Web development dictionary (for non-web developers)

Katylee Moehlenbrock

When I started at liquidfish over two and half years ago, I had a very limited knowledge base about website design and development. While I had a small vocabulary from my previous job in marketing, it was nowhere near the level I am required to have to do my job well at a company like liquidfish, which is first and foremost a web development company. In the first few months, I not only had to learn how the company was run but also absorb everything I could about the website development process. This was no easy feat—it took a long time to learn all I have learned—and even now, I find myself expanding my education every day.

I have learned a lot of what I know by asking my team members millions of questions as well as writing down unfamiliar terms and phrases during meetings and secretly googling them when I got back to my desk. Today, I’d like to share some of this vocabulary with anyone who would like to learn a bit more about what we do, especially current or future clients who would like to be able to better communicate what functions you would like your website to entail.

CMS - Content management system

This gives you the ability to act as an administrator of the website and edit content (videos, copy, photos, etc.) without having to go enlist the help of a developer to make the changes. Once your website is built, we make your login information and essentially hand the keys over to you to edit and update it however you see fit.

API - Application program interface

This allows one program to talk to another without having to manually input data. An example of this is a telephone pole: Think of the two ends of the phone and the wires that connect it. The wires are the “API” and the two ends are the websites or applications you want to communicate. For example, you may wish to implement some type of directions functionality on your website to inform users on how to locate your office. The Google Maps APIs are a perfect way to doing this, containing specific code that allows it to communicate seamlessly with your website.

DNS - Domain name server

A DNS houses the directory for all of your domains/URLs (see below). When someone types in your URL into a browser, it points to the correct server that houses your website. The DNS is the directional sign pointing people to your website.


If your website was a house, its DNS acts as its physical address for where people can locate it. This is what you type into the browser (e.g. liquid.fish) to find your website on the internet.

Staging Link

This is a site that has been completed and is ready for review. Housed on a live URL that is not your website’s actual URL, no one can see the staging site without having the exact link. This is essentially a dress rehearsal for your site, complete with all pages, designs, and functionality so that you are able to click through it to test all the features. Once everything is to your satisfaction, the site is transferred to your URL and it becomes a live site that is open and viewable to the public.

Live site

This is your current, active website. It is what people see when they type in your URL.


Going back to the “if your website was a house” metaphor, a sitemap is basically your site’s blueprint. The sitemap is laid out in the early stages of the website development process, using your content to map out what is contained within the navigation/menu. A typical website usually has two or three levels of navigation, with a primary menu of pages that may contain subpages (and perhaps subpages within the subpages) within them. A thorough sitemap ensures that all of your website’s content is present and arranged in a way that will make sense to the user when exploring your site.


This is a rough visual interpretation of your website used by designers during the discovery phase of the project to map out the site’s layout and flow. A wireframe illustrates how certain pages of your site will look once all of the content elements (header images, copy, videos, and drop-down/expandable navigation) are in place.

Hamburger navigation

This is typically found on the mobile version of a website, wherein the navigation is found by clicking on three horizontal lines (resembling a hamburger) in the top right or left corner of the screen.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

This is a strategy we put into place to get your site viewed by search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. We take a look at your site from the inside out to make sure it is sending all the correct signals to those search engines to list your site in search results. Keyword implementation is one of these signals, using keywords as homing beacons to make it easier for search engines to find your site.