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Queen's University

Web Standards and Accessibility Guide

  • Glossary



American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) is the basis of character sets used in almost all present day computers. ASCII text (pronounced ask-ee text), can be read by every computer system, including Windows, DOS, Unix, Macintosh or any other. ASCII, can be created in such applications as Notepad or SimpleText. Unlike Word documents, ASCII documents cannot be formatted, not can they render foreign characters (such as French accented vowels).


Blog is short for weblog. A weblog is a journal (or newsletter) that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption. Blogs generally represent the personality of the author or the Web site.

Cascading Style Sheets

Also known as CSS, it is a W3C Recommendation (Standard). Cascading style sheets allow web developers the means to separate design considerations from structured, logical, semantic mark-up (see HTML below). CSS attaches formatting to various page elements - for example a heading in HTML < h1> Document Heading < /h1> can be styled via CSS to display in different font faces, colors, sizes, etc.:

h1 {
font-family:Georgia, Times New Roman, serif;

See the section on CSS under the Development tab in this Guide. More information about CSS can be found at the W3C web site.

Client-side Scripting

A script embedded into a web page that causes the end user's browser to do something. The best known client-side scripting is JavaScript. For client-side scripting to work however, the end user's browser must be capable of interpreting the scripting (not all can), and the user must have given permission to the browser to do so (this is usually the default in most JavaScript capable browsers, although it may be disabled by the end-user due to security or other user concerns)

Deep Linking

The process where web pages (yours or outsiders) link to a specific document within a set or collection of documents, allowing users to bypass welcome pages, introductions, etc. (e.g. a direct link to page 5 of an 8 page series)


i.e. of an HTML element. A deprecated element or attribute is one that has been outdated by newer constructs such as style sheets. Deprecated elements may become obsolete in future versions of HTML. However, due to legacy considerations, most of these elements will never be removed outright; however their continued usage moving forward is strongly discouraged.


The method by which a computer monitor/video card attempts to display a colour it is not capable of actually displaying. Depending on the quality of a user's system, a monitor screen may not be capable of displaying the millions of colours that newer or better quality machines are capable of. The monitor will attempt to approximate the requested colour, but often the loss of quality is severe. It is particularly notable where colours fade or gradually diminish.

DOM (Document Object Model)

The Document Object Model is a platform and language-neutral interface that will allow programs and scripts to dynamically access and update the content, structure and style of documents. The document can be further processed and the results of that processing can be incorporated back into the presented page. For technical details, see

Embedded Objects

Usually refers to multi-media content or applets which display within a web page, but are, in effect, stand alone applications or files which can also be experienced outside of the web page. For example, a QuickTime move may be embedded into a web page, or provided for download to be viewed in the QuickTime Player. Flash content is also embedded within web pages.


A system that limits network access between two or more networks. Normally, a firewall is deployed between a trusted, protected private network and an untrusted public network. For example, the trusted network might be a corporate network (i.e. Queen's University), and the public network might be the Internet. A firewall might grant or revoke access based on user authentication, source and destination network addresses, network protocol, time of day, network service or any combination of these. These settings are normally controlled by the network administrator.


A proprietary media format developed and marketed by Adobe, Flash content is essential enriched animated media that is then embedded into web pages. While Flash has grown considerably in sophistication, it still presents accessibility issues for many users. Because it is proprietary, it requires a helper application to view the content, the Adobe Flash Player, which can be downloaded from the Adobe web site.

HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language)

The "code" used to mark-up text documents to make them into web pages. This is the authoring language used to create documents on the World Wide Web. HTML defines the structure and layout of a Web document by using a variety of mark up tags and attributes. There are hundreds of tags used to format and layout the information in a Web page. Tags are also used to specify hypertext links. These allow web developers to direct users to other web pages with only a click of the mouse on either an image or word(s).

Image Map

A programmatic method of applying "hot spots" or hyper-links to regions of a graphic file (image or photo). There are two types of image maps; client-side and server-side. Whenever possible, developers are encouraged to use client-side image maps, where all link information is embedded within the HTML document. Server side image maps rely on server scripting to provide the link information (for example, the "zoom" feature on sites such as MapQuest)


A client-side scripting language, added to the web page. See Client-side Scripting.

Meta Data

Information used to classify and identify specifics regarding any given web document. Each META element specifies a property/value pair. The name attribute identifies the property and the content attribute specifies the property's value. For example, the following Meta Data Element identifies the author of the document:

< meta name="author" content="John Foliot" />

Open Source

Often referred to as a movement, open-source software (or other content) is publicly shared intellectual property. One of the best-known, open source software applications today is the Linux operating system. All of the source code is "open" and available for any and all developers to add to and improve upon, under the condition that it remains open and free, i.e. the software cannot be sold (although packaging of the software, with manuals, CDs, etc. is permitted). Other popular open source applications include the Firefox web browser, the Apache web server, and the mySQL database format.


PDA (Personal Digital Assistant)

A hand-held device such as a Palm Pilot, next-generation Cell Phone or RIM Blackberry. Many of these devices now provide the ability to access web content remotely, over wireless networks. Depending on the device, these tools can either display native HTML web content, or repurpose web content into the WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) mark up language, stripping the "web pages" of all imagery, but transmitting the text portion.


An open-source, server-side, cross-platform, HTML embedded scripting language that lets you create dynamic web pages. PHP-enabled web pages are treated just like regular HTML pages and you can create and edit them the same way you normally create regular HTML pages. PHP files usually have extensions like .php or .php3. The PHP language style is similar to C and Java. See Server-side Scripting.


Helper applications that can be downloaded and installed, extending functionality to web browsers. For example, to access Flash content, browsers require the shockwave plug-in; PDF files can be opened within the web browser if the Acrobat reader plug-in is installed.

Pop-up Windows

Browser windows that are opened using JavaScript; these usually do not include the browser navigation bar, address bar, menus, or status bar.

Print Style Sheet

An element of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) that eliminates the need for links that say "click here for printer-friendly version". By following one of those links, you would be loading a separate document that presents exactly the same information on the web page but with a different layout. That means someone had to take the original document and convert it to a version more suitable for print output. CSS allows authors to create media-specific styles for a single document, eliminating the need for a print version of a page alongside its web version, i.e. print style sheets can be directly linked to a web page, thus allowing for the "screen view" version as well as the "print" version. The benefits: write once, use in different configurations, and when updates to web content are required, only one file needs to be altered.

Proprietary Formats

In web development refers to formats which are developed, patented (usually), and marketed by for-profit entities. For example, the PDF file format is proprietary as it is developed and sold by Adobe. Some popular formats (such as PDF) may now also be produced by tools or companies other than the patent holder, but this usually requires a license from the patent holder.

Rich Text Format (RTF)

A method of encoding formatted text and graphics for easy transfer between applications. Currently, users depend on special translation software to move word-processing documents between different MS-DOS, Windows, OS/2, and Macintosh applications. The RTF Specification provides a format for text and graphics interchange that can be used with different output devices, operating environments, and operating systems. RTF uses the ANSI, PC-8, Macintosh, or IBM PC character set to control the representation and formatting of a document, both on the screen and in print. With the RTF Specification, documents created under different operating systems and with different software applications can be transferred between those operating systems and applications. RTF files created in Word 6.0 (and later) for the Macintosh and Power Macintosh have a file type of "RTF."


An XML-based format (using the Resource Description Framework or RDF - a language for representing information about resources in the World Wide Web) that allows the syndication of lists of hyperlinks, along with other information, or metadata, that helps viewers decide whether they want to follow the link. RSS allows a person's computer to fetch information so that all of the lists that person is interested in can be tracked and personalized for them. It is a format that is intended for use by computers on behalf of people, rather than being directly presented to them (like HTML).

Serif and Sans-serif Fonts

Font faces generally are classified into one of five categories: serif, sans-serif, mono-spaced, fantasy, and dings or glyphs. The most common fonts in widespread usage are either serif or sans-serif; both are considered "proportional fonts" as different letters will have different widths (i is narrower than w). The best-known serif font is Times, or Times New Roman; the best known sans-serif fonts are Arial or Helvetica. Serif fonts are generally considered better for printing, as the tiny serifs link the letters together (in the mind's eye) so that you see words, and not strings of letters. Studies have shown however, that sans-serif fonts actually produce less eyestrain on computer monitors.

Server-side Scripting

Scripting embedded within a web page which is processed by the web server (as opposed to the end-user's browser). Common server-side scripting languages include ASP, PHP, ColdFusion, CGI/Perl, JSP, etc. Server-side scripting is the preferred method of implementing functionality into web pages, as developers have more control over their web server, and can more accurately control outcomes and results.

Stand-alone Application

An application that does not require the web browser to access the digital files being provided. Microsoft Word (for example) is a stand-alone application.

Streaming Media

Often, rich media (movies, audio, animation, etc.) can entail large file sizes due to their content. Streaming media refers to the method whereby once a certain percentage of the file has been transferred to the end-user, it may be "launched", even though the complete file has not yet downloaded. In some instances (Internet Radio for example), there never may be an "end." Nonetheless, as long as digital content continues to be provided (the stream), the media player (embedded or stand-alone) will continue to display or present the material.

XML (Extensible Markup Language)

A specification developed by the W3C. Designed especially for web documents, XML allows designers to create their own customized tags, enabling the definition, transmission, validation, and interpretation of data between applications and between organizations.

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