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Design Glossary

Design can sometimes feel like its own language reserved for those in the know. Now you can stay up to date with industry terms across design, prototyping, usability and user testing.

A

Artboard

Artboard is a term used by many design tools to describe the area of the canvas where you create your designs.

Ascender

An Ascender is part of a lower-case letter that ascends above the x-height. You'll see an ascender on letters like k, l, h, b, d, and f.

Avatar

An avatar is an icon used to represent a user.

B

Brainstorming

During a brainstorming session, a group gets together to generate creative ideas and solutions through intensive group discussion. Many people use post-it notes and mind-maps during this process.

Breakpoint

In web design, a breakpoint is the point at which a page responds and adjusts the layout to best fit a user's screen. If you shrink and expand your browser window on a responsive page you'll see the breakpoint is where the design shifts to better fit the new size.

C

CSS

CSS is a coding language used to add style to a page including color, font, spacing, and more.

CTA (Call to Action)

Words used to guide the immediate next action of a user on a given page or screen.

D

Dark Pattern

UI that is intentionally confusing to stop a user performing an action. For example, making an unsubscribe button 4pt type so it's difficult to find.

Decender

A decender is part of a character that decends below the baseline. You'll see a decender on letters like y, j, g, p, and q.

Design System

A design system is a group of elements that can be reused throughout a product, marketing materials, social media, and more to help teams stay consistent.

Design Token

Design tokens are a way of naming styles in your design. They let you change the value of a style without changing the name. This is a way of referencing styles that are shared between designers and developers.

Discovery Phase

A period of research at the start of the design process to explore and understand who the users will be, and what the design should solve for them.

Dropdown

A dropdown is an expandable menu that, when clicked on, opens to reveal a list of options. When closed, the menu will display a placeholder of the current or default selection.

E

Edge Case

A scenario outside the typical or expected path; when a user interacts with your design in an unlikely way.

Embed

To integrate content or code in a way that it appears part of the host screen, page or post.

F

Focus group

A focus group is a group of people who are brought together to provide feedback on a product before it's launch.

Font

A font is a specific variation of a typeface. For example, Helvetica is a typeface while Helvetica Neue Bold is a font.

I

Input field

An input field is a UI element where a user types information. Forms are often made of input fields where a user can enter their name, email address, and other information.

Interface

The interface is what the user interacts with, allowing the user and computer to communicate with each other.

J

Journey map

A journey map shows the intended flow for a user as they progress through a product in order to understand the user experience. For example, an online store for a bookshop may have a user flow that includes searching for a book, adding the book to the basket, creating an account, and checking out. This flow can be shown in a journey map to help understand the user experience.

K

Kerning

Kerning describes the space between letters. Often the kerning will need to be adjusted in a design to make the spacing between letters more visually appealing.

L

Layer

Layers are used to place one image or design on top of another. Layers are often used for pop up modules, sidebars, and expandable images.

Line spacing

Line spacing, also known as leading or line height, is the amount of space between lines of text.

M

Moderated research

Moderated research is a user testing method where the user tests the product alongside a reasearcher, often answering questions or following instructions along the way.

MVP

A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the simplest possible version of your idea, used to gather feedback from users to validate a hypothesis before investing further time.

O

Opacity

Opacity is the opposite of transparency. If an element in your design has 100% opacity you will not be able to see through it.

P

Pagination

Pagination is an element that shows what page a user is looking at and allows them to navigate to another page, usually by clicking on another page number or using arrows to go forward and backwards.

Persona

A fictional profile of the target user or customer; used as a tool to get clear on exactly who you are designing for.

Popover

A popover is a small bit of text to let a user know more information about an element. For example, you may have a popover on a sign in page that lets users know they have not entered a valid email address.

Prototype

A prototype is an interactive mockup of a design without needing to code. Prototypes simulate user flow and help test a product before development.

Q

Qualitative research

Research based on customer feedback, interviews and surveys.

Quantitative research

Research based on data, statistics and numbers.

S

Sans serif

A sans serif font doesn't include serifs, small lines capping larger strokes on letters. Helvetica is an example of a sans serif font.

Serif

A serif is a small line capping a larger stroke on letters. A font that uses serifs is called a serif font. Georgia is an example of a serif font. If a font doesn't include serifs it is called sans serif (literally "without serif").

Slider

A slider is a UI element that allows a user to pick a value along a spectrum. A common example of a slider is the volume setting on a music player.

T

Typeface

A typeface is a group of letters designed to work together. A typeface might include variations like bold, italics, or light. A specific variation of a typeface is called a font.

U

Unmoderated research

Unmoderated research is a user testing method where the user tests the product remotely.

Usability

The usability of a product describes how easily a user is able to complete their goal. User testing is often used to compare a designer's expectations of a product's usability against real people's experiences.

User Experience (UX)

User experience design is focused on the flow a user takes through a product. A UX designer's job is to determine the usability of assets and layouts in a design and make sure a user can easily find what they need.

User Flow

The direction a user progresses through an app or website. User flows are often broken up into smaller segments. For example, you may have a sign-up flow that leads into your onboarding flow.

User Interface (UI)

User interface design is focused on specific elements in a design and how they work together. A UI designer creates the assets a user interacts with, including buttons, colours, text, animations, etc.

User Testing

User Testing is the process by which the user experience of a product is tested to make sure it functions as smoothly as possible. There are lots of methods of testing including moderated remote, and guerilla. To learn about the importance of user testing and how to implement your own, download our User Testing Field Guide

V

Validate

Designs need to be created with the end-user in mind. Validating your design (with tests and research) means that you have data which demonstrates this.

W

Wireframe

A wireframe is the bare bones of your design showing where elements will be located and their relative size.

X

X-height

Also known as median and mean line, the x-height is a typography term that describes the horizontal line that delineates the top of most of your lowercase letters.