A glossary of key terms

The Curved House

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This glossary of key digital terms has been pulled together by The Curved House based on frequently asked questions from authors they’ve worked with in recent years. Our aim is to grow this glossary over the coming months and keep it updated following developments and changes. If you have a suggestion for a term you’d like to see added to this list please do email hello(at)thewritingplatform(dot)com. Our aim is to try and serve as wide a group of authors so any ideas welcome.

The right or ability to log onto a computer system or use a computer programme.

Alt tag
A text description of an image that will display with or without the image. Important for web accessibility.

Audio conversion programme
A computer programme that converts audio files (see Audio file below) into different formats. A recorded talk does not need as much depth as a musical score, so compressing (see below) into low-capacity audio format is useful to maintain usability of your site.

Audio file
A sound recording that can be listened to on a computer or mobile device.

Short for weblog, a diary on the web. Usually populated by an individual with text and/or multimedia. Entries are generally displayed in reverse chronological order (most recent at the top).

To bookmark a website is to save its URL electronically into a registry in your browser for easy access. Usually done with favourite or useful sites.

A signalling method capable of transferring large amounts of data at high speed. The preferable access type and speed for web use; current industry standard in industrialised countries.

Chat room
A facility for participants, generally on the Internet, to exchange typed comments or information in real time.

The reduction in size of a data file, usually desirable with multimedia files on the Internet in order for them to load and become visible/audible as quickly as possible.

CMS (Content Management System)
A web content management system is designed to simplify the publication of web content to websites, in particular, allowing content creators to submit content without requiring technical knowledge of HTML or the uploading of files (see FTP below). A CMS provides the user with an understandable user surface that has entry masks for different media, allowing ease of access and quick edits.

CSS (cascading style sheets)
A type of web language that determines the formatting, style and design of web pages through programming code. Normally a web developer expert would be needed to develop
CSS that is custom-made to your needs.

A slow, low data-rate form of access to the Internet using telephone lines. Current data amounts online have made dial-up an extremely time consuming method of access to the internet.

Discussion forum
An online discussion site, usually focusing on a particular topic or group of topics. Participants usually post content that is longer in form than chat conversations. Once posted, replies remain visible to all participants and retain their position on the discussion time-line. Forum archives can go back years.

Domain name
The name (words, phrases or characters) by which a website is known and which serves as its address – usually preceded by www. and ending in a suffix (see below).

Dots per inch, a measurement of image density. DPI describes how many image dots are used within an inch-long line to make up an image. The standard pixel (see below) resolution used on the web is 72 DPI, whereas the standard resolution for print is 300DPI.

A regularly distributed publication about a particular topic of interest to its subscribers and sent electronically in an email. Usually includes links to websites for further information.

File Transfer Protocol, the means by which information is uploaded onto (published on) the web. FTPs can be accessed via management programmes, “FTP clients”.

An image file format, up to now, the most commonly used graphic file type on the web. It limits the number of colors in an image so the file can download faster. Particularly good for text, art, cartoons, and line drawings. Vastly popular as a means to loop short animations.

Computers, printers, computer screens etc. The equipment and devices used in computing (rather than the programmes used on it – see Software below).

The main page of a website, often used as a welcome and/or introduction. Sometimes indicated by a URL (see below) ending in /index.

Holding a website on a web server (see Server below) in such a way that it can be seen by other computers. Hosting providers are service providing companies who do this in exchange for payment and are also known as ISPs.

The coding language used to build websites.

Internet Service Providers (see Hosting above)

An image file format, generally used on the web for photos and complex full colour images.

A piece of text on a webpage which, when clicked on, leads to another webpage on either the same or a different website. An internal link leads to a piece of information on the same page.

One of the two main computer platforms (types, the other is PC, see below), created by Apple. Traditionally popular with designers and web developers.

Mailing list
A list of names and email addresses held for sending the same piece of information in one go to all those included in it. Vital for e-newsletters.

Reading the contributions to a discussion forum with the power and responsibility for responding/dealing with/commenting on contributions when necessary.

The method by which a web user moves from one web page to another.

This includes images, video, audio and podcasts, used to provide an engaging content experience on a website.

The process created to help a user move around a website. Well-designed websites have consistent main navigation, found in the same position on every page. This makes movement around the site as easy as possible for the user.

Open source
Usually used to describe software (see below) developed for sharing and without charging. Often developed over time through collaboration.

Personal computer. The other main computer model apart from the Mac (see above).

Portable Document Format. A document format that is light on data and capable of maintaining a document’s design and layout on different computers, therefore used extensively on the web.

An individual dot of light, the basic unit from which images on a computer or television screen are made. Used as a measurement of screen dimensions for the computer (eg 800 x 600, which means 800 pixels wide by 600 pixels high) and to measure the size of web content such as images. Important for image preparation for the web.

An image file format, developed as an open source (see above) alternative to GIF. Considered an improvement on GIF.

A series of digital media (audio or video) files offered for download by web syndication.

Created by or owned by an individual or company and sold for money. For example, a proprietary CMS is a Content Management System (see above) sold for money. The alternative is open source (see above).

Registrar (Domain name registrar)
A company that will register a domain name on your behalf for a fee.

The level of reproduction of detail offered by a computer screen or an image.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Carrying out the necessary work to ensure that a website ranks as highly as possible in search engines (e.g. Google, Yahoo).

A computer that stores application programmes and data files accessed by other computers. A web server is used to store the data accessed on a website.

Social network
Or social network service. Builds online communities of people who share interests and/or activities. Usually web based and provide a variety of ways for users to interact, such as email, forums, and instant messaging. Has become a very popular method of communication in recent years, used by millions of people all over the world.

A computer programme or application.

Spamming (spam)
Sending an unsolicited message or spam (email) over the Internet as a mass mailing to a large number of recipients.

The final part of a domain name (see above) that indicates either the country where a website is based (e.g. .uk, .ca, .us) or the type of company or organisation that has created the site (e.g. .com for commercial companies, .org for non-profits, .edu or .ac.uk for higher education).

Unique visitor
One individual who visits a website and an important gauge of web activity. The number of unique visitors in a given period is used as a key measure of a site’s success.

Uniform Resource Locator, another name for a web address (similar to a Domain name, see above). Generally starts http:// (or https:// for a secure site).

Web stats
Web statistics, metrics used to gauge the success of a website.

An automatic tool for guiding a user through a web programme or application.


You may also be interested in:

A Quick Guide To Facebook

A Writer’s Guide To Online Discussion Forums

Website Or Social Media: The Modern Writer’s Conundrum


The Curved House is a creative agency working primarily for publishers and publishing-related businesses. Its designs and produces books, builds and runs websites and comes up with great ideas to get writers' books noticed.

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