Professional Slang in Web Design

by Melissa Burns

Any professional community develops its own jargon, both to create easier and quicker ways to refer to complicated concepts and to set itself apart from the laymen, and web designers aren’t an exception. What makes their slang so interesting is that this industry is relatively young and exists in close connection with other, older crafts like typography and visual design, sometimes heavily borrowing from them. Here are definitions and explanations of some web design terms, professionalisms and buzz

1. “Above the Fold”

This term serves as a reminder that web design didn’t appear in isolation but to a huge degree evolved from typography – it comes from the old newspaperman speak, where it referred to the section on the front page above the fold where important news were printed as the reader’s eye immediately fell on it. In web design, it denotes the upper section of the screen that a user sees immediately after opening the website, without having to scroll down.

2. Automagical

A blending of “automatic” and “magical”, this term refers to an arrangement that has a highly complicated technological process under the hood, but this process is hidden from the end user, and the feature in question seems to be working as if by magic. Basically, modern web design agencies like MagicDust tend to make the creation of “automagical” websites their primary purpose.

3. A Bunch of Numpties

“Numpty” is a word originating from 1980s slang word “numps” of unknown origin, which means “a stupid person”. It is unclear how this expression found its way into web design lingo, but in its context it means design elements that are clearly placeholders and have absolutely no user experience reason for being where they are. Think cheap websites decorating themselves with generic stock photos.

4. Feature Creep

Also “featuritis”, beautifully described in a TED Talk by David Pogue. A tendency of a client to request additional features and/or expansion of the design when the project has been already paid for and is being worked on – usually such clients expect it to be done at no additional cost.

5. Graceful Degradation

Also sometimes called by a less poetic term “fault tolerance”, it refers to the ability of a website’s design to use the functions of new browsers while still retaining at least a part of its functionality when viewed via an older browser. In a more general sense, it denotes the ability of a website to work properly even if some part of it doesn’t function in a particular browser.

6. Hero Image

Simply put, hero image is the main image on a homepage or a landing page – the thing that a visitor sees immediately after opening them. General idea to immediately grasp the visitor’s attention and provide a aesthetically pleasing impression – you can read more in this fascinating article on Envato’s blog.

More information about Hero Images

7. Link Farm

Link farm is a group of websites created for the sole purpose of linking to each other in order to influence web search engines by spamming it with links (this process is referred to by another web design portmanteau term, “spamdexing”). Link farms usually don’t contain any useful content whatsoever, and the term is understandably derogatory. The practice has been denounced by MOZ as early as 2009, but some unscrupulous search engine optimizers seem to have missed the memo even today.

8. Wireframe

Before a web designer starts working on the visual implementation of a website, he usually prepares a wireframe – a very basic and simplified drawing of a page’s layout, most often with no design whatsoever. This schematic representation of a future website is used to give the designer an opportunity to work out the user interface without getting distracted by visual elements. Wireframing is an incredibly important stage of web development, and entire tools and software products are dedicated to this sole purpose (you may take a look at a set of them in this article in Creative Bloq).

As you may see, web design jargon is highly heterogeneous, combining elements borrowed from other visual arts professional speaks, technical terms and purely slang expressions that are just good at expressing things curtly and wittily.

About the writer

Melissa is a passionate blogger and journalist. She's also a freelancer and runs her content marketing agency


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