Material is Copyright, VolResource - please contact if you wish to re-use it.
Skip to: Site menu | Main content | Accessibility

This version of VolResource is no longer being updated. Please use the revamped site instead:

To access the old pages for any reason (e.g. smaller file sizes):

and do check all information thoroughly.

Web Terminology

Updated 11/4/05

Follow the trail

This page

This glossary was originally produced to accompany a training session at Charityfair 2001, Making Effective Use of the Web. Some additional material has been added.

Words in italics (unless titles of books) indicate that this is another entry in the glossary, bold indicates a related term.


Accessibility Making web pages available to all potential users, including those using text readers, needing to use extra large type, etc. Labelling of graphics, non-graphical means of navigation (e.g. text links) and use of basic design guidelines can help most sites achieve a reasonable standard - it does require some extra initial thought by the designer. See VolResource page on accessibility.

Attachment A file (such as a Word document, or graphic/picture) which is added to an email. The favourite hiding place for a computer virus.

Browser A computer programme which turns the formatting code (HTML) from a web page into a readable form, follows links (or hyperlinks) and works with a variety of extensions, such as Flash or JavaScript.

Click through A common measure of the effectiveness of internet advertising- how many times a link to the advertisers target page is followed from an ad. CTR (click through rate) - number of clicks per impression (number of times the ad is displayed via the originating web page). Advertisers may be charged on a pay per click basis.

Cookie There are a number of variations on the basic idea - a facility which helps a web site track your use, perhaps remembering favourite sections for easy access on later visits, and also helps with the sites marketing and usage records. A small file may be stored on your machine, or info sent back to the web site.

CSS Cascading Style Sheet. A way of separating content from presentation in web page design. Unfortunately, browsers aren't totally consistent in how they interpret the standards.

Download speeds What matters to the net user is the speed of delivery of a new page. This depends on a number of factors - design (e.g. amount of graphics), speed of the web server and how it is connected to the net, any bottlenecks and overall demand on the internet between that and your ISP, connection speed offered by the ISP, your line and  modem conditions, and finally the processor capabilities of your own machine. Problems caused by poor design can amplify minor problems elsewhere in the chain.

Flash A graphics/animation/text 'container' which can do many little tricks, as long as your browser has the plug-in (from Macromedia). To many of those concerned about usability and accessibility it is the devil incarnate, although if used well it doesn't have to be, especially with more recent versions. Approx. 92% of browsers have it (summer 2000).

Hits One of a number of ways of quoting web site usage statistics. A typical web page will count as more than one hit. Each file making up the page, such as background, pictures, text and layout frames, counts as a hit. Hence Page Views or Page Impressions is a better comparison, as sites differ massively in how pages are composed. Hits are the simplest measure, and are adequate for internal trend analysis.

HTML Hyper Text Mark-up Language is the base coding structure for web pages. There are variants and additions, which allow more sophisticated handling of pages via 'server-side' processing (e.g. ASP, PHP), or client (i.e. processed on the receiving computer, such as CSS, javascript).

Hyperlink (or Link) The way a web page can refer to another - it uses the URL in the code, but this may not be apparent to the user, who typically sees an underlined reference in a different colour type, or a labelled button, which turns your mouse pointer into a little hand when placed over it.

Internet, intranet, extranet 'The web' is a part of the internet - a publicly accessible facility which links various networks of computers (and individual ones) together. Email is another use of the internet. Intranets are such systems restricted to within an organisation. Extranets belong to organisations but go beyond their boundaries. Depending on how you consider members or trustees, web/email facilities which include them could be either intranets or extranets.

IP address A set of 4 numbers, such as, which 'uniquely' identifies a machine on an internet. There are groups of these which are set aside for specific purposes (e.g. internal networks) which get re-used widely; the address given when you connect to the outside world is often assigned 'dynamically' by your ISP and so will change each time you log on.

ISP Internet Service Provider, such as Freeserve, BT, Poptel, care4free. Their computers, known as servers, (or those of the bulk provider they use) are directly and permanently (apart from crashes) connected to the actual internet infrastructure.

JavaScript A programming language designed for use with web pages to add 'functionality' e.g. to create drop-down menus, process information input by users. Approx. 84% of browsers have it (at summer 2000).

Metadata Web pages have 'head' sections which don't display when browsing. As well as code for defining styles and preloading options, for example, the head usually contains metadata - data about data. This can include keywords which give an idea of page content, and may be used by search engines.

Modem The bit of kit which turns computer data into something which ordinary phone lines can handle. Special phone lines (e.g. ADSL, ISDN) and cable use devices such as routers or network cards, which do the same sort of job but to different (faster) standards.

Navbar A common navigation feature - a row or column of buttons which, when clicked on, link to other pages. Designing navigation through a site needs to take into account the target users perspective, but often is based around an organisation's internal thought processes, so making it hard to use.

Net See internet.

Pay per view The subscription model as pioneered on cable TV has potential life on the internet, replacing or adding to advertising as an income source for those providing useful/valuable content.

Portal A gateway to varied internet resources, e.g. Yahoo. Usually seen as going beyond in-house web pages, but a community portal could be based on what members want from their organisation e.g. online renewals, events info, advice database.

Robot Also spider, crawler. The programs that explore the web automatically, generally creating an index for use by search engines. There are techniques for excluding such trawls from some or whole of a web site, but its not legally enforceable. See Robotstxt site for more.

Search Engine A facility that finds information on the web depending on search terms that users enter - might be confined to a site (including intranet) or encompass the whole (visible) web. Google has become the most popular - see our Site Search page for links to this and more. While nearly all such engines rely on robots to create an index, they may also use other techniques to find new sites/content, including manual submissions. (Automated submissions generally aren't worthwhile, and can even do harm to search rankings.)

Unique users The statistic many marketing people prefer, but it is very tricky to measure consistently. It is not always possible to track a user through their use of a site - for example with a Freeserve customer the main identifier used (IP address) can change from page to page. Cookies may be used to try to get round this problem.

URL The address on the internet of a resource - website, file etc.: or such. This URL is recorded on look-up table on key internet servers, which enable referral on to the correct IP address identifying the computer system where the resource physically lives.

W3C - World Wide Web Consortium. Sets the standards on the web, including CSS, HTML, XML. WAI is its Web Accessibility Initiative.

WWW World Wide Web - a standard for displaying information carried over the internet. There are other types, but www is now so prevalent that the identifier is often optional in a site address.