My nine-year-old son is a Stars Wars fanatic. His galactic vocabulary is astronomical (forgive the pun).
Thanks to my own history with the series, I understand most of what comes out of his mouth. But if some poor, Star-Wars-illiterate soul wandered into our living room during a discussion of clone commanders and droid classifications, they might think we were speaking another language.
For those who are new to the world of website development, talk of the trade can elicit the same disorienting effect. To help you get your bearings, I’ve compiled some basic terms and their meanings. Rather than ordering them alphabetically, I’ve put them in sequence beginning with the most foundational.
A domain name is a unique name that identifies a website. Imagine a sprawling English estate with a gated entrance. On an archway above the gate is an engraved sign declaring the name of the property: “Wyndham House.” This title, Wyndham House, is the name of that particular “domain.” In the same way, your website is an online estate, for which you must choose a name. For this little patch of cyberspace, I’ve chosen the domain name mclennancreative.com. Make sense?
A URL, short for “Uniform Resource Locator,” is essentially an address telling your internet browser where something is located on the internet. While the terms “URL” and “domain name” are often used interchangeably, they aren’t exactly the same thing. In a (very condensed) nutshell, think of the URL as Wyndham House’s street address. In website terms, the domain name for this website is mclennancreative.com, while the URL (address) is http://www.mclennancreative.com.
WordPress is a content management system (CMS) designed to build and publish websites. Think of it as a toolbox equipped with website-creation gadgets. WordPress is free, relatively easy to learn, and ideal for those who want to update content on their websites without having to learn the technical side of website development.
In order to publish a website on the internet, you need a place to store it. If WordPress is your toolbox, your web host is the storage unit in which construction happens. As with domain names, web hosting is a recurring fee that must be factored in to website maintenance costs.
A site map is just what is sounds like: a map of your website. It lists the pages and subpages of your site in a hierarchical form. Creating a site map is essential to the planning and design process, as it allows you (and your designer) to understand what your site is about and how its parts relate to one another.
Every website consists of pages and, very often, subpages. Typing the website’s domain or URL into your browser’s address bar will take you to the site’s Home page. From there you can navigate to any other page of the site, such as the About page, where you can learn about the company or individual who owns the site, or the Blog page, where you can read regular updates from the site owner. Subpages expand on the topic of their parent page. For example, if my website has a page entitled Recipes, I might include subpages entitled Breakfast, Dinner, and Dessert.
A blog (short for “web log”) is a website page that is updated on a regular basis, usually by the website owner. These updates are called blog posts. You’re reading one right now.
This is exactly what it sounds like—the title of your website. Not to be confused with your domain name, the site title can be anything you like, and you can change it as often as you want (though I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you want to confuse your visitors). Most often your site title will be your name or business name.
A tagline is a short, memorable phrase that communicates what you want your readers, clients, or customers to remember about you. Taglines are an important element of branding, but don’t let that intimidate you out of creating one. Your tagline is easy to change, and likely to evolve over time as you hone in your value and message.
Your website’s header is the rectangular section at the top of each page. It is usually the same on every page of your site. The header typically includes your business/brand name and logo (if you have one), and a navigation menu providing links to the other pages of your website.
The counterpart to the header, the footer on your website is the area at the bottom of each page. It often contains contact details, social media links, or link to other pages of the website. Like the header, it is usually the same on each page.
A navigation menu is a place on your website where links to other pages are displayed. Visitors click on these links to “navigate” to another page on your site. There is usually a navigation menu in the header, but there can be additional navigation menus in other locations on the website.
A sidebar is usually, as the name implies, a section of the page located alongside the page’s main content. This is an area to provide visitors with additional information about your or your site, links to blog posts, subscription forms, or whatever else might be relevant to your site’s purpose. Sidebars are often helpful, but not always essential, and some sites elect not to use them. Understanding your website’s purpose will help determine whether or not sidebars are for you.
When referring to a WordPress-powered website, widgets are tools that make it possible to add content and functions to “widget-ready” areas of the website. There can be several of these areas, the most notable being the sidebar.
These are just a few of the basics. Feel free to leave additional terms in the comments if you’d like to see them added to the list.