Web design related terms and references
Presented below are some of the most common terms used in website design and function, which if you are inexperienced with website design, may require some explanation:
The basis of accessibility is that every Web user should have access to the information and experiences available online. The nature of the Web and the tools used to create and access the information it offers means that some users, for instance, those with visual, auditory, or other physical impairment, have difficulty accessing Web content. The ideals and practice of accessible websites aim to ensure these users' impairments do not prevent them from finding the Web a valuable resource, and that they have access to the same content that other visitors enjoy. Accessibility is now a legal requirement under the UK's Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) especially for corporate websites and is considered best practice for all sites. Mission Critical's accessibility services are designed to help your site increase its reach to disabled and mobile / PDA users and ensure it's compliant under the Disability Discrimination Act.
Accesskeys are a means by which Web users can jump immediately to a specific part of an HTML page. Users press ALT (PC) or CTRL (Mac), followed by the appropriate key on the keyboard, to access a particular part of the page. The developer defines which accesskeys apply to each part of the page using an accesskey parameter.
Apache is one of the the world's most widely used Web servers. Originally developed in 1995 by a group that was to go on to become the The Apache Group, the Apache HTTP Server is Open Source Software, and considered by proponents to be fast, scalable and secure. The name was derived from the project's less robust beginnings ('A patchy Web server').
Bandwidth measures the amount of data that can be transferred between computers over the Internet. It is typically measured in bytes (kilobytes, gigabytes, etc.) and is an important consideration for anyone who has a Website or page published to the Internet. Mission Critical provides web hosting with plenty of bandwidth, so that your site is never suspended for exceeding monthly bandwidth limitations.
Blog is short for Weblog, taking its name from online diaries. However, these days they can be much more with very impressive extra features. You can even use them as Content Management Systems, for example using Wordpress.
Cookies are small text files sent to a Web user's computer by a Website. The cookies allow the site's tracking programs to identify that computer. In this way, site owners can collect information about a user's movement among the site's pages, if and when the user returns to the site, and other similar data. Cookies can also allow site owners to serve particular users specific information, based on their previous interaction with the site. Amazon's "Your Favourites" is an example of this functionality.
Cascading Style Sheets for a set of formatting rules interpreted by the Web browser (or other client) that may contain the styling and formatting information intended for the presentation of a Web page. The W3C recommends the use of CSS to help keep Web content (HTML/XHTML) separate from its formatting information. It is possible to add different CSS sheets for different devices such as screens, mobile phones or printers so that content is displayed properly on each device. Making a change to the colour of text throughout an entire website is an easy 30 second task if the site uses CSS. If the site uses traditional HTML font colour tags, it could take days or weeks!
A domain name is a component of a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) used to access web sites, for example bbc.co.uk. When you have a website, you also have a domain name that your users can enter into their Internet Browser or search engine to find your website. We sort out Domain Names for you!
Mozilla's Firefox is a free, web standards compatible, cross-platform Web browser published by the Mozilla Foundation. It is the cult or cool favourite of Internet enthusiasts for its speed, security and flexibility and is the favourite browser of choice for web designers because it supports web standards approved by the W3C. It displays CSS properly where as Internet Explorer (the most popular Internet browser as it is included as part of Windows) does not and certainly older versions of IE are considered to be very insecure, allowing nasty scripts to run and install spyware and adware on your computer. Microsoft were forced to speed up production and release of Internet Explorer 7 as a result and deal with these issues.
Flash is Adobe's vector-based, web multimedia product. Depending on context, 'Flash' can refer to both the authoring tool and the completed 'interactive movies' authored with the product. These movies are usually played within a web browser equipped with the free Flash plugin. The ubiquity of this plugin has made Flash the defacto standard for web multimedia, with the ability to integrate video, program logic, graphics and sound into a self contained package at a relatively low bandwidth overhead.
Flash Video is now the defacto standard for website video footage and clips. Flash video is fast loading and doesn't require additional codecs. It starts almost straight away, unlike older video formats that required videos to be downloaded first, before they could be played. Examples are BBC video clips on their website and of course Youtube video.
The GIF image format is widely used on the World Wide Web. A new standard, PNG, uses similar, non-patented compression algorithm and supports a wider range of image types including full colour images. PNG is well supported in recent software.
HTML (HyperText Markup Language), is the language that web developers and designers traditionally used to create Web pages and format content for display in Web browsers. Also see its replacement, XHTML, which separates content from appearance and layout in accordance with web standards and the W3C.
JPEG is an image file format commonly used for compressing photographic images for low bandwidth applications such as the Web. JPEG stands for "Joint Photographics Expert Group", the body who created the JPEG standard. JPEG uses a lossy compression algorithm based on a Discrete Cosine Transform to compress its images. A new standard called JPEG2000 exists, based on superior Wavelet compression and having more features. JPEG2000 is not currently well supported by software.
LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP) is a popular Open Source Website platform combination of Operating System (Linux), Web server (Apache), database (MySQL) and scripting language (PHP).
MySQL is a free, open source database, commonly employed with most of the popular server-side scripting languages including PHP, JSP, and ASP.
Perl is one of the original server side scripting languages. It is still popular today but PHP has effectively replaced it.
PHP is a widely-used general-purpose scripting language that is especially well-suited for Web development and can be embedded into HTML. It also used to connect and retrieve data from mySQL databases.
PNG is an image file format popular on the Web and elsewhere. It is intended as a replacement for the GIF image format. PNG stands recursively for "PNG's Not GIF" but is commonly referred to as "Portable Network Graphics". Its compression algorithm is slightly better than GIF, and it supports many more image file formats including 24-bit colour and alpha (variable transparency) channels. With the exception of alpha channels, PNG is well-supported in recent graphics software and Web browsers.
RSS is a way of sharing content (in XML based format), such as news headlines, recent forum topics, latest DVD releases etc, from one website to another. RSS Feeds can be improted into your homepage, website, forums or just viewed using a news reader. News readers can be built in to programs like Firefox internet browser or included on your personalised Google homepage, or you can use software based news readers to keep up to date with multiple RSS news feeds.
Search Engine Optimisation
Search Engine Optimisation refers to the process of optimising a Web site so that it appears prominently in search engine results for specific keywords. Search Engine Optimisation may involve modifying the markup of a site to make it more Search Engine Friendly, which is free, or it may involve paying search engines or directories for inclusion. Some Search Engine Optimisation techniques are frowned upon because they involve trying to 'mislead' the search engines into believing your site is more relevant to a search term than it really is which can lower your search engine ranking.
Server-side code is executed on the web server with the finished result usually sent to the end user. Server-side code is commonly written in PHP, ASP, JSP, Cold Fusion, or Perl.
Server Side Include - a file spliced into a Web document on the Web server. May be performed by the Web server itself, or commonly by a server side script such as Perl, ASP, ColdFusion or PHP.
Twitter is a free social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author's profile page and delivered to the author's subscribers who are known as followers. Senders can restrict delivery to those in their circle of friends or, by default, allow open access.
All users can send and receive tweets via the Twitter website, Short Message Service (SMS) or external applications. While the service itself costs nothing to use, accessing it through SMS may incur phone service provider fees.
Usability refers to the ease with which a User Interface can be used by its intended audience to achieve defined goals. Usability incorporates many factors: design, functionality, structure, information architecture, and more.
World Wide Web Consortium
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is a non-profit organisation for the development of common Web standards. Chaired by the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the membership of the organisation consists of industry leaders in World Wide Web technologies. Membership is open to all. The consortium has established procedures for drafting and commenting, and issuing recommendations for future Web standards.
XHTML (Extensible HyperText Markup Language) is a stricter and cleaner version of HTML. XHTML 1.0 closely follows the strict semantic rules of XML and combines XML and HTML 4. It is intended to replace HTML in order to force correct coding and improve the consistency of markup. There aren't two many differences between XHTML and HTML, but XHTML is used to separate design from content, leaving design to be provided by use of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). The future of web publishing will use XHTML and more devices such as mobile phones support it, so its best practice to ensure your web pages are valid XHTML. Check www.w3c.org for more information.
Extensible Markup Language (XML) is an extremely efficient way to share data between applications. Web pages and applications can display specific items from an XML file. An example is an RSS news feed which is written in XML format, allowing web pages and news readers to access and share information from external sources like other websites.
Extensible Stylesheet Language, or XSL, is a language that describes how XML content is to be formatted if necessary, in similar fashion to how CSS formats the appearance and layout of a web page coded in XHTML.