Keeping Up With the Coders: 10 Web Terms You Need to Know

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Building or redesigning a website is a massive undertaking for any brand. No doubt you have a lot to consider… brand consistency, SEO strategy, imagery and of course allll that copy you need to fill your site. The last thing you want is to feel completely lost in a status meeting when the developers start talking in what sounds like, well, code. Digital folks sometimes get a bad rep – anyone remember Jimmy Fallon as the computer guy? – but I’m here to assure you that we’re actually quite approachable. Here’s a list of helpful web terms to get the conversation going.


What it means: API stands for application program interface. It’s a defined set of routines, protocols and tools needed to specify how different software components should interact. We use APIs a lot for applications like CreateSend and other email marketing clients.

Why you should care: You know how the wheel works just splendidly as is? APIs are like that. No need to re-invent work that’s already been done well. They also save developers time by reading and writing data across all systems.


What it means: Typically defined by pixel width, a breakpoint is where your content adjusts to provide the optimal layout. Essentially, it’s the theory behind responsive web design and what has prompted any web designer worth his or her weight in ironic t-shirts to design with a mobile-first mentality. A common misconception is that the device determines the breakpoints. In reality, we let design and content do that.

Why you should care: Designating the right breakpoints ensures your viewers get the best possible layout when learning about your brand – whatever device they are on.


What it means: Short for content management system, a CMS empowers you to create and modify digital content without any programming knowledge. Features vary, but most include web-based publishing, format management, version editing, indexing, search and more. Think Umbraco or WordPress (psst… we have thoughts on which is better.)

Why you should care: A CMS makes it easy for you to update your own website (text, images, video, maps, etc.) without having to pay someone to do it for you. And without messing up the way it looks – no offense.


What it means: Cascading style sheets (CSS) determine how HTML should look to the end user by setting global styles for fonts, colors, graphics, etc. It’s the language that translates your web design into an actual interface. 

Why you should care: Without CSS, your site would be hella boring. You know how they say nothing is black and white? Without CSS, your site would be – literally.


What it means: A domain name system (DNS) is a directory of domain names (URLs) and how they translate to IP addresses (numeric versions most people would never remember). A popular analogy is that a DNS is the phonebook of the interwebs.

Why you should care: You get to have that super catchy, user-friendly domain name and still quickly connect your users to a remote host.


What it means: The internet is second-nature to us now (we don’t even capitalize it any more!). But if you think about it, your website has to live somewhere. Hosting means providing a server to house a website. What’s a server, you ask? It’s a big, badass computer that gives functionality to other computers and programs.

Why you should care: Not all servers are created equal. Look into what your server provider offers in terms of power, space, maintenance and security. This all affects how quickly your site runs and what capabilities it features.


What it means: Don’t get too excited. This is IA, as in information architecture – not AI as in robot temptresses voiced by Scarlett Johansson. In simplest terms, IA is roadmap of how your website’s content and navigation will flow. IA typically includes a sitemap, wireframes, data relationships and intended features. 

Why you should care: IA increases collaboration and gets everyone – including you and your higher ups – on the same page before design and development begin.


What it means: Slider is just another term for a rotator or carousel. You know, those large banners with big images you often see on homepages.

Why you should care: Sliders allow you to showcase multiple messages in a single space.


What it means: SSL stands for secure sockets layer. This is a standard protocol that secures connections between a server and browser. An SSL Certificate protects online transactions, data transfer and login information, and can even be used for secure browsing on social media. Ever notice the little lock icon next to the URL? That indicates an SSL.

Why you should care: Having an SSL Certificate makes your site safer for your users. Here’s a fun fact – it can also improve your ranking in Google.

UI vs. UX

What it means: UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) are not interchangeable. In their most stripped down definitions, UI is how your site looks and UX is how it works. UI is technical and visual – what do I see when I view a site? UX is emotional, related to accessibility and pleasure – how easy is it to accomplish my goal?

Why you should care: You want both to be awesome. And UI can definitely enhance UX. It’s mostly just important that you understand what you’re asking for if you want one or the other to be better.


Still confused? There are some useful web glossaries online, but you’re always welcome to get in touch!

What web terms did we forget? Help us add to the list by leaving a comment!


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