What is a website: analogies and metaphors

If you’re playing charades, you might use this gesture for operating a mouse to indicate that the clue is a website.

If you think about it, calling it a mouse is a weird analogy. We don’t grab real mice and move them around on the table while tapping on their heads.

But what is a helpful way to think about the website itself? Here are a few analogies and metaphors.


Like a book, a website is mainly text to be read. Or in the case of art, images to be viewed.

A book is linear, generally meant to be read from front to back.

A website is non-linear. Users aren’t likely to read your entire website, and won’t read it in any particular order.


Like a poster, a website has a certain design that aims to grab your attention and convey a message.

A poster can be seen all at once. Elements can be placed anywhere on the poster and it doesn’t have to be viewed from top to bottom.

A website appears in a browser window which only reveals a portion of the design at a time. You must scroll to see the remaining content.


Like a store, a website can offer many products for sale.

A store is a physical space that you move through, and the objects in it are tangible and can be held and examined.

A website is a virtual space, and the objects in it are virtual and must be described.

And so on…

There are ways websites are both like and unlike magazines, movies, public gatherings, libraries, and so on.

However, there is one metaphor I find particularly true of all websites.

A website is a connection

There are millions of websites around the world, for all purposes you can imagine. Those of us with websites are cooperating and competing for public attention, and for the highest ranking in a Google search.

At the same time, you offer something unique that no one else can match, and that is your personality. Allow who you are to shine through your website, even just a little bit, and you will be offering something to the world that no one else can offer.

Your website is not just a design and not just content. It is a representation of who you are. It is how people on the internet find you and see you. It is your connection to the public and to the world.