Glossary of Basic Web Terms

Animation (media content)
In this context animation may refer to simple graphical effects such as image transitions or more complex sequences of images. In the first case, these may be applied to simply to make a site more visually interesting to a user. In the second case they may be used to convey information in a dynamic manner to the user.  Animation can be implemented in a number of different ways. The GIF image format supports animation directly. Alternatively, the animation could be scripted in Flash or with a number of other technologies. Note that the term animation is distinct from video (see below).
Button (navigation element)
A button is a visual element in a web page which is designed to look like a physical button that the user may click on or press. The button may include text or a graphic indicating its function. The visual resemblance of the graphical appearance of the element to a familiar physical object helps make the intended use of the component clear to the user. When clicked or pressed, the user will typically expect an action to occur.  This may include navigating to a new page, as well as a range of other interactive events such as starting the playing of a sound.
Drop-down Menu (navigation element)
A drop-down menu is a way of presented the user with an organized range of choices. Typically, the main headings of the menu will describe the main sections, and the options which appear (drop-down) when the user selects a section will show all of the subcategories from which they can chose. This is typically used to navigate around a complex site, but could potentially be used for any form of user interaction. Drop-down menus need to be scripted, usually with JavaScript.
Forum (user interaction)
A forum is means by which the users of a website can interact with the site’s owner and with each other by posting messages. Forums are typically threaded, which means that there may be several conversations going on at the same time.  A forum may be moderated, in which case the owner of the site vets each message to ensure that it meets their standards, or it may be unmoderated, in which any and all posted messages all allowed. Most forums typically have a particular topic which messages are expected to address.
Game (user interaction)
Many sites provide games for their users to play. This might be done for educational purposes or simply for diversion and fun. Typically games will use some form of animation to interact with the user. There are a range of technologies that can be used to develop games for the web, but the most common is probably Adobe Flash.
Hyperlink (navigation element)
A hyperlink is the basic method of navigating from one web page to another. The simplest form of hyperlink is simply a piece of text, usually describing the destination. When the user clicks on the text, they are taken to the page that the link references. Images, animations and other forms of content may also be used as hyperlinks. A rollover (see below) is a specific form of interactive hyperlink.
Icon (navigation element)
An icon is a simple graphical element used to provide navigational cues to the user.  An example would be a small picture of a house that the user could click on to be taken back to the home page of the site. Icons are effective because we are all used to graphical representation of function – for example, think about the icons on the buttons on the remote control for a DVD player.
Image (media content)
This is a catch-all term for the graphical content of a web page. It includes still images of all forms, from digital photos to graphic design elements such as logos.  The more complex an image is, the more memory it requires. So, for example, a large high quality photo may be several megabytes, whilst a simple logo might only be a few kilobytes. The size and number of images in a page can have a significant impact on its download time and large photographic images tend to be optimized for web display, reducing their size before being included in a page.
Rollover (navigation element)
A rollover is a particular type of interactive hyperlink. It consists of an image, usually indicating the function of the link in some way, which, when the user moves their mouse over, changes. A typical example is a picture of a button which changes to look like it is being pressed when the user moves their mouse over it.  It is a vivid way of indicating to the user that the element can be clicked on. This has to be implemented using scripting, typically using JavaScript.
Sound (media content)
There two basic ways of incorporating sound into a web page. The first is as a background sound: this would usually be music, which starts playing as soon as the user opens the web page. The second technique requires the user to actually click on a control in the page, such as a button, to start and stop the sound playing.  When background sound is used in a page, it is a good idea to give the user some means of stopping it. In order to play a sound it is necessary for the user to have an appropriate plug-in installed in their browser. Most users will already have one or more such plug-ins available.
Text (media content)
Text is the basic content of most web sites. The language used in the text must be appropriate to the intended audience. The characters in a piece of text are rendered in the browser using a font chosen by the designer of the website. It is important to realize that web designers currently have a more limited range of fonts available to them than designers working in print, although emerging technology may improve this.
Video (media content)
Video can be incorporated into web pages to add interest to a site. YouTube, of course, is built completely around the display of video content to users. Like sound, it is necessary to have a plug-in installed in the browser in order to play video content. There are two main technologies in use at the moment: Apple provide the Quicktime plug-in and Adobe have the Flash player.