In every software platform you’ll find special terms. Some are well-recognized – for instance, “App” or “Download”.

Other have varying definitions depending on the system or industry. You’ll find some used in Sitefinity’s administrative backend. Some of these terms are commonly understood; some are not.

Today I’d like to explain the terms Sitefinity uses. Cover the definitions we as web developers use day to day.

Inspiration for this post came when we spoke to a new web development customer a few weeks ago. We were about 20 minutes into our meeting. I was describing Sitefinity’s capabilities when they stopped me and asked, “What’s a module?”

Hit me right away. They hadn’t encountered the term before, and I hadn’t explained it before using it. Of course I explained what a module was, and how it’s used in Sitefinity. They understood and we moved along.

But I made a mental note of that question. If one person didn’t understand what a Sitefinity Module is, there are others who don’t as well. This post aims to fix that.

Definitions for Terms Used in Sitefinity CMS

The word “content” is both universal and confusing. Why? Because it has multiple definitions, depending on who you ask. Some people consider only the text on a website as content. Others lump images & videos in as content too. Still others will define whole Web properties as “content”.

Sitefinity takes an overarching approach to content. I would define “Content” as, “The unique elements on your website which speak to your customers’ needs.”

This includes text (both on a single webpage and shared throughout the website), images, videos, documents, files, categories and tags.

Content Block
Last August, in the post How to Update Your Site Using the Sitefinity Desktop App, I defined a Content Block as:
“…A piece of content which you can add to multiple pages, news items, wherever the content serves your readers’ needs. Most often our customers will use them to create a piece of content, and then share that content across several pages.”

This most often is done with text – a testimonial, an ad. However content blocks can easily contain images, file download links, even videos.

News Item
A News Item is an individual news post. An announcement, a press release, etc. They’re organized in their own Library (see below for the Library definition) so you can quickly disperse them throughout the website. News Items may need to appear on the homepage, the News page, and other places. It’s much easier to control when & where news shows up this way.

Plus it’s easy to categorize & tag (again, see below) news items if they’re in their own Library.

A template is a collection of layout elements. It contains the structure of a webpage’s look and feel. In Sitefinity, you apply a template to a page after it’s been created. It then takes on the structure and characteristics you want to see. Content is entered after you set the page’s template. Templates are also used on widgets.

A “widget” in Sitefinity displays content on a webpage. Telerik labels them like this: “Anything you want your page to do, you must do it with a widget.

Widgets are placed on the page while editing, and configured to display certain content. Sitefinity comes with several widgets built-in, like the Image Gallery and Video Gallery widgets.

More on Widgets at Sitefinity Documentation.

The term “module” is central to much of Sitefinity’s administration. It’s a backend component in the CMS, from which users can create or modify certain types of content. There are two types of modules: built-in modules (those created by Telerik & installed by default in Sitefinity), and custom modules (modules you create using the Module Builder).

Built-in modules include Events, Forms, Lists, and Blogs.

We often create custom modules, or modify built-in modules, to meet our customers’ unique needs. For example, we modified the Events module to act as a registration tool for training classes.

More on Modules at Sitefinity Documentation.

In Sitefinity, a Library is an organizational grouping in the CMS. Libraries exist by default for Images, Videos and Documents & Files. These are defaults only; you can create sub-libraries within them to organize your files (in fact we recommend all customers do this!).

Here’s a term with lots of definitions! Most of us may think of a tag in relation to a blog or social media – “this post was tagged as ‘headphones’ ” on a blog, or “#WowWhatanIdea” on Twitter.

In Sitefinity, tags aren’t just used for tagging blog posts (though you do have that option as well). You can also use tags to organize images, documents & other Libraries. We’ve used tags to sort which news items were displayed on a homepage too.

In a blog, the Category is the organizational element used to group similar posts. The category name itself is often a keyword, usable for search.

In Sitefinity, a Category is used much the same way – but more broadly. Categories can sort blog posts, pages, search results & content blocks.

Categories and Tags work well together. Use a couple Categories to organize groups of content, then identify different content elements within those categories using Tags.

Sitefinity uses Classifications to organize content items. A Tag is considered a Classification. So is a Category.

There are two main types of Classifications: Hierarchical (multiple levels of grouping) and Simple (one flat grouping level). Tags are Simple Classifications; Categories are Hierarchical.

You can also create custom Classifications within Sitefinity. They’re great for populating drop-down lists, organizing blogs…however you want your content presented to readers.

Bookmark This Post for Future Sitefinity Reference

There’s our list of definitions! Hope this proves a useful reference for all Sitefinity users and those interested in moving their sites to Sitefinity.

Have you run across a term in your CMS (Sitefinity or otherwise) which wasn’t well-defined? Please comment or email with the term. Let’s see what we can discover.

Common Terms Used in Sitefinity, and What They Mean
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