Glossary of Website and WordPress Terms

Technical jargon can be scary, but misunderstanding or not knowing words makes it harder to work with technical tools.

As you read this site and others discussing websites and WordPress, use this page to clarify the meaning of words that are unfamiliar or vaguely understood.

Terms are broken down by whether they are specific to WordPress, website hosting and software, or general website design and functionality terms.

Use your browser’s search function—CTRL / CMD + F—to quickly find words on this page!

WordPress Terms

Learning these WordPress words will help you understand documentation better, communicate more clearly with a volunteer or consultant, and learn to “speak WordPress.”

Remember: Words in this section are defined according only to their meaning in WordPress. These words may mean different things in other contexts and even other content management systems.

Admin Bar
The black bar across the top of a WordPress site when a user is logged in.

Admin Menu
The black website navigation on the left of the WordPress administrative interface.

Archives
A page listing all posts that match a certain criteria such as being in a specific category, written by a specific user, or posted during a certain month.

Blog
The page listing all published Posts in chronological order. This page can be given any title such as “News”, “Updates”, or “Blogs”. The page to use is set in Settings > Reading.

Core
The files that make up WordPress itself, separate from themes, plugins, or customized code. One should never “hack core files” of WordPress.

Dashboard
The “home” screen of the WordPress admin. Sometimes used to refer to the WordPress administrative interface itself.

Categories
A way of organizing Posts in WordPress. Generally, Categories are high-level descriptions of the type of information (Event, News, Media Mention, Essay, Announcement). As a best practice, assign only one category per post.
See also: Tags, Taxonomy

Child Theme
The safest way to customize, add to, or override specific code in a WordPress theme. If downloading a theme and significantly customizing it, a child theme is required to safely modify the “parent theme” files so future updates of the parent theme do not override modifications to the site.

Embed (“oEmbed”)
A means of placing 3rd-party media on a WordPress page. Common sites embedded in WordPress posts are YouTube, Twitter, and Issuu. “oEmbed” refers to the specific technology used by these embeds.
See also: “Images, Media, & Embeds”

Excerpt
A brief piece of text associated with a post. Commonly shown on a Blog page in place of the full post content (site visitor clicks title or “read more” link to view full post). The Excerpt is either a truncated portion of the beginning of the post or a custom-written post summary entered into the “Excerpt” field for Posts. (Don’t see the Excerpt field? Click “Screen Options” in the top-right corner off the post editing screen and check the box next to “Excerpt”.)

Featured Image
An image associated with a post. Image is set in the “Featured Image” field in the sidebar of the post editing screen. Image may appear when visitors view the post OR when viewing a summary of that post elsewhere on the site.

Pages
Spelled with a capital “p”. Used for publishing “static” content in WordPress like “History” or “Mission” pages. The default type of content on most sites. Can be organized hierarchically in a parent-child relationship. Is most frequently organized and linked to via menus.

pages
When spelled with lower-case “p”, informally refers to any view of a website available to public visitors. e.g. “Blog page”, “Events page”

Posts
Spelled with a capital “p”. Used for publishing news, updates, or “blog posts”. Ordered chronologically on a “blog” page.
See also: Blog

posts
Spelled with a lower-case “p”. Nearly all pieces of content entered into WordPress are “posts”. An individual Page, Event, Testimonial, Project, etc. are all technically posts.

Plugin
A set of files added to WordPress that enables one or more features for site administrators, site visitors, or both.
See also: “How to Select WordPress Plugins for Nonprofit Websites”

PRO / Premium
Unofficial terms used to market and describe commercial paid plugins or themes. “PRO” versions often contain added features or support not available in a free “lite” version of a theme or plugin.

Role
A defined set of editing permissions given to a WordPress user.
See also: User

Sidebar
May refer to the left or right narrow portion of a website design, or informally, a location in which “widgets” may be placed.

Slug
The part of a page’s web address (URL) that is set when editing the page. It is the last part of the address appearing after a “/”. The slug of this page is “wordpress-website-glossary”.

Sticky (in WordPress)
A special feature of Posts (capital P) that makes them ignore chronological order to appear first on a Blog page. The sticky setting is located in the “Visibility” setting of the “Publish” box.

Tags
A way of organizing Posts in WordPress. Generally, Tags are specific topics, people, places, services, programs, etc. mentioned in a Post.
See also: Category, Taxonomy

Taxonomy
The generic term for any set of “terms” (see below) that can be assigned to WordPress posts. Both “Category” and “Tags” in WordPress are taxonomies. WordPress supports custom taxonomies. e.g. “Genre”

Term
Used to group one or more WordPress posts. Terms are grouped into “taxonomies” (see above). A single WordPress category or tag is a term in a taxonomy.

Theme
The files added to WordPress that determine the website’s design. May be purchased, customized, or created from scratch.
See also: “How to Choose a WordPress Theme for Your Nonprofit”

Updates
A new versions of a plugin, theme, or WordPress itself. Updates contain bug fixes, security patches, and new features.
See also: “Keeping Your Site Healthy”

User
The account used to log in to WordPress. Depending on a user’s role, they can access various editing and administrative tools.
See also: Role

Widget
A small feature or piece of content that appears in the same place throughout a website. Widgets are placed in one or more theme-defined widget areas, sometimes misleadingly called “sidebars.” Widgets are most-commonly placed in website sidebars and footers. Common widgets include “Recent Posts”, “Blog Categories”, a newsletter subscription for, and social media links.

Web Hosting & Software

Selecting a good host for your website is critical to ensure your website is fast and well-supported. Understanding the language around hosts and the software you install on them will help you make better decisions for your nonprofit’s long-term health.

Caching
A variety of techniques for showing a saved copy of a server-intensive process to display a website. Showing saved results avoids repeating process on every page load. Can result in small delays between a website edit and users seeing the change, but can also drastically improve website performance.

“Browser caching” is a variation of this technique where a user’s computer saves files from a website—images, stylesheets, etc.—to avoid downloading the same file on every page.

Content Management System (CMS)
A tool used to manage website content, design, and functionality without requiring the ability to code. Popular open-source examples include WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla!.

Constituent Relationship Manager (CRM)
A tool used for tracking interactions such as donations, email signups, volunteering, or service delivery for any type of nonprofit constituent. The “C” may also stand for customer, client, or contact.

Domain Registrar
The company through which a domain is purchased and managed. This company may or may not also provide web hosting.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
A way of directly transferring files from your computer to a server. Your host may sometimes recommend using an FTP program such as FileZilla to move files to or from your server.

Host (“Website Hosting”)
The company that provides the server on which your website files are saved and sent to user’s browsers.
See also: Managed Hosting, Shared Hosting, Recommended Hosts for Nonprofits

Our favorite recommended host is SiteGround. They provide great hosting for a price affordable to even the smallest nonprofits.

HTTPS and SSL
Websites at addresses beginning with “https” are considered “secure” because the traffic between the server and your browser is encrypted. Made possible by an “SSL certificate”, this is required if you want to accept credit card payments and a best practice for every site.

Managed Hosting
A type of website hosting that provides additional services beyond server space. Common features of managed hosting include managed updates, automated backups, custom caching for site speed, and “staging” for testing changes to a live site.

Shared Hosting
The cheapest type of hosting where many paid accounts reside on a single server. The traffic of one site can impact the performance of other sites. Better shared hosts have ways to reduce the impact of this.

Websites & Web Design

There are so many words about websites! There are special ways to describe parts of a design, specific website behaviors, and the technologies used to build websites. Knowing these terms will make you not just WordPress-savvy but web-savvy!

Accessibility
On the web, the design, code, and writing required to ensure all site visitors can understand and use every feature of a website. This includes special requirements for supporting people with certain impairments and/or who use “assistive technology” devices such as screen readers or closed captioning.

Accordion
An interface allowing users to click a heading or summary and expand text into full details. e.g. WordPress plugin FAQ

Analytics
Most commonly, the statistics generated by website visitor tracking. Google Analytics is by far the most popular, free analytics service.

Archived
Term used in many ways on the web. (Be specific when you use it!) May refer to any of the following:

  • Removing content from public website but not deleting.
  • Decreasing prominence of or displaying “out of date” notice for content on a website.
  • Saving a copy of an entire website before replacing it.

Back-end
In content management systems like WordPress, the administrative view for editing the website only available to logged-in users with the proper permissions.

Banner
Large visual image across top of a page / website.
See also: Header

Drop Down
Most-frequently used to describe a navigation menu function where a submenu appears following a mouse hover or click/touch on a parent menu item. This site uses a drop down menu requiring a user to click a down arrow icon.

May also refer to a “select” menu form element.

Fixed (adj.)
Used to describe a button, bar, or other website design element that stays in place as the user scrolls down the page. e.g. theme with “fixed navigation bar”

Front-end
In content management systems like WordPress, the public site available to all visitors.

Hacking (two meaning)
Used primarily in one of two ways:

  1. A malicious or spammy defacement of a website by someone who should not have access to it.
  2. The process of modifying WordPress itself, plugins or themes—often quickly or without following best practices—in order to add, remove, or modify a feature.

Header
Describes the top part of a web page’s design. Usually contains logo/branding, website navigation menu, and search bar. Nonprofits often include call-to-action buttons such as “Donate” in their header.

In rare cases, refers specifically to the <header> HTML element.
See also: Banner

Heading
A section title that breaks up webpage content. Created by using one of six HTML tags (<h1> – <h6>) and easily assigned via the WordPress post editor.

This page has four headings. The page title is a Heading 1 while “WordPress Terms”, “Websites & Web Design”, and “Web Hosting & Software” are Heading 2s.
See also: “Writing for the Web”

Hero Image
A large image, often overlaid with text, at the top of a web page (normally the home page). Is often a good way of promoting an organization’s top current priority or impacting the visitor with a powerful image. A good replacement for a slideshow.

Infinite Scroll
A feature that loads more blog posts, search results, etc. when the user scrolls to the end of the page instead of requiring the user to click a “next” link. Has generally proven bad for usability and should be avoided.

Interactive
This word is vague it means almost nothing. 😛 Get more specific!
Example: “We want an Interactive Map on our home page.”

Intranet
A private site or part of a site used only for internal organization purposes such as board communication or a staff document repository.
See also: Portal

Landing Page
A page optimized for completing a specific task, such as making a donation. In website visitor analytics, refers to the first page a user visits on the website.

Meta Tags
Hidden HTML code the defines characteristics of a website to browsers and 3rd-party sites accessing a web page. Used incorrectly by some to refer to the “keywords” meta property that is no longer used by search engines.

Portal
A page targeting a specific subset of a website’s audience. e.g. Students. May also refer to an intranet.
See also: Intranet

Responsive
The practice of making a website work on screens of any size. Test if a site is responsive simply by resizing your browser window.

RSS
“Really Simple Syndication”. An old, open way of allowing any person to “subscribe” to or “follow” website updates. WordPress automatically generates RSS “feeds” allowing visitors to follow the blog and individual post’s comment threads.

Search Engine Optimizations (SEO)
The technical requirements and content and process best practices for ensuring a website ranks well for search terms relevant to their target audience.
See also: “Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Basics for Nonprofits”

Slider / Slideshow
A common feature at the top of many nonprofit home pages that cycles through multiple large photos with text. Sliders are often ineffective and slow down the page load due to the size of images.

Sticky
Generally, a synonym for “fixed,” defined above.
See also: Sticky (in WordPress), below

Tagging
A generic name for the process of applying one or more labels to a piece of content for the purposes of organizing it with other content given the same label. Confusing when used in the context of WordPress where “Tag” is also a proper noun.
See also: Category, Tag, Taxonomy, Term