Web Jargon Explained

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There are several sites that provide a dictionary definition to a lot of the buzz-words used on the Internet so we will concentrate on adding a bit more detail about the areas we are involved in.

What is E-Commerce?

Essentially, any system that allows you to select and purchase goods online is an "E-Commerce" system.

That covers a very wide spectrum of sites however and many allow you to select goods, print an order form and post it - e-commerce with the emphasis well away from the "e"! Other businesses have entire systems that communicate with suppliers and customers and every logistical step of a purchase is handled by the on-line system.

Choosing the right level for your business of system is important. Ensure you have adequate flexibility in the early stages of specifying your e-commerce system and it will grow with your needs - not allowing for development will restrict your options in the future.


What is FTP?

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol.

It is what you use to put files up on the internet. Additionally larger files can be shared with clients here, as a shared filespace.


What is an Extranet?

Your web browser is a great way of showing information to a wide audience.

Public information is shown via a website - the Internet. Private information or information that is only of use to internal employees of a company is called an Intranet.

Now there is a group of people in-between Joe Public and internal people that can include customers, suppliers and partners. For this group it is now very common to provide something called an Extranet. This would normally be a web site that you log-in to and, depending who you are, the information you see is adjusted to suit your needs.

An extranet can save a great deal on costs as you are able to service many more clients and maintain low overheads.


What is a Content Management System (CMS)?

Simply put, any facility that allows a client to update parts of a website is a "CMS".

Our systems allow users to log-in to an administrative area with their web browser and change components of the site directly (or, in some circumstances, make a change then a second user must approve it before it goes live). A database is used to store the content "bit" of the page and a file called a "Template" is used to give the overall structure and look of the page.

When you, the user, click a link to see a page, the template looks in the database, finds the latest bits of relevant information, packages it up and sends it to your web browser.


What is a Domain?

Domain names are essentially a human way of allowing the Internet to work.

Every single computer that exists on the Internet is given a number to identify itself (an "IP address" such as 195.102.142.131). Within this sequence of numbers is also a way of finding out who else is in your "group" and where to find other "groups" but that's starting to get a bit complex for our needs here.

In general, this is great for computers because they love numbers and can therefore associate IP addresses with other computers very easily. Unfortunately, Humans are not as good at handling numbers so easily and prefer nice sensible names.

The techie boffins who developed the Internet that we know today, created a system of matching a name with a number - the domain name was born.

They did leave some particularly irritating legacies however such as using "dots, slashes and colons" like they were going out of fashion and starting all web addresses with the only 3 letters that can have 9 syllables when the word "web" (note just 1 syllable) would have done nicely.


What does an Internet Service Provider (ISP) do?

The "backbone" of the Internet is made up of large numbers of telephone lines and fibre-optic cables connecting groups of servers - a literal web.

An ISP is one of these groups of servers that allows single computers to connect to the internet either temporarily or permanently.


What are HTML, ASP, ASPX, PHP?

HTML is a type of language used to lay out and present web pages in your browser.

It defines what parts of the page are and allows a developer to style them. For example there are HTML tags to define a documents headings, its paragraphs and where images need to be displayed.

ASP, ASPX and PHP are types of programming languages used by programmers to write logic and pull data from databases. This data is then manipulated by the programming language and turned in to HTML before being sent over the internet to your screen.

Just as Microsoft Word requires a file ending in .doc / .docx or .rtf to be able to display information, so a Web browser requires a file ending in a number of variations, the most common being .html (Hyper Text Markup Language) .asp (Active Server Page) .aspx (.NET Active Server Page), .php (Hypertext Preprocessor).


What is Accessibility, and why is it important?

Just like a physical shop or office, it would be rude and bad business to exclude your customers, just because they had trouble making it up the steps or opening the door.

(It would also be discrimination too.) Your website is just the same.

People with a range of disabilities use the web, but not necessarily by using a mouse and a keyboard. Some may use screen-readers , where the computer reads aloud the website text, others may magnify the screen to see more clearly. Even colour blind users of your website could have difficulty distinguishing colours on a map.

Luckily, many of these difficulties can be catered for by a little forward planning and attention to the code. The pay-off is that your site is often far easier for everyone to use, and search engines will find it very easy to index your site.


How do search engines work?

Search engines visit websites on a regular basis, and navigate around them using the links they find.

They then find all the words used in a site and create an index to them (ignoring things like "at" and "it" etc).

Finally, they use lengthy rules and algorithms on "ranking" certain words, statements and sites so that when you type in a phrase, they can bring you the most pertinent results.


What is Bandwidth?

Bandwidth is like a hose-pipe.

The larger the pipe, the more water can flow through it. The higher your bandwidth, the more data can flow through it. Although 80% of UK households have fixed internet access, and 93% of those have broadband ( Office of National Statistics , 2012), bandwidth varies. This sometimes poses a problem when a website has lots of images, or large files. Additionally, mobile phones have a lower bandwidth than computers, and will take longer to load pages.


How does Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) work?

SEO is the process whereby web pages are designed, built and modified to increase visibility in search engines.

It's great to be up the top in the search engine results, as it increases your website traffic. It's not guaranteed to increase your revenue - but it will certainly increase the potential. It is comparable to getting more people through your shop door, from providing an attractive and inviting shop-front, to being easy to locate.

Ranking in search engines can always be backed up by paying for advertising, but there are a number of cost-effective methods to make the site work better with search engines, from joining local business directories, linking with other sites and partners, and even in the way the website code and copy is written.