If you’re a non-technical person interacting with an internal development team or an outside web development agency, you’ve likely heard acronyms casually mentioned in conversation that you didn’t recognize. Perhaps you made a mental note to look that term up later, or you secretly typed it into Google in the middle of a meeting to find out the definition. As a marketer who works with developers every day, I know I’ve done this countless times.
The web-based software development world is full of acronyms, and it can seem overwhelming or discouraging to feel like you aren’t speaking the same language as the people you’re interacting with every day. We’re here with dictionary translations of some of the most common acronyms you’ll experience on development projects – described in real-world terms that any non-technical person can understand.
Whether you’re a student of web development, or you’re a non-technical member working closely with a development team, this list will help you learn a new language. If you want to brush up on your web development acronyms and learn the difference between CRUD and CRON, read on. You’ll sound like a natural in no time.
CSS Cascading Style Sheets: Without CSS, the web would be a lot more boring. CSS is a language of rules that affect the style of HTML content. When a website uses consistent colors, fonts, and layouts across multiple web pages, this was accomplished with CSS. It’s like the icing on top of a cake built with HTML.
HTML Hypertext Markup Language: This is the first part of front-end development that many people know the basics of. Even if you aren’t technical, you may have used HTML to edit an email layout or change the text on a web page. This language defines what structures exist on a web page: paragraphs, images, headings, videos, tables, and more. In the cake analogy, HTML is the humble, plain layers of cake prior to any decoration.
HTML5 Hypertext Markup Language 5: This is simply the newest version of HTML, which includes several features that were unavailable in previous versions. This 5th version of HTML includes native handling for multimedia. You might see this term used in place of simply HTML when a company is describing front-end development.
HTTPS Hypertext Transfer Protocol (Secure): You’ve seen http:// at the beginning of web addresses for nearly as long as you’ve used the internet. Over the last few years, you’ve likely started to see https:// on more web addresses, too, starting with banks and other “secure” websites and trickling into the rest of the web. This “s” denotes that the website is secure and all communications between your browser and the site are encrypted. You’ll also see a small lock or “secure” note next to the website in your browser.
XML Extensible Markup Language: While HTML’s function is to display data, XML carries data and explains what the data is. But as a standalone object, XML doesn’t actually do anything. A separate bit of code must be written and refer to the XML to display, receive, send, or store it. XML does not have standard tags like other languages. While a “< p >” tag in HTML always means paragraph, different tags exist in different sets of XML depending upon what the author defines each tag to be.
API Application Programming Interface: An API allows two tools to connect with each other. When we’re evaluating 3rd party tools, we look at the tool’s API to see how complex it will be to connect two pieces together. An API usually includes details on how data is structured and object classes are defined.
CMS Content Management System: A software application or program that allows you to manage your online content without writing code. Any website or plugin that allows you to simply type and change the format of text with buttons instead of code is a content management system. If you’re a non-technical person, a CMS allows you to create blocks of text, images, and videos on a web page without needing to add a < p > tag for every paragraph. Wordpress is a very common CMS.
CRON Command Run ON: Also known as a “cronjob”. Software developers use cron to schedule an event that runs at a set time time or interval. This could be an emailed update, or syncing to another program to maintain the correct time within an app. Crons prevent repeated tasks from having to be performed manually, and keep apps running smoothly.
CRUD Create, Read, Update, Delete: If someone is learning how to build a CRUD app, they aren’t learning how to build a terrible one. They’re learning how to build an app that completes these four basic functions. These are the basic interactions a user has with many apps: creating a new item, reading existing items, updating existing items, and deleting items.
FTP File Transfer Protocol: This is a protocol designed for transferring files over the web from a client to a server. FTP originated well before HTTP became the standard for accessing data online. The term isn’t used nearly as often these days, but may be used to describe accessing a remote file on a network computer.
LAMP Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP: This is the original open-source software stack that future stacks were modeled after. With these four tools, a developer could create a web application or dynamic website. These days, LAMP may be used to describe other software stacks that don’t contain these four tools, and has become a generic term.
MVC Model View Controller: As a non-developer, this is one of the most difficult terms to understand. Basically, it’s a software architecture pattern for creating a user interface. Java, C#, Ruby, and PHP for example all use an MVC pattern. That’s likely enough for you to know if you aren’t a developer, but if you really want to dig into the meaning behind the term, you can check out WTF is the Model-View Controller Pattern.
OAuth Open Authentication: Straight from the source OAuth is the industry standard protocol for authorization. In web development, authorization dictates who can access what in an application. This might mean tiers of access within an app – while an admin can access 100% of a system, a single user might only be able to access 10%. Each programming language has libraries and services that support this type of authorization.
OOP Object-Oriented Programming: Nearly all commonly used programming languages on the web are object-oriented programming languages. From PHP to C++ to Ruby, they all share a common structure that makes it possible for a programmer to more easily learn a new language after conquering one. The OOP paradigm is based on “objects” (data) and their “attributes”, and how code interacts with these items. You’ll likely only ever see this term in a job description to describe the skillset needed for a programming job.
PHP Originally Personal Home Page, but renamed to PHP Hypertext Preprocessor: PHP is a common free and open-source script language used in web development. PHP is a “server-side” language, like Ruby on Rails and .NET. This means the script is run before the HTML is loaded, not after (and is also why this term is under Back-End Development on this list).
REST Representational State Transfer: REST and SOAP are both web service communication protocols, and are two different types of APIs. REST currently occupies more than 70% of the web’s APIs, and has mostly taken over older SOAP APIs. Some differences include: REST allows a variety of data formats, where SOAP only allows XML, and REST is generally faster and uses less bandwidth.
RoR Ruby on Rails: This programming framework is built on the Ruby programming language. It’s an open source software originating in 2004, and it’s also our language of choice at Planet Argon. It’s known for its “convention over configuration” approach to programming, and is optimized for developer happiness, maintainability, and a minimal barrier to entry. You can read more about the beliefs behind the framework in The Rails Doctrine. But without doing a deep dive into how this framework differs from others, just know it’s simply one method for accomplishing what you need to build on the web.
SDK : Software Development Kit An SDK often accompanies a tool’s API, and provides additional code that may simplify interacting with that tool. For one API, there might be several SDKs that go along with it, sometimes tailored for specific programming languages like Java or .NET. A complete, detailed SDK will allow you to perform most any action you would need to create an application with that tool.
SOAP Simple Object Access Protocol: SOAP was the original standard for web communication protocols. It’s the other option to REST APIs as described above. Though it’s older and uses more bandwidth, there are specific occasions when it is still used today. When attempting to deduce the difference between SOAP and REST, I repeatedly came across an analogy for the two in regards to mailing a letter: with SOAP, you're using an envelope; with REST, it's a postcard. Postcards are easier to handle (by the receiver), waste less paper (i.e., consume less bandwidth), and have a short content.
SQL Structure Query Language SQL requests and interacts with data from a database using queries. This could be adding, updating, deleting, or altering data. This data language has been around since the mid 1970s, and is still used today.
VCS Version Control System Have you ever made changes to a document or project that you needed to roll back, only to find out you didn’t save the previous version? A VCS is a solution to that, for a web application. They record individual changes to file so you can recall, review, or overwrite those changes. A VCS helps developers stay accountable when collaborating by notating who made which changes to a file. Git is a free and open sourced VCS, and is the most popular choice. If you’re working with web developers, you’ll probably hear that name thrown around with terms like “pull request” and “commit”.
WYSIWYG (pronounced wi-zee-wig) What You See Is What You Get: This is an editor that allows you to design a web page or text as you see it, without needing to write HTML. If an application allows a user to create and format text on a web page and see changes in real time without using code, it’s likely connected with a WYSIWYG editor.
QA Quality Assurance: You’ve heard the term quality assurance in every industry. In software development, QA means testing code for defects before releasing it to its end audience. In some larger organizations, there’s often a QA Department or a team of QA engineers that focus specifically on writing and executing software tests. On smaller teams, the QA is done by a developer who also writes code. There is manual QA testing, where a tester walks through the steps a user would take in a browser and checks for errors or unexpected occurrences, and there’s automated testing that does these steps automatically and reports feedback.
UAT User Acceptance Testing: This is the last step in the QA process. During UAT, users test the software by completing the steps they would take in the real-world. This is also sometimes called beta testing when a company has a dedicated group of real users who test new features. After UAT, the development team can fix any reported bugs before releasing to the entire group of users.