The Good Client Guide: WordPress Development Glossary

Part of a series exploring WordPress web development from a client perspective, this is a reference guide for confusing terminology you might hear during each phase of the process.

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This post is part of an ongoing Good Client Guide series, which serves to demystify the web development process and empower consumers of web design (known to many in the industry as The Client™) to be an informed and effective partner in the process.

The process of getting a website developed for your business is exciting.

You’ve found someone to work with who fits your timing and budget, but more importantly seems to match the level of enthusiasm you have for solving your problem. They are working hard to provide you with a solution that fits your business needs and those of your audience, and you want to give them the information and support they need to succeed. After all, their success is your success too!

The terminology of web development can seem like a whole other language.

Even if your developer or designer is doing their best not to fill their speech with acronyms and jargon, there are still plenty of words you are going to encounter when having a conversation about your site. Words common to web design, web development, and WordPress specifically, some of which you may have seen before but not understand, and some which are completely foreign. I feel that it’s really important to have a well-defined shared vocabulary to improve collaboration with your designer or developer, so I’ve put together a WordPress Glossary of some of the most common words you might hear during this process.

A note to my fellow designers and developers: some explanations here, while broadly true, may not be technically correct in every specific circumstance. I tried to explain things as an abstract concept, rather than all the technical specifications powering them. That being said, if something seems completely off base or you’ve found a different way to explain a concept, feel free to let me know what you think and I can rework a definition.

Discovery & Strategy

  • Content Map: more complex than a site map, often includes content types and other relationships between the data on your site
  • Scope: the size/complexity/timing of your project
  • Site Map: a hierarchical documentation of the pages and elements of your site
  • User Personas: taking a “target demographic” and turning it into a specific representational person with personality, goals, and needs
  • User Testing: test subjects monitored on the use of your existing site to achieve specific tasks, to see what elements are successful and/or confusing


  • Information Architecture: how elements relate to other elements on a page and across the site, including interactivity, hierarchy, importance, and visual weight
  • Mockups: static aesthetic representations of a site
  • Prototype: interactive representations of a site (not production code)
  • Style Tile: abstract aesthetic representation of a site, like a moodboard
  • UI/UX: User Interface (the elements on screen with which your users interact), User Experience (the intuitiveness, consistency, and emotions when interacting with your site)
  • Wireframes: visual structure of a site without aesthetic elements, like a blueprint


  • API: allows one set of software to standardize communication and seamlessly interact with another set of software, makes its features or functionality available for use
  • Agile: an iterative task and review based form of project management and development
  • Backend: This is the part of the website the administrators and/or developers see, which includes the admin dashboard as well as any other code that interacts with the server
  • Content Management System: What WordPress is: a database plus files which makes up your site content
  • Frontend: This is the part of the website your visitors will see (what most people think of as “the website”) as well as any code that interacts with the browser
  • Git/Github/Version Control: a programmatic way for tracking changes, contributions to code, syncing between environments
  • HTML, CSS: markup and styling languages (visuals and structure) like the walls and paint of a house
  • JS, PHP: interactivity and functionality languages (JavaScript is usually “client side” or run by your browser, PHP is “server side” and runs before it gets to your browser)
  • Live Site: Where your domain points, where the final product will live, “your website”
  • Local Development Site: copies of the site running on a person’s computer, usually for performing ongoing development
  • Responsive/Mobile First: sites that change to fit different environments using the same codebase (not a separate mobile site). Includes scaling, swapping, reorganizing, and changing content and structure to fit different contexts, including size, weight, device
  • Staging/Sandbox Site: a copy of the site running on a web server, often similar to the live site, but is not the live site. Usually for testing and previewing development work

Deployment & Testing

  • Analytics: data about who is using your site, when they are using it, and how they are interacting with it
  • Domain: your address ( which will be pointed to your host
  • Hosting: your home (different levels of speed/reliability/service/features for the cost) which will have a database and file storage


  • Dashboard/Admin: also called the “backend,” this is where you go when you log in, and where you interact with your WordPress content, media, plugins, themes, and settings
  • Metadata/Custom Fields: additional content areas on your post/page besides the main editor, taxonomies, and media. May be a simple text box, or may be a combination of several fields to hold content, dates, links, images, and other information. Used to provide additional types of data related to your post (like a product price, event time, portfolio attribution, etc.)
  • Permalinks: the way WordPress sets up URLs to specific content, like or
  • Plugin: a set of code that introduces specific functionality
  • Page/Post: core WordPress functionality, pages are usually individualized/single content (like About Us or Contact), and posts are usually chronological or grouped content (like a blog or news post)
  • Post Type (Custom): other WordPress content aside from Posts and Pages, which may have other taxonomies or metadata associated with it, and may be displayed in a special way on the frontend of your site. Things like: Portfolio, Events, Products, Testimonials, Directory, Features, etc. Often created by adding a plugin, or custom by a developer. May also be created by a theme, but will not be accessible if you switch themes
  • Taxonomy: used to classify and relate posts to each other. WordPress core taxonomies are Categories and Tags, and other Post Types may have custom taxonomies
  • Theme: the code that determines the visual structure and layout of your site
  • Template: a specific page layout within a theme
  • User: a person with login access to your site. There can be different User Roles (level of access) which enable different users specialized access to your site based on how they use the site. Some sites also have a frontend user login, such as social, membership, or eCommerce sites, which enable users to manage an account without seeing the Dashboard
  • Widget: a small, contained piece of functionality (like a social account, calendar, list of links, or cart) that is usually displayed within “widgetized areas” of your theme, like a sidebar or footer

Did I miss anything? Is there something you want to add? Was there a particular word or term that you struggled to understand (or explain) when you were working on a web project? Let me know in the comments!

Ready to get started? Step 1: What To Do Before Your Project will help you do your due diligence before your project begins so you can start smoothly!

Leave a Reply

8 Responses to “The Good Client Guide: WordPress Development Glossary”

  1. #WordPressWednesday 2016 Volume 1

    […] Michelle Schulp has put together a glossary of terms to help clients through the process of understanding what’s going on during their project. – The Good Client Guide: WordPress Development Glossary […]

  2. Sallie Goetsch

    You forgot “widget.” Clients ask me about that one all the time.

  3. Francis Kim

    Nice glossary and mostly applicable for non-WordPress projects too! 🙂

  4. The Good Client Guide: WordPress Development Glossary | MediaStreet News & Opinions

    […] seems completely off base or you’ve found a different way to explain a concept, feel free to let me know what you think and I can rework a […]

  5. Vince

    Thanks for the guide,very useful specially for WordPress beginners.I am trying to build a website using WordPress so this is really helpful guide.