Top Website Design Terms Chief Marketing Officers Need to Know

Web Design Terms CMOs Should Know

  1. CMS
  2. Responsive design
  3. UI/UX
  4. Sitemap
  5. Wireframe
  6. Navigation
  7. Accessibility
  8. Theme
  9. Module
  10. Plugin
  11. Scannability
  12. Typography
  13. FPO
  14. Content population

When you lead the marketing efforts for a company, you will sooner or later lead a website design project. Afterall, a best-in-class website provides the foundation to your whole digital marketing strategy. However, it’s not your whole job, and maybe not something you think about every day. You might go several years between redesigns, and meanwhile, the industry changes by the minute.

For even the most savvy Chief Marketing Officer or Marketing Director, web design terms don’t always trip off the tongue. When you choose a digital agency with whom to partner, they may appear to speak a different language. In order to best articulate your needs and communicate well with your agency partner, update your knowledge of the terms below.

Keep a couple of things in mind. First, it’s always okay to not understand what something means. A good web design partner will never think less of you for asking questions. Second, the world of website design evolves all the time, so this list is just a starting point. That’s why we, at Bayshore, strive to keep the lines of communication with our clients open at all times!

Here are some common terms you should know, which you’ll likely encounter as you move through a project.

Content Management System (CMS)

A CMS keeps the content of your website organized and up-to-date. It’s kind of a big database, but more sophisticated ones can manage everything from site analytics to marketing automation. If you choose to handle day-to-day website updates or blogging in-house, you will rely on a user friendly CMS for those tasks. If you’ve considered switching or upgrading your CMS, a website redesign is the ideal time to do so.

Responsive Design

Responsive design became a buzzword when smartphones took off in popularity, and today it’s ubiquitous. Internet users visit websites on laptops, mobile phones, tablets, watches and televisions and that list will only grow. You need to reach your target audience on whatever device they use, and make sure they can easily read and navigate your website. Some websites simply have a “desktop version” and a “mobile version,” but truly responsive designs will adjust to any layout.


These two terms user interface and user experience are interrelated and often used in the same breath. As a marketer, you know the importance of the customer’s journey. Your user experience (UX), or how the website functions from the visitor’s POV, should rule each design decision. The user interface (UI) simply refers to the parts of the site they see and interact with as part of this experience. Analytics can reveal valuable information about your current UX.


Early in your redesign experience, you and your agency team should agree on a site map. The site map provides a snapshot of all of the key pages that will make up your site. It shows how they relate to one another i.e., which ones you can click to from the others. Make it as comprehensive as possible, so that you get to develop the whole site strategy at once.


You might think of a wireframe as an intermediate step between a site map and a finished site. It includes diagrams of your home page and other key pages, without fully designed graphic elements. Some people find it jarring to imagine a finished site by looking at wireframes. A good agency partner should walk you through it, helping you to visualize the end result and answering all of your questions.


Navigation ties back to UI/UX and plays a role in your sitemap and wireframes. It can refer to the actual sequence of clicks a user takes to get around, but more often to the menus on your site. You might hear a designer refer to the “top nav” or the “left-hand nav.” These terms simply describe where the navigation bar or menu sits on the page. A “secondary” or “auxiliary nav” might drop down or fly out from one of the main ones. A “hamburger menu” stacks several menu items on top of one another to resemble its namesake.


Accessibility for people with disabilities has always been important, but has become an even hotter topic as some big brands face lawsuits for not complying. People with a range of conditions, from epilepsy to autism to blindness, need the ability to use websites. Certain factors in both the front- and back-end of your website affect their experience. WCAG stands for web content accessibility guidelines. You might also hear the term “508 compliance,” which applies specifically to government entities. 


A theme is simply a group of files that work together on the back end of your site to determine what your pages look like and how they behave. Within the theme, you will have templates for different types of pages. Themes and templates ensures consistency across your whole site, maintaining the brand experience, while the content varies from page to page. Your website partner might recommend a theme if your content appears simple and straightforward. A theme is not a good choice for a customized design vision. 


Not to be confused with themes or templates, a related term your designer may use is “module.” A module refers to a section of a page that can be replicated across your site for consistency. Each module will include spaces for its designated components these could be images, headlines, paragraphs, buttons, icons, or contact information. Modules can be shuffled around to optimize the user experience. With responsive design, they might change dimensions according to the screen.


Your website will use plugins to execute certain functions. There are tens of thousands of plugins on the market, some free or open-source. An example of a function for a plugin might be to create a form on your site that emails you the results whenever someone fills it out. Another might let you live chat with visitors. Others perform functions behind the scenes, such as redirecting traffic from an old url to a new one. Something important to know is that plugins get updates periodically, just like your smartphone. If you don’t assign someone to watch for and install updates, your plugins become vulnerable spots for hackers to attack your site. 


Visitors must be able to read and digest the information on your site quickly. When you look at a wireframe you will see text broken into chunks with different size headings that follow a hierarchy (usually with the biggest one at the top, and smaller ones for each section). Along with this topic you might hear terms like “H1,” “H2,” “H3,” etc., which refer to the code that your site uses to format those section headers. These practices help guide the reader’s eye through the copy. It also affects how search engines “read” your pages, which improves your chances of ranking well.


Your branding probably already relies on certain rules for typography, and your site design will echo those brand standards. Font choice falls under the umbrella of typography. A font can convey a mood, a tone of voice, or a style, but it is just one factor. Others include the size of the text, whether it aligns to the left of a page or the center, how far apart the letters are, how much space exists between paragraphs, and numerous other elements that a designer can tweak in minute detail. All of these little choices add up to create a powerful impression.

FPO and lorem ipsum

The agency partner that designs your site might also provide you with content. Either way, you will most likely review the design before someone invests the time to fill it with all the approved content. In the meantime, the designer will use placeholders. A photo or design element might be labeled “FPO,” which means “for placement only,” just to give you an idea of the size and location of the future element. In place of text, you might see latin or nonsense words known as “lorem ipsum.” This text just helps you envision how the final copy will look.

Content population

At the content population stage of your project, you get to see the elements come together. The pages of your site will get populated with the text and graphics that have been carefully reviewed and optimized toward your goals. At this stage, sometimes you see things in a new way and need to make minor changes. However, your site should be just about fully cooked and ready to launch. The more time you invest in perfecting your content in advance, the more smoothly content population will go.

This list represents only the most common terms you might encounter when you design a new website. If you’re hungry for more, click here for a list of acronyms associated with web design. Bayshore Solutions works with clients end-to-end, through every stage of the journey, including post-launch digital strategy and content creation. As the leader of a marketing team, you may wish to complete certain elements of the process internally while partnering with us on others. Contact Bayshore Solutions today to discuss how we can help grow your business through expert Web development.

For more than 20 years, Bayshore Solutions has provided innovative website and digital marketing expertise to clients across the United States. As a full-service agency, we help you grow your business by understanding your goals, defining customer audiences, creating stories, implementing technology, and learning from outcomes.


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