If you’re reading this, you’re likely an editor or wordsmith of some sort. And if you’ve ever played Fictionary with non-wordsmithical friends, you probably beat the pants off them. Why? Because you love words and dictionaries.
So, how about some web-editing terms and amateur lexicography? I’ll start off with 8 terms I’ve found useful, but please add your refinements and suggestions for other terms in the comments. I’ll incorporate comments and post that version as a permanent page here on the blog (to be updated and expanded at periodic intervals). Please help! Without it, we’ll have more amateur than lexicography.
above the fold: Originally from the newspaper business, this term is now commonly used by designers and editors of web and email publications to name that part of the layout that’s visible without scrolling down. The implied idea is that you want to put the most enticing bits (whether photos or text) above the fold to induce people to buy the newspaper, or read the rest of the web page. Screen sizes vary, but I’ve seen the fold described as 300 and 600 pixels from the top (enewsletters and web pages, respectively). Life Below 600PX demonstrates the concept and a different angle on it.
alt text: Short for alternative text, it denotes the text specified by the HTML and XHTML ALT attribute. It’s usually used for images and is designed to provide a meaningful equivalent when the image is not available. Alt text is especially important for web users who use a screen reader, which reads aloud the contents of a web page and is commonly used by the visually impaired. Alt text is also critical for enjoying XKCD.
chrome: On a web browser, it is the frame and all the toolbars, buttons, search boxes, and scroll bars around the edges of the web page you’re using. On a web page, it consists of navigation bars, footers, search boxes and any other elements that persist as you move around the site. Bloated chrome means there’s little room for content, but inadequate chrome makes a site or page harder to use. Get more info about chrome.
eyebrow: Specific to enewsletters and email marketing, it refers to the message that says something like this: “Having trouble viewing this HTML email? Click here to view it as a web page.” Direct marketers often use it to reinforce a call to action as well. Also called the pre-header, but saying “eyebrow” instead makes you sound supercilious. (Don’t groan—you can put your own bad puns in the comments! Worst pun-ster wins a free subscription to this blog!) See some examples of eyebrows.
information pages: In contrast to pages that provide search, navigation, or transaction functions, information pages give users the details they came for. On ecommerce sites, the equivalents are often called destination pages; typically they are the main product-description pages. On other sites, they may be how-to articles or essays. Although users will generally scan the pages first to make sure the content meets their needs, information pages are designed to prompt the user to stay and read awhile. See pathway pages.
- Originally, the term was used to describe web elements such as page titles and headlines (and subject lines, for emails). These often stand alone—on a search engine results page, for example—and function as a link to guide readers to the full article. Good microcontent abstracts the essential meaning of the full article, does not mislead the user, and provides a clear and succinct headline or title.
- In 2002, the term was redefined by Anil Dash: “Microcontent is information published in short form, with its length dictated by the constraint of a single main topic and by the physical and technical limitations of the software and devices that we use to view digital content today.”
pathway pages: Positioned between the home page and information pages (see above) in the information architecture (IA) “map,” pathway pages function like a table of contents—helping users find what they need on the site. People “travel through” these pages, neither slowing down nor reading much, and often clicking on the first plausible link. Good pathway pages make it easy for users to find (click through to) the information they want without hitting the back button.
slug: It’s a mollusk, a swig, a punch with a fist. And it’s the few words that describe a post or page and form the end of the URL on WordPress sites, among others. Ideally, the slug is optimized for search. Read about an example. This web-related usage probably derives from journalism, where the slug denotes the temporary, summarizing name of an article while it’s in production. Slug also has a history in typesetting. And at ad agencies, I’ve heard it used for the project, color, and printing information included on each job layout.
What are your favorite terms? What vocabulary has caught your attention in your web-editing career?
Share your edits, stories, puns, and definitions in the comments!