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Content Management Software Terminology

Content management systems

Choosing and using content management software can be a confusing process, not least because of the jargon, acronyms and abbreviations you encounter. This page gives a brief guide to some of the most common terms you're likely to encounter. When in doubt, ask the person who's selling the content management software. A good vendor will be able to explain everything in plain English.

BB codes: replacements for HTML codes, but they have more limited scope than HTML. Some content management systems require content writers to use these. Tags are in square brackets instead of angle brackets.


Cookies: files containing information about visitors to a website. Used for many purposes, including storing customer preferences and personalizing welcome pages. They are stored on the user's computer, not the website's server.

HTML: Hypertext Mark-up Language. A set of tags (also known as mark-up symbols or codes) that tells Web browsers how to display a page to the user. Tags are in angle brackets.

Intangibles: hard-to-measure qualities, such as the user-friendliness of your interface or how your new system has affected staff morale.

Interface: the point at which a customer uses your website, or the point at which you use content management software. Should be as user-friendly as possible.

LAMP stack: refers to the infrastructure on which some businesses build their content management systems. It stands for Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP/Python/Perl.

Open-source: term describing software distributed under a license which allows users to change and/or share the software freely. A complex and much-debated term. "Free" doesn't necessarily mean free of cost, just free of restrictions.

PDF: Portable Document Format. PDF documents preserve the formatting and appearance of the original document. Used in electronic document management .

ROI: Return On Investment. How much money your content management software has brought you, compared to how much you paid for it. Difficult to measure when you also consider intangibles such as customer satisfaction.

Tags: HTML tags are labels that the browser can separate from the content text and use as formatting instructions. For example, you might use tags around a piece of text to indicate that it should be in italics. The browser would display the text in italics, but wouldn't display the tags.

Templating: a content management software feature that allows you to create one design for more than one web page. You can then get different content to fit the same design.

Validation: checking that the HTML of your site conforms to certain standards. Invalid HTML may display perfectly well on some browsers but look a mess on others.

WCAG: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Information on how to make a website accessible to people with disabilities.

WYSIWYG: What You See Is What You Get. Pronounced "wizzywig". Describes the way some editing programs let you see how the web page - or printed page - will look to the user. Dreamweaver and Frontpage are both examples of WYSIWYG HTML editors. In the past, the term was mainly used to refer to desktop publishing, but is now used mainly in relation to Web publishing.