Glossary of web jargon

Explains jargon used in planning, creating and maintaining websites.

Close up of dictionaryAnalytics: software (usually a web page that you visit) that keeps track of how people are using your website, including how they get there, what pages they’re viewing, how long they stay and whether they come back. PSAC uses two analytics services: Google Analytics and Chartbeat.

Content audit: the process of going page by page through your website and recording the location, page title, URL and description of each page, and then assessing it on the basis of specific criteria, for example its web-appropriateness, accuracy, importance and its ‘fit’ with the organization’s mandate. Usually this information is recorded in a spreadsheet. More work than a content inventory.

Content inventory: the process of going page by page through your website and recording the location, page title, URL and description of each page. This work can be automated but unless your site is already well organized, a content audit will be necessary before you can begin content migration unless you want to repeat the sins of the past.

Content management system: web-based software that allows you to maintain your website, using a series of forms to add, edit or delete content or functionality on the site.

Content migration: the process of getting old content into a new site. Typically performed after a content audit so that time is not wasted bringing over redundant, outdated or trivial content. At a minimum performed after doing a content inventory so that the location and classification of old content can be mapped to new locations as set out in your information architecture.

Content strategy: a plan developed to produce, publish, maintain and archive accurate, usable, useful and web-appropriate content on a website.

Controlled vocabulary: a collection of terms or phrases used to categorize or describe things that are part of the content on a website. A controlled vocabulary forms a large part of a taxonomy.

Creative brief: a document prepared by a client or consultant which is presented to a designer to guide the creation of a design direction. It normally conveys the client’s desired aesthetic for the site, the context for the site and other considerations which help the designer create something that works.

Design direction: a composite image or series of images of how a website is meant to look. A design direction may go through several rounds of revisions before being approved.

Distributed publishing: an approach to content creation where people from different parts of an organization are given permission and responsibility to publish content related to their area of expertise, usually using a content management system such as Drupal. This process involves layers of approval and quality control.

Drupal: is a content management system. It’s an open source project managed by an association of developers and in very wide use across the internet.

Eye tracking: a form of usability testing where a camera films a test subject while they’re performing tasks on a website. The camera tracks eye movements and determines what the user is looking at to create a representation of their gaze pattern. Results of these tests can be used to inform a website’s information architecture.

Faceted taxonomy: a method of categorizing and organizing information on a website that uses meta data to describe various aspects of content, for example, its subject matter, its publisher, the type of content, its geography.

Governance: procedure and policy for deciding what content is produced, who creates it, who approves it, who maintains it and who decides when it’s time to archive it.

Hierarchical taxonomy: a method of categorizing and organizing information that seeks to put content into a single system of categories that have subordinate categories.

Hosted service: a centralized web application (like bulk email, surveys, or event planning) that lets clients use the application for their own purposes.

Information architecture: the study and practice of organizing, arranging and labelling information. (aka what goes where and what do you call it)

Landing page: a page of a website whose main purpose is to serve as a gateway to more content about a particular subject.

Link farm: pejorative term for a website that presents lengthy unhelpful rows or tables of links to content. Often used to generate ad revenue.

Metadata: information about information.

Open source: software made available without a licence fee and granting other developers the right to modify it to suit their own purposes.

Repurposing: revising content created for other media (typically print) to make it web-appropriate.

Stakeholder: a staff or elected member of an organization with an interest in the success of a website project.

Taxonomy: A taxonomy is a systematic arrangement of objects or concepts that shows the relations between them. It’s the system of organizing information that underlies a website’s information architecture.

Usability testing: studies done of typical visitors to the website to determine whether the site’s visual design and information architecture succeed in making the site more user friendly. Test subjects are asked to perform a series of tasks while thinking aloud. The person conducting the test records their efforts and tracks whether the site allows the user to succeed or fail.

User experience: the total of a visitor’s involvement with a website: their emotional impressions of it, how easy it is to use or not, and the availability of the information sought.

User needs analysis: research done to determine what information users seek from a website and what actions they seek to perform. Usually done with a variety of methods, it captures what users are finding and not finding on a website.

Visual design: the last phase in most design projects. Colours, type, other decorative elements that fulfil the more impressionistic aspects of the creative brief but which can also affect the site’s usability (link styles, form elements and other control elements)

Web-appropriate content: For text: easily scannable, effective use of hyperlinks, clear, direct sentences, titles with keywords, active verbs and clear, rhetoric-light phrasing. For video: short, close but varied shots. For graphics: close-ups, minimal background detail, photos preferred.

Webmaster approach: a content strategy that has all requests for publishing content to the website sent through one person.

Web platform: the computer hardware and software required to host a website, right up to the scripting language used to interpret the scripts of the content management system.

Wireframe: a line drawing that shows how a web page will be structured and its information organized. While the wireframe will show which elements of a web page should have the most prominence, it will not venture any further into the realm of visual design. Usually as part of an information architecture project, the consultant or web editor will produce wireframes for different sorts of pages that are to be typical of the website: the home page, a landing page,

Workflow: a series of steps required to get content from someone’s brain to the website, the order in which the steps should take place and whether or not each stage must be completed before the next begins.