If you’re working with a website developer, you’ll need to know some website development terms to communicate effectively. Knowing basic website development terms will help you make educated decisions about how your website will function. And it will also help you get what you want as far as design and SEO.

Here are some terms you’ll want to memorize before you start a website build or hire a professional website developer to help you edit your site.

Popular Web Development Terms

1. Website Hosting

Every website is hosted by a web hosting provider. Popular hosts include Siteground, Bluehost, HostGator, or GoDaddy. Hosting allows your site to be accessed and interacted with by your customers via their web browser (Chrome, Firefox, etc).

Some developers and website designed agencies will offer to host your website through their business. We highly recommend purchasing your own hosting. It’s the only way to ensure you are the one with the account access and password. It also means you can recover your account and contact web hosting customer service in any situation.

If you don’t own or can’t easily access your hosting, you might have trouble recovering your site in the event of a parting of ways. You’ll also often get a much better price when you research and purchase your hosting independently. You can bundle it with your domain name purchase and even your page builder!

2. SSL Certificate

SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer, a standard of encryption that keeps all data exchanged between web servers, your customer’s web browser, and your website safe from hackers.

Have you ever seen a website URL that starts with https:// and has a little padlock next to the web address? This means the site is recognized as “secure” and uses an SSL certificate. Having a secure site means that sensitive info—like credit card numbers and passwords—won’t fall into the wrong hands.

It’s extremely important to make sure your website has an SSL certificate. Especially if you’re processing payments! Many business website hosting packages include a free SSL Certificate, so keep this in mind when choosing a hosting provider.

3. Domain Name (aka URL)

Your domain name is the website URL of your site. Make it as short as possible and as memorable as possible! Common domain names end in .com, .org, or .net. We don’t suggest straying too far from these conventional URL structures when buying your domain name.

When you purchase a domain name, you’ll have to check that it is available from a domain name registrar. GoDaddy or NameCheap are popular choices. We often also suggest buying multiple domain names if they’re available to make sure you don’t end up losing them.

If your website URL is BestDogFood.com, it’s smart to also purchase BestDogFood.net, BestDogFood.org, and TheBestDogFood.com. Otherwise, when your business grows, a competitor might buy a similar domain and poach your web traffic. Ouch!

4. Domain Name Server (DNS)

A Domain Name Server is popularly described as the “phone book of the internet”. It eliminates the need for your customers to remember the IP address associated with your website.

When a customer types in your website URL, their internet service provider connects with a domain name server that quickly looks up the right IP address and sends them to your website.


HTML and CSS are popular “front end” coding languages used to create website content and build the visual components of websites. The “front end” is what you see on your screen when you look at a web page. Like colors, fonts, spacing, lines, shading, and other design elements. HTML builds the actual structure of your site, while CSS makes it look pretty and polished.

Web designers will often use HTML and CSS to edit how your website looks and performs on different devices. But more complex “back-end” coding languages (PHP, Python, Ruby, or Java, for instance) are better left to website developers. You don’t see back-end code, but it controls your website’s core functionality. Edits here can easily crash your website and make it non-functional.

6. Page Builder (aka Visual Page Builder)

A page builder makes building a WordPress-powered website much faster and can offer a cleaner-looking design. Websites used to have to be created from scratch using HTML and CSS. Now web designers can now use Page Builders to compose a website with pre-built visual components. This saves a ton of time in the development process. It also means much cleaner, standardized code that is easy for another designer or developer to jump in and alter later.

While custom-coded sites still have their place, most small businesses should consider using a visual page builder to shorten development time. And make it easier for their internal team to make small website changes when needed.

With a page builder, it’s possible to do simple tasks like update copy, change colors, or swap out images on your web pages without contacting a web developer. Once your site is built, you have a ton more freedom using a page builder. We love Divi and Elementor.

7. 301 redirect

Redirects are when your developer reroutes an old or dead page of your website to a new page. A 301 redirect is a permanent type of redirect that is often used to maintain good SEO and healthy site structure.

Let’s say you have a sales page on your website with the URL www.wittykittydigital.com/services. You’ve built hundreds of links to this page, but you redesign your website and want to rename this page /service-packages instead. A 301 redirect would allow you to send any traffic from old links you built directly to your new page.

You want to avoid a ton of redirects on your website, as they tend to slow down site load speed. So try to establish permanent URLs that you won’t need to change down the line. This can be planned most effectively with an SEO audit, soo that each of your pages is named effectively from the start!

8. 404 Page Error

A 404 error is a dead page. Visitors will see this if they follow a link to a page that no longer exists on your website. To avoid 404 errors, you’ll want to make sure to set up a 301 redirect each time to delete or unpublish a page on your site permanently.

Users can also see your 404 page if they accidentally type in a URL incorrectly. So, your 404 page should ideally contain some information to help them realize their error and find the page they were looking for. Your 404 page could say: “You’ve reached this error because you have tried to visit a page that does not exist on our site. You’ll be redirected to the homepage. Please check your spelling or contact customer support for more help”.

As we reference above, you can set up your 404 page to redirect to a homepage or one of your shop page. This helps to avoid traffic bounding from your site, so definitely have your developer set this up!

9. Bounce Rate

Your bounce rate can be high or low.

A high bounce rate is bad. It basically means that when people land on a page of your website, they leave it quickly. This is usually because they don’t like the content on your site, don’t feel like your site is trustworthy and safe, or landed on your site on accident.

A low bounce rate is great! It means people stay on your pages for a long time and are likely enjoying your content. Google sends more traffic to websites that have a low bounce rate with longer page visit times.

10. Alt Tag

An alt tag is a descriptive text tag that accompanies any image file on your website. It’s displayed in place of your image while your page is loading, and also helps with page accessibility for those who may not be able to clearly see your image.

You should always have alt tags for all images on your site, as it helps optimize your site for better SEO and ADA compliance. Alt tags allow search engines to crawl not only the text on your website, but also the text associated with your images. Otherwise, search engines cannot crawl images.

For instance, let’s say you post an awesome infographic to your site. Google will not be able to crawl that image. So you can add an optimized alt tag on the back end of your site that contains keywords that signal to Google that you have image content containing information for their users.

When someone does a Google image search for “holiday marketing infographic”, if your infographic has an alt tag it will show up in their Google search. If it doesn’t have an alt tag, Google won’t display it in search results.

11. SEO Keywords

Speaking of SEO…your developer will probably mention SEO several important SEO terms, including SEO keywords. Keywords are how Google categorizes content. Your developer or SEO professional will need to add keywords to the back end (where people don’t see them) of your website to let Google know what’s on each page of your site. Keywords can also be used on the front end (the visible part of your website) in your page copy, on your blog, and in your URL’s and site navigation. It’s much easier to accomplish SEO before you launch your website versus adding it in after.

To make sure your developer is using the right keywords you’ll need to get an SEO audit. Developers ARE NOT SEO professionals! Using the right keywords on your site is one of the most important things you can do as far as attracting free, high-quality website traffic that converts to actual sales. If you aren’t sure if your website has the right SEO keywords, reach out to us for an SEO audit.

12. SEO Meta Description

Another SEO term you will hear your developer use is meta tag, metadata, or meta description. This is the spot on the back end of your site where an SEO professional can add a group of keywords to tell Google what your page is about and what type of traffic Google should send to your page.

Each page on your site must have an optimized meta description containing the right keywords or Google will not be able to send organic, free traffic to your site. Or, Google will send the wrong kind of traffic to your site, resulting in a high bounce rate and low conversion.

13. Caching

Your cache is temporary data storage. It helps your website maintain a fast load speed by automatically storing important info on your computer the first time you visit a website so you don’t have to reload that info each time you visit a site again.

Your website developer may ask you to clear your cache when they have recently made changes to your site. If your cache hasn’t been cleared, you may be seeing an old saved version of your site. Clearing your cache basically clears out any saved data and allows you to see the most current version of your site. You can clear your cache by pressing CTRL/CMMD + F5 in your web browser (Google Chrome or Safari, for instance).

14. Image Compression

Image compression refers to the size of your images and how fast they load on your website. If your website has many images, you’ll want to make sure they are compressed so that your site doesn’t take forever to load.

There are plugins that can help you compress your images in bulk, but the best way to compress images is to do so before you upload them to your site.

15. Content Management System (CMS)

Your CMS helps you to create and manage digital content on your website. Actions your CMS helps with are uploading blogs, changing website copy, and altering basic design elements like the color of your text or your on-page images. The most popular content management system is WordPress, but some websites employ Drupal, Joomla, or Magenta. Many of our clients end up choosing between Shopify or WordPress, depending on their needs.

16. Cookies

Websites use cookies to recognize users and keep track of their preferences. Cookies are a small text file that is stored temporarily or permanently on a user’s computer, which is why they have gotten a bad rap recently.

Your website developer may want to add an opt-in pop-up to your site that notifies users that your site uses cookies. This is a great feature if your business is concerned with user privacy and trustworthy practices and may be required if you do business in certain countries.

17. Website Staging

When a developer creates a new website for you, they will likely create it on a staging site or in a coding “sandbox” environment. this allows your developer to make changes and improvements to your site without altering the way it looks live on the internet. Staging sites usually live on your domain and are password-protected so that only you and your developer can see them until you launch your new site.

You may need to upgrade your hosting service to allow for website staging, but it’s worth it to be able to test and perfect your website before launching it live where customers can interact with it.

Why Should You Hire a Professional Website Developer?

Website development terms can be confusing! But your web dev should always be willing to explain things to you. Hopefully, this list of popular website development terms helps you to navigate the process of launching your perfect website. If you need help, Witty Kitty is always here! We specialize in getting new businesses up and running with a fresh, modern website. And we are way easier to work with than that unreliable freelance web dev! Sorry—not sorry.

Continued reading:

Parts of a Website: 21 Basic Web Design Terms

Your Guide to Website Design for Small Business