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Glossary of Web Terms

Accessibility refers to Web page information/content being obtainable and functional to people with disabilities. It is about providing access to information for those who would otherwise lose their opportunity to use the Web. In contrast inaccessible means unobtainable, nonfunctional.

Alt Attribute
An alt attribute is used to provide equivalent content for those who cannot process images or who have image loading disabled. That means that it serves the same function as an image. Users of screen-readers or other devices cannot directly access graphics. Similarly, some users choose to turn picture loading off- especially those with slower connections. These users rely on alt attributes.

Alt Tag
The term "alt tag" is sometimes incorrectly used instead of the correct term "alt attribute". Actually as hard core developers will tell you, in HTML their is no such thing as an "alt tag". Technically, tags are things like


that you use to mark up your page and the alt attribute sits inside a tag, like this: . Calling an attribute a tag is a common mistake.

Alt Text
Alt text is generally a phrase or short sentence that forms the content of the alt attribute. It is contained within the quotation marks. This simple idea has great power. The wrong or inadequate alt text can make your website inaccessible to people with disabilities.

Breadcrumbs are a type of Web navigation where current location within the website is indicated by a list of pages above the current page in the hierarchy, up to the main page. It not only shows users where they are currently located in the site's architecture, but it also lets them back up levels one at a time. It is a recursive path.

Captions are text transcripts that are synchronized with other audio or visual tracks. Captions convey information about spoken words and non-spoken sounds such as sound effects. They benefit people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, and anyone who cannot hear the audio (e.g., Someone in a noisy environment). Captions are generally rendered graphically above, below, or superimposed over video. Captions can be closed or open. Closed captions are encoded or invisible and must be decoded or made visible. Open captions can't be turned off.

Content Management System
A content management system separates the content of a website from its code, allowing nontechnical users to update, approve and post content.

Floated boxes or images are removed from the document flow, and yet affect the layout of content. Margins on floated elements are not collapsed with anything. The basic rule is that a floated element will go as high and as far to one side as possible, so long as it doesn't rise above where it would have been in normal flow, nor move outside its parent element (but negative margins can have the usual strange effect)

There are 6 levels of headings, h1 through to h6. To maintain the logical structure of your documents, headings should follow a logical progression. Headings of level 3 shouldn't follow directly from headings of level 1, only from headings of level 2. You should always try to maintain a distinction between appearance and logic. Simply because an element is a heading of level 2 does not mean that it will be rendered larger and bolder than regular text in the document. Style sheets allow a Web designer to very easily apply any styling to a heading. Keep in mind too, that there are browsers which don't display information in a visual way, relying on text to speech conversion, or braille conversion. For maximum accessibility, structural elements such as headings should be used correctly, and appropriately.

Inclusive Design
Inclusive design means developing systems or websites flexible enough to serve the broadest possible range of users. Inclusive design calls for adaptable interfaces to be built into the product early in the design phase, producing features easily used by everyone. It allows for customization based on user preference. It provides equivalent access to content (e.g. auditory and visual) based on user preference. Inclusive design provides access to users with disabilities and provides better usability for everyone.

Information Architecture
Information architecture is the organization of information. This field studies how to organize information most effectively to help people find and use the information. It also refers to the structure or organization of a website, especially how pages relate to one another.

Inverted Pyramid
The inverted pyramid is a type of writing style where conclusions are presented first not last. It begins with a conclusion then moves to the key information followed by background information. Usability studies show that Web users want instant gratification. That is why the inverted pyramid style is important.

A word entered into a search engine to find information or a site.

Using a computer to present multiple types of media simultaneously, in an integrated manner. These can include sound, graphics, video, text, animation, or any other form of information representation.

Navigation is the process of finding things in large or complex information spaces, such as on websites. Its purpose is to a help users find the content they want quickly. There are many navigation methods to make a website easy to navigate.

Primary Navigation
Primary navigation is the general menu choices that are repeated on most (if not all) of the pages contained in the site. It is sometimes called the main menu. Primary navigation is sometimes referred to as global navigation or functional navigation. Primary navigation bars provide shortcuts to main sections on a website.

A prototype is a partially completed mockup of your final website. Prototyping allows you to test certain parts of the final website, especially when it is incomplete. With many sites, this model can be as simple as paper-and-pencil drawings or as complex as actual working code.

Readability is the degree to which the meaning of text is understandable, based on the complexity of sentences and the difficulty of vocabulary. Indexes for readability usually rank usability by the age or grade level required for someone to be able to readily understand a reading passage.

RSS is a technology that notifies you when a website is updated, and allows you to read the updates without visiting the site itself.

Scalability is the ability of a system, network, or process, to handle a growing amount of work in a capable manner or its ability to be enlarged to accommodate that growth.

In usability, scanning is the process of skimming text and picking out keywords, sentences and paragraphs while skipping over other parts of a Web page. People tend to scan Web pages rather than read them word by word. Use headlines, bullets, lists and frequent paragraph breaks for items you wish to highlight. These elements will grab a user's attention during a quick scan.

Screen Reader
A software program that reads the contents of the screen aloud to a user. Screen readers are used primarily by individuals who are blind.

Scope Creep
Scope creep is the expansion of a project beyond its original objectives. It is a term used when clients who don't realize the ramifications, make individual changes and teeny modifications to projects, which can lead to budgetary increases and time delays.

A tag is the markup characters that designate the start or end of an element , but not the element content itself.

A taxonomy is the study of the general principles of scientific classification. Information architects use this word to refer to labeling systems and nomenclature of things like the sections of a website. A taxonomy is a collection of controlled vocabulary terms organized into a hierarchical structure. The word taxonomy is from Greek 'taxis' means the arrangement or division and 'nomos' meaning law. A good taxonomy takes into account the importance of separating elements of a group (taxon) into subgroups (taxa) that are mutually exclusive, unambiguous, and taken together, include all possibilities. In practice, a good taxonomy should be simple, easy to remember, and easy to use.

A template is a page that serves as a pattern for others like itself. Ragin’ CMS templates take the concept of the template further, adding a measure of power and ease: The pages from the template can be updated automatically, all at once, just by updating the template itself.

Universal Design
Designing for the largest audience possible regardless of disability or ability. This is a process rather than an end in itself.

Usability is the art and science of designing systems or products that are effective, efficient, engaging, error tolerant and easy to learn. Usability and accessibility are often confused. Some believe that a usable site is accessible and vice versa. The two are not exclusive, but it is important to understand the difference. Usability means that a Web site is intuitive and easy to use. Accessibility means a website is as barrier-free as possible to people with disabilities. Accessibility and usability are closely related, as they both improve satisfaction, effectiveness, and efficiency of the generic user population. But while accessibility is aimed at making the website open to a much wider user population, usability is aimed at making the target population of the website happier, more efficient, more effective.

Usability Testing
Usability testing is the process of carrying out experiments to find out specific information about a design. It is part three of the "Usability Evaluation Toolbox". In usability testing, representative users work on typical tasks using the website (or a prototype) and the evaluators use the results to see how the user interface supports the users in doing their tasks

User Centered Design (UCD)
The design process that places the user at the center of the design rather than the object to be designed. It is a philosophy and process rather than an end in itself.

A wireframe is a skeleton version of a website that depicts navigational concepts and page content. It is a set of cross-linked pages that acts like a functional prototype of the final website without the graphics. A wirefraame often has only sketchy text content. It is often accompanied by a tree diagram or flowchart of the website. It doesn't take into account visual design or page layout.