Author Website 101 (Design and Technical Terms Explained in Plain English)
Don’t know what technical terms like HTML, SSL, CSS, etc mean? Or what is WordPress? This article details the terms that you should know and understand before doing a website or even hiring a designer.
It can be confusing when you see so many new words, from technical and design side, it’s essentially a new language you have to learn. It sure doesn’t make selecting which website hosting company to use easier etc. But luckily, it’s pretty easy if you can just get them in one place and explained in actual English and not ‘tech-speak’. Here are 66 main terms you will probably encounter when creating and maintaining your author website:
Website – a collection of pages, posts, images, text and other media(video etc) reachable by entering a domain name. These files are hosted on a web server(host) which is connected to the internet. It’s a crucial tool to be used to reach readers.
Author Platform – another name for an author website, but with more focus on it’s marketing power. Platform part comes from the face that it’s your website and you can come in and post anything you want any time, similarly how you could do if you had a platform to speak from in real life. The size of your ‘platform’ depends on your reader and email subscriber count. The more of those you have the bigger ‘platform’ you have.
Blog – collection of posts that can be on any topic. There are car blogs, financial blogs, news blogs, writing blogs etc. Not all authors have blogs even though they have a website. It’s a choice for each to make. It helps to have one and update it at least once a month. It can be a good tool for promoting your website/book. But others do only have a static website with little changes (only new a book added etc).
Domain Name – the brandable link you enter in a browser. Like, Google.com. or Yahoo.com. It is like a home address for your website (it then directs the browser to open your website files on the right server). If you enter wrong domain or your domain is pointed to the wrong server, you won’t reach your site. The easier to remember and shorter domain is the better. Avoid using dashes or other unnatural symbols that complicate it.
Domain Registrar – company that sells domain names that are currently available. Domain prices vary depending on provider and on the extension used (.com, or .net, or .pro etc). .com has been the main domain extension and should be prefered option for all authors unless one only writes for their own country in their local language (in that case stick to your national domain extention).
DNS Host – company/service that manages where your domain and where it ‘points’. You can choose what server to point your domain to – so if you had two hosting services and had a website created in each, you can point your domain to one today and change it up to other one if needed tomorrow. Usually you can do this from the company you bought domain from.
Server – just like you computer has a hard drive where your files are saved, hosting companies use big blocks of hard drives constantly connected to the internet to store files and websites. Server has to be fast and up-to-date technically to serve (that’s where the name comes) your website to the visitor as soon as possible.
Hosting – when someone says you ‘need to get a host’ they mean you need to get a company that providers hosting services and maintain the servers where you website files will be stored. These days there are a lot of inexpensive options to choose from, like FastComet, Bluehost, SiteGround etc.
Shared Hosting – hosting companies have lots of servers, but they use them in different ways. Shared hosting means that multiple website owners share one server. The more sharing the less the price usually, at the same time, the more websites on the server the more possible it is to have a slowdown or overload of a server. So it is not good for a company to cram too many websites into one server. That’s how websites get slow to load up in your browser.
WordPress Hosting – Most companies also provide shared hosting which is ‘optimised’ for WordPress websites. Meaning they have a bit different setting than a general shared hosting server which helps WordPress work better. Recommend to get this from your host when possible.
Dedicated Hosting – the opposite of Shared Hosting. You can order a server that would be only used by you and your websites. That means more technical resources like hard drive space, more powerful processing speed etc. This is best for all website but not neccessary for small ones. It’s also quite a lot more expensive! So not something for an average author.
SSD – a type of hard drive technology for faster hard drives. The faster hard drives the better server works, the faster you website will load up for your readers. When buying a host, try to see if their servers have this!
Bandwidth – also know as Data Transfer. It’s amount of information serveer can send and receive at any moment in time. Your website will have certain size, like 1MB etc and hosting companies provide certain number of bandwidth for each server and website. Many claim ‘Unlimited’ bandwidth but that is impossible and is a bit of a ‘white lie’. They sell unlimited stuff but the server is Shared by many and there are limits to how much data server can transfer at one time. Kind of like ‘all-you-can-eat’ buffet, you can eat as much as you want technically, but companies assume you won’t.
Uptime – it’s crucial for your website that servers do not go down and stay active 24/7. Otherwise readers wouldn’t be able to reach your website. Usually it’s between 99 and 100 percent for hosting companies, but do be aware that this can fluctuate and if your hosting has bad uptime stats, switch!
CPanel – a control panel program that you get after you buy a hosting account. You can set up your domain, website, install programs from it (like WordPress). CPanel is considered best and most user-friendly.
Website Migration – act of transfering and installing website files from one server to another (usually one hosting company to other too).
Email Accounts – when you buy a hosting plan, you can usually get free email inboxes. Then you can have your own domain email address which is nicer and more professional than an @gmail.com account. So if your domain is johndoe.com, you’d have email inboxes with @johndoe.com emails!
Softaculous – a program on your Hosting CPanel that lets install WordPress and other software in the server with one-click. Simplifies installation process. Believe it or not, you used to need to actually download files and uplaod to server and install Worpdress manually. Now it’s just using Softaculous and clicking a button after filling out some details (like choosing a password and log in name).
FTP – File Transfer Protocol, a way to transfer files from your computer to the server. You’re not likely to need it anymore, esp. with WordPress. Files like images are uploaded to it straight from your computer.
Cloudflare CDN – CDN stands for Content Delivery Network and helps your websites load up faster. It essentially hosts copies of your website files in multiple servers all over the world and sees pick which server then sends files to the visitor (the closest country to make it faster). Cloudflare is a company that is quite often used for CDNs, some hosting companies even include their plans for free in their hosting.
SEO – stands for Search Engine Optimisation. It’s an art/technique for optimising your website content to show up higher in Google rankings for relevant keywords. Hugely important for e-commerce businesses, not as much for authors. But every author needs to optimise their website to at least rank for their name or pen name search results. And for those who write more content, SEO helps to rank that content and get more visitors.
Email List – a collection of email addresses you collect from readers that allows you send emails to them. You can send them as you do new releases or more frequently.
Email Subscription Form – a form on a website that visitors fills out (usually leaves an email address and name). He form then delivers the information to the email subscription service.
Email Subscription Service – these services (like MailerLite or MailChimp) help you create and manage email lists and send out actual emails.
Email Autoresponder Series – autoresponder comes from two words, ‘auto’ and ‘response’. When someone signs up for your email list, you can set up your email subscription service to send them a series of emails without you actually needing to send it for each person. You write some emails, save them, pick how often they should be sent out (like every 7 days etc) and then software sends the emails to the subscribers. So email one could be an introduction email from you as an author, email two could talk about how you write and get inspired, email three could introduce the latest book and how it was born etc
Lead Magnet or Reader Magnet – something you give away in exchange for reader’s email address. Like a short story or book 1 in the series
SSL Certificate – stands for Secure Socket Layer. When you see a website that has https:// that means it has an SSL certificate. It adds an ecryption that allows people to securely do transactions online. It used to be a must only for ecommerce sites but in 2018 Google pretty much made it needed for ALL websites. Luckily, many hosts now provide it for free for at least a year when you get their hosting account.
HTML – Hypertext Markup Language. A coding language used to build and structure websites. Has limited design optoins (thus CSS was created). You used to need to know it to run websites but not anymore.. If you were to start a web designer career, it would be the first thing to learn as a foundation.
CSS – Cascading Style Sheets. Another coding language that’s foundational to web design and it’s used to style websites better. Like selecting color for a particular button or section of a website etc.
PHP – Hypertext Preprocessor… another coding language, mainly for server side of things(really technical). What you need to know is that servers should run a highest version of it to be up to date (so PHP 7).
Backup – a secondary copy of files. Most hosting companies will do backups, do check if they are free or not. Having a backup will help if the website crashed or was hacked. Then you can restore it.
Content Management System (CMS) – it’s a software like WordPress that helps the person manage their website content easily. Main CMS is WordPress, others are Joomla and Drupal. WP runs about 30% of the internet and is a dominant CMS as of now.
WordPress – a free CMS that is convenient to use and can be either self-hosted on a hosting account you buy (wordpress.org) or a free but hosted version where WP’s mother company has the servers and takes care of many tech things (wordpress.com). WordPress.com comes with limited options and some paid plans too. It’s quite similar to Wix.
Plugin – a software addon that expands capabilities of WordPress. Example can be a security plugin like Wordfence which increases security of your website and runs scans on it on regular intervals. PLugins are one of the main reasons WordPress has grown so large and dominant, they add of flexibility to it. They range from free to expensive ones.
Theme – it’s a way to design and ‘skin’ WordPress. Adding a theme to WordPress means it will take on design features and colors that come from it. Another reason why WP websites are so common and often look great. There are thousands of free and paid themes to choose from.
Page Builder – a software/plugin that helps people ‘build’ websites visually. If you’ve ever played LEGO, that’s a good principle. PAge builders allow you to drag-and-drop elemens like image, text or video to be easily inserted into a page. You can design your page from blank screen into looking however you want. One of the reasons why Wix is popular is because it this capability and it is basically a page builder. Currently, the best page builder is Elementor – it’s a plugin for WordPress, it has both paid and free versions and is used to design this website.
Mobile Responsiveness – these days websites have to look great not just on computers but on mobile phones and tablets. Thus the term mobile responsiveness as your website has to ‘respond’ to the different screen size and device and look different.
Website Loading Speed – term to descripe how fast the website loads up. If it’s under 2 seconds it’s ok, if it’s under 1 it’s great. If it’s over 5 it’s slow and it needs to be optimised for speedier loading.
Media – general term that means images, video, music etc.
Wix – a popular page builder/website platform. Allows a person to start a website even for free and design it themselves quite easily. Comes with limits and some paid plans.
Squarespace – another popular website platform, just like Wix. They are more famous because they have run Superbowl ads. Well-designed, but a bit more expensive than Wix.
Blogger – an older blogging platform that Google owns that allows anyone to start a free blog.
Google Analytics – software from Google that tells you how many visitors you have, how much time they spend on your website and many many other statistic features. Free. And currently most used analytics tool. If you have a Gmail account it’s fast to set up.
Database – a collection of stats, metrics, names, email addresses etc. Imagine an Excel or Google Spreadsheet file. All WordPress websites need one to store information about it.
Dashboard – a control panel/main view when you log into WordPress or many other services. An overiew place.
Permalinks – a permanent hyperlink to a particular web page or blog entry.
Malware – harmful software that tries to damage a website or a computer. Could be also used to steal information. That’s why every website host needs to provide security check ups and all WordPress websites should have a security plugin installed too.
Ecommerce – electronic commerce. All sales made through Amazon would be that. Or Etsy.
Website Designer – person with skills and experience to design the website. Can also know coding.
Website Developer – a more of a coder, taking care of the code part of the website and features. Should be ideally paired with designer to make the best website. For authors, it’s no as needed to have both. Usually web designer will have basic knowledge of both or vice versa.
Traffic – the visitors of a particular website.
Bugs – another word for technical errors and glitches.
Optimizing Website – different ways to improve your website. Can be an SEO optimisation done to increase your website’s rankings, or page speed optimisation to increase it’s loading speed.
Affiliate Link – some websites have links that allow them to get commissions for recommended products. If user signs up for a hosting account for example, using this site’s affilaite link, AWG would get a commission. These shouldn’t be hidden or misleading. In the US, the law requires websites to publicly and clearly state that website has these so that visitors are aware of the fact.
Woocommerce – a free Worpdress plugin that allows WP users integrate an e-commerce shop to their site.
Payment Processor – service like Paypal that allows people to pay with credit card or from their Paypal account to the website owner for buying something.
Useful links to more defitions:
https://www.pagecloud.com/blog/website-terminology – another good overview article for learning the terms and definitions.
Here are some design terms that you will come across and need when doing your website or talking about it with a designer.
WYSIWYG – What You See Is What You Get principle. It means that a website can be edited visually and what you see when design will be the final result and how the site will look. No coding involved.
Drag and Drop – another way of saying WYSIWYG.
Homepage – the main website page. Kind of a cover of your website. It has to be unique, good looking and easy to understand. If it’s confusing, it will make visitors leave fast. What you’re reading now is a sub-page, and homepage on AWG is the introduction and the images/links to the articles about each topic of authors websites.
Header – the top part of website that usually stays the same when browsing all pages on the site. In this website, it’s the logo and the menu up top.
Footer – the opposite of header, it’s at the bottom of every website and usually features secondary information or links.
Section – a part of website’s layout. In this page, there are three sections, image, Tech terms and Design terms.
Logotype – a visual brand identity for your website.
Banner – a big main image that is usually added on a website. On this page it’s the guy with Help sign.
White Space – just look to the left. You see the text doesn’t reach monitor’s corners and there is space left from the edges. That helps design be more readable. If it wasn’t there the text lines would be even longer and harder to read.
Structure (Layout) – a general structure of how a certain page is done. This page’s structure is Menu>Title>Subtitle>Image>Text Sections.
Above the Fold – when you first visit a website, you usually don’t see it’s full length and need to scroll down to see it fully. The first part of site that you see without scrolling is the ‘above the fold’ part and everything that you need to scroll to see is ‘below the fold’.
Sidebar – usually a column on the right side of the page that has links, banners, recommended posts etc. This page has no sidebar.
Background – the design that’s under the text. This page has simple white background but it could also be an image or a pattern used there to make a site more visual.
Useful links to more defitions:
https://blog.bufferapp.com/53-design-terms-explained-for-marketers – 50+ Design terminologies from Buffer blog. With visual examples.
https://www.canva.com/learn/graphic-design-terms/ – Canva’s Design School is a great resource for non-designers and you can see a lot of good articles there. This is one of them.
https://www.usability.gov/what-and-why/glossary/tag/visual-design/index.html – more official term list and more terms useful for web design.
Hope this helps and makes creation process simpler. Next article will talk about 9 author website mistakes that can be ruining your website. Doesn’t matter which website platform or CMS you’d use, avoid these mistakes!