12 of the Most Common Web Design Definitions

Posted on February 3, 2021 | Updated on June 12, 2023

There is a certain lingo to web design you’ll find handy when working with other professionals in the industry and some clients. Understanding the difference between CSS and PHP, for example, shows you understand both the front-end and back-end of design work. True professionals pick up web design definitions as they work on various projects. You can get a jumpstart by learning a few now.

The average growth rate in the web design services industry is 5.8% per year. Faster internet connections mean more people are online and using cyberspace for various activities. The industry remains strong for the foreseeable future as more businesses get online and additional ways for people to interact spring up. 

As new technology appears, new web design definitions come into play. Ten years ago, terms such as mobile-friendly and voice search weren’t even thought of. Here are the most necessary terms to understand as a web designer today.

Top List of Web Design Definitions

This list of web design definitions isn’t comprehensive, but it covers the most important terms a new designer needs to know to communicate in the field. You’ve likely encountered some of these words in your studies. Others may be new to you. 


When it comes to web design definitions, this may be one of the most common words you’ll encounter. However, one of the issues with the internet is the massive amount of technical jargon and acronyms no one knows the meaning of. 

HTML stands for hypertext markup language and is actually a programming language that allows you to add tags telling browsers what info to pull up for the viewer. 

2. A/B Testing

Web design definitions also embrace the actions web developers take when creating a site. A/B testing is also called split testing. It allows designers to see which concepts users respond best to and which need to go.

For example, if you aren’t sure where to place your call to action (CTA) button, you can try a few options and test them to see which position gets the most clickthroughs. 

According to Business Insider, the market is expected to hit about $1.08 billion by 2025. However, not every designer uses split testing. This is an area where you can gain an edge over competitors. 

3. Navigational Hierarchy

The organization of your site is the navigational hierarchy. You might have five main categories and then subcategories which fall under those primary ideas. Your content goes under one of the subcategories. Understanding how to create a structure to a full website helps you move users from Point A to Point B smoothly.

4. CSS

Web design definitions, such as CSS, are acronyms standing for a more complex term. CSS stands for cascading style sheets. The simple coding language allows web designers to create a set of standards for a website and then pull on them for every page on the site. This gives all pages a uniform look and feel.

5. Negative Space

If you’ve taken any design classes, you’ve likely studied negative and positive space. You’ll use this term a lot in web design work. Clients want to pack in as much information as possible onto a page, but it’s up to you to explain the importance of a balance between negative and positive space and why less is more. 

6. JavaScript

The name of a scripting language designers use to create actions and features on a website page. Web design definitions wouldn’t be complete without a look at JavaScript. Even though some designers moved away from Java in recent years, there are still occasions where you’ll need to know the term and the language. 

7. Mobile Responsiveness

The number of mobile users is now at least equal with desktop. Recent research shows about 53% of global website traffic is from mobile users. Many developers have turned to a mobile-first approach to ensure websites scale perfectly to smaller screens. 

8. SSL

The term secure socket layer (SSL) is a type of internet security where the server and client use a secure link to share information. When consumers share sensitive information, such as credit card numbers, SSL adds another layer of protection. A website using an SSL certificate should start with HTTPS. 

9. SaaS

Software as a Service (SaaS) can refer to almost any third-party software used in the production and running of a website. For example, Photoshop runs as an SaaS via their cloud-based service. The advantage of SaaS is the user doesn’t have to worry about installing large files on their desktops. They simply access the service via the internet. 

10. Typography

Typography and fonts are a bit different, although fonts are a part of the term. The typography is more the overall look of a design and how the different fonts and elements work together to create beautiful text grabbing the user’s attention. Fonts are the specific look of a single typeface and can include weight, size and italics as different options. 

11. Alt Tags

Anytime you add an image to your website, you should make sure the alt tags are filled in. This helps visually impaired people utilize readers to hear what the page looks like. It also provides another way for people to search for topics on your site. Some browsers even frown on sites missing elements such as alt tags and may rank your page lower.

12. Parallax Scrolling

A newer trend in web design includes parallax, where some elements seem to move faster than others. As the user scrolls down the page, the feature gives an animated effect without taking up a lot of space.

Other Terms

There are dozens of web design definitions in addition to the 12 listed above. You’ll need to understand what back-end and front-end mean. You should also be familiar with terms such as bandwidth, so you know when you’re using too much and it might cost you extra money. 

In the design world, there are terms for nearly everything imaginable. Keep learning and listening to what others say. If you don’t understand something, do an internet search for an answer or ask a mentor what it means. The longer you’re in web design, the better you’ll understand the terminology involved. 

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