What Are They Saying? A Glossary of Developer Terms

  • Elizabeth Heil
  • February 28, 2019

Every industry has their own jargon – terms that may mean absolutely nothing to people outside of that industry. Those terms are of course relevant to the people that work in that space every day, but there is an important group of people that may need a crash course in what those terms mean: your clients. It is not uncommon for us to be in client meetings and be met with blank stares as we discuss “API connections”, “UI”, or even “WYSIWYG”. While we don’t expect our clients to have an in-depth knowledge about all the work our development team is doing, we do want them to feel equipped to engage in conversations about project work. In an effort to help our clients better understand our process and approach to project work, our team compiled a list of several terms we use on a regular basis.

Commonly Used Development Terms

  • API (Application Programming Interface): An API is the software go-between that allows two applications to talk to each other.
  • Back End vs. Front End (of your web application): The front end of your web app is the design of the page and the scripts (or commands) that run on your own browser (such as Chrome or Safari) to generate the correct user experience. The front end is the part of the web application that your end user interacts with the most. The back end of your application is the code that lives on the web server. This code talks to the front end and interacts with a database to save and retrieve your data, send emails, and create reports. The back end includes stored procedures or functions, as well as where your data is stored.
  • CMS (Content Management System): This is a software program that allows you to manage your content without having to write code. You can simply type and change the format of text, images, and videos. WordPress is an example of a CMS.
  • CSS (Cascading Style Sheets): CSS is a language of rules that affect the style of content to keep colors, fonts and layouts consistent across an entire website or application.
  • Debug Mode: A developer can run their code in debug mode on their own development machine. This allows them to walk through the code line by line if needed to attempt to identify an issue. This mode is critical to finding and correcting any reproducible “bug”. The debug mode must be done in a development environment that has all the source code.
  • HTML (Hypertext Markup Language): HTML is used to build out and edit the front end of a webpage or email. It defines what structures exist, such as headings, paragraphs, tables, and images.
  • HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol [Secure]): You’ve likely noticed http:// at the beginning of a website address. Over the past several years, you’ve started to see https:// on more web addresses, particularly banks and other “secure” websites. The “s” means that the website is secure and all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted. There is usually a small lock icon next to the website address.
  • Modal: A modal is a popup window that shows up in front of the main window you were originally viewing. It is often used to fill out forms. The user must interact with the modal before they can return to the main window.
  • QA: Quality Assurance is a term used in many industries. For software development, QA is the process for testing code in an effort to make sure it is working as expected and to identify any defects, or bugs, that need fixing before pushing that code live.
  • UI:  User Interface is the view that a user interacts within a software application. This is the human interaction with the technology.
  • UX: User experience is the overall experience of a person using the application. We often discuss the ideal user experience to map out exactly how we intend for a user to move through a particular page and how we want them to interact with the application.
  • WYSIWYG: Pronounced “wiz-ee-wig”, this is an acronym for “what you see is what you get”. A WYSIWYG editor is a system in which you can edit text and graphics in a form that closely resembles how that content appears when printed or displayed as a finished product, such as a web page.

While this is by no means a comprehensive list of all the relevant terms in the software development industry, we hope it at least gives you a strong foundation to start from as you engage with your development team. In the meantime, browse some of our projects to see these terms and others in action.