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Useful Glossaries For Web Designers and Developers

In a day in age where there are just as many freelancers as there are university educated designers, developers, and all around web gurus, it is amazing to me how much many of us don’t know or have forgot about our trade. As a self-taught designer, I will admit to you upfront that there is a lot I don’t know when it comes to official jargon or certain aspects of things like typography and graphic design. It is these reasons that I call upon glossaries from time to time.

These glossaries are also especially useful for those of you who are just getting started in the online business world. By understanding that basics of the core materials that make up whatever it is you are getting into, you will be able to have a better understanding of what’s going on in your industry, as well as be able to learn faster.

But glossaries aren’t just for brushing up on old terms or for calling upon while you learn new things. They can also make a great reference point for your customers. I am sure we have all had clients who thought they knew what they were talking about when it came to SEO or web design. When you try to explain to these clients that they don’t know what they are talking about, the end result can sometimes turn ugly or at least bring on an unwanted headache. In these situations it is handy to have a glossary at hand to point your clients to. This way they can see that they were mistaken and you get the satisfaction of your own personal “I told you so.”

Last week we presented Web Design Industry Jargon: Glossary and Resources551, a general guide to industry terms that should get you well on your way to understanding what web designers are talking about. In this post we go into detail in each single area of web design such as typography, usability, marketing, Photoshop, wordpress, graphic design, CSS, XHTML, DOM, JavaScript, print design, SEO, social media, software development, Twitter and further areas.

Typography Glossaries Link

You would be surprised how many designers, especially graphic designers, out there don’t know even the most basic of typography terms. I am guilty of this myself. I could probably count the number of typography terms that I know on two hands. I couldn’t tell you what makes one font better than the other aside from the way it looks. If you find yourself in this boat and want to learn more about the basics of typography, these glossaries are a good place to start.


Usability, UX and IA Glossaries Link

Do yourself a favor and start learning as much as you can about usability and design. You would be surprised how much of a difference a user-friendly landing page can make. Simple things like button shapes, call to action wording, and colors can play a big part in how users interact with your design. Understanding the basics of usability can help you create better designs. Start by learning the basic terms in these glossaries.


Marketing Glossaries Link

Following closely on the heals of good usability is understanding marketing. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are one in the same, but they are definitely closely related. Better understanding how marketing works can do loads for your business and your clients business. Start educating your self by studying up on some of the more basic marketing terms. Or if you are already pretty market savvy, but want to brush up, there are a number of more “advanced” glossaries below as well.


CSS, (X)HTML, DOM and JavaScript Glossaries Link

As designers and coders, we often need to look up the definition and the applying rules for an attribute, selector, tree node, a property or a HTML-tag. Therefore lookup-references may come in handy. Good news – there are many reference resources out there. Below you’ll find some really good ones.


Graphic Design Glossaries Link

Perhaps it is because many designers are self taught that they only have a limited understanding of professional graphic design terms. Sure, we all know what cropping and justifying are, but there are so many other terms out there that many of us don’t know. While we can probably get away with never knowing them, it can’t hurt to learn. This is especially true for new designers. Why not go ahead and learn these terms early on while you are still in the learning process?


The transition from print design, with its absolute positioning, fixed layouts and grid-structure to more dynamic and flexible web design isn’t an easy task. Therefore if your colleague is just doing the switch from print design to web design, you may need to be able to communicate with him in “his” or “her” language. Therefore general terms from print design may come in handy as well. Do you know what “4 over K”, “semi-gloss finish” or “column rule” mean? OK, let’s dive into the classic print design terms.


Web Design Glossaries Link

I would think that many professional and full time designers and developers already know just about every term in these web design glossaries. However, I know that when first venturing into web design, many of the terms associated with the industry can be a bit foreign. Thus, I decided to add this collection of web design glossaries to the list for those who are getting into web design and developing and could use a little extra help figuring out what everything means.


SEO Glossaries Link

Try to do some search engine optimization for your website or your clients? Knowing what you are talking about is always a good idea, for both you and your client. So often clients want some search engine optimization done, but really have no clue what they are asking for or what you are saying. Referring them to some of the search engine optimization glossaries below can do wonders to save you and your client a world of headaches when it comes to SEO work.


Social Media Link

Because it seems like something new is always popping up on the social media scene, it is only natural that there may be terms we aren’t familiar with from time to time. This is especially true for those who are just venturing into online business and social media for the first time. This also goes back to the comments I made about SEO terms. You can save you and your clients some frustrations by making sure you are both on the same page by understanding what each other is talking about. Using these glossaries to explain yourself better to a client will work wonders in keeping you two on the same page.


  • A-Z of Social Media
  • Glossary of Blogging and Social Media Terms
  • The Bloggers’ Glossary65
  • Social Media Glossary
  • 25 Social Media Buzzwords Explained
  • Giant Bloggin Terms Glossary

Twitter Glossaries Link

You had to know this list of glossaries was coming! With so much going on in the world today about Twitter, it is only natural that new Twitter users are popping up every day. When one first gets into Twitter the list of associated terminology can be very much like foreign language. For outsiders looking in, I think that is very much the case. I think my local news station needs to read up on these, as every time they talk about Twitter they look deeply confused about the words that are coming out of their mouth.


CMS Glossaries Link

WordPress, Joomla, Textpattern and other CMS have a lot of its own and unique terms, tags and definitions. Because many people who run blogs don’t know the first things about servers, PHP, or even WordPress for that matter; it can be a bit intimidating. But, as many CMS users know, there isn’t much to it once you know how everything works. The glossaries below can help both developers and new users to WordPress, Joomla and TextPattern.


Software Development Link

While most web designers do both front-end and back-end-development in their regular work, it may be helpful to have a good understanding not only of front-end (covered above), but also of common software development. A glossary with terms used in agile development, software engineering, prototyping and general software development. Apart from that you may want to understand what your colleagues-coders in Python, Ruby on Rails or Java talk about when throwing around fancy programming terms, right?


Something is missing? Link

We definitely missed some useful glossaries in this list. Please help us make this list as universal and useful as possible. Please share useful resources with us in the comments to this post! All comments will be considered and useful resources will be added to the post. Thank you.

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SmashingConf Barcelona 2016

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  1. 1

    Felix Alvarez

    May 29, 2009 6:55 am

    Congratulations Again. I think that this article its an great help for understand the Web Language.

  2. 2

    Amazing thank you for this post, I am also self taught and though I work for a company now, I still run into terms I really don’t understand!


  3. 3

    sweet, thanks

  4. 4

    Thanks, very useful, a lot of terminology that i didn’t know

  5. 5

    Very cool list! I’ve never seen one like it!

  6. 6

    awesome list.

  7. 7

    Cseh Balázs

    May 29, 2009 7:34 am

    although Hungarian, but: is a Hungarian online marketing dictionary.

    Regards, Balazs

  8. 8

    Jason Miller

    May 29, 2009 7:38 am

    The official PHP reference ( is a good one to have handy.

    Also, perhaps an glossary of naming conventions – something like the Tango directory?

  9. 9

    add please gui design glossary

  10. 10

    Very useful! Thanks

  11. 11

    Tobias Preaker

    May 29, 2009 6:10 pm

    Another SEO one for you Beginners Guide to SEO Terms and Concepts

  12. 12

    Oh so very useful. Thank you for the reference!

  13. 13

    Twitter got it’s own section? Ug. I don’t hate Twitter… but in terms of web, it’s really a small sector, even if it is the current flavor of the month.

  14. 14

    Dean Higginbotham

    May 29, 2009 10:18 am

    I always boggle at the amount of work you all must put into these lists. Thanks again for an awesome resource!


  15. 15

    I love your post! If I could I would add something about Video terms…streaming media…that is all :)

  16. 16

    Great list! I always get confused by the server/network terminology. Would be nice to see a glossary of these types of terms. Thanks!

  17. 17

    Perfect timing. Just lately I’ve found myself digging deep into language of design that I [and a lot of others] lack a formal education in. I’ve actually visited a few of these links lately, but this post is fantastic. Going to the top of the “Terminology” bookmark folder.


  18. 18

    Software Development is the best!

  19. 19

    Anders Bakfeldt

    May 29, 2009 1:58 pm

    Not sure how they expect us to get through all that? IT IS SIMPLY TOO AWESOME!! ;-)

  20. 20

    thanks a bunch for the marketing list, very helpful :)


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