows. It’s all quietly happening away from view.

The Web Site Lingo Land of OZ

Most web designers know enough about the web developer side and vice versa, since their paths often cross. They can converse on many topics related to web site tasks, but even they sometimes need to ask for clarification.

For example, when a request comes in for content, most of us think that means text, such as blog posts, articles or product descriptions. However, it can also mean the whole enchilada, which includes all forms, videos, transcripts, PDFs, images, slide shows, apps, and a logo.

A popular term that is often glossed over is conversions. It’s an odd word used to describe the process of completing tasks. Website visitors either complete a task, such as ordering an item or subscribing to a blog, or they don’t complete the task.

Conversions are measurable. Every successful conversion is good, especially if it generates revenue or increases traffic to a web site. Failed conversions are known as web page abandonment, high bounce rates or simply a quiet sad sigh by someone who can not finish filling out a form.

KPI’s are also measurable. These are Key Performance Indicators set up by digital marketers who use KPI’s to take the temperature of a website. They need to know if their marketing strategies are working or not, so they set up goals in advance and watch to see what happens.

Conversions are tied to another term known as persuasive design. This is an advanced method for web designers who have studied usability and graduated to web based psychology. There are reams of case studies they draw from to enhance the user interface so that it converts better.

Usability is so important that it warrants standards to follow and heuristics for checking to be sure those standards are followed. Usability, also known as UX, refers to how easy or difficult it is to use web pages. As computer devices change in size, or operating systems add more bells and whistles, and user interface design trends change, so too does our ability to understand how to adapt.

Which leads us to accessibility. Website accessibility means that each page, document, form, video and image is coded in the back end with special code so that everyone has full access to it, even if they are disabled or impaired in some way. Another related term is inclusion.

Your web designer and web developer are both responsible for learning basic accessibility techniques. Since there are types of web sites required by law to be ADA compliant, we recommend that anyone owning a website find out if their digital business meets accessibility compliance and guidelines.

SEO is short for search engine optimization. The term goes back to the early days when web page content could be enhanced in various ways in the front and back end to rank higher in search engines.

Today, the work of an SEO is far more technical and, like web design practices, in a constant state of change.

There are many ways to build websites. As your business grows, your needs may change so that you remain current and competitive. Understanding web design lingo makes it easier to discuss your website goals with your team or simply learning on your own.