How to Speak Tech - 12 Web Terms You Should Know

How to Speak Tech - 12 Web Terms You Should Know - blog post image
  • Gregg Christofferson
  • October 14, 2017
  • Comment(s) | 0
  • Posted 4 years ago

So you called your web developer with some questions about your website and you wish you didn't. Sometimes when explaining the functionality of your website, your web developer may use technical terms that make no sense to you.  These are terms he uses everyday and are a part of his regular vocabulary.  He uses these terms all the time when speaking to co-workers, and he may use them thinking that they are a part of your everyday vocabulary too.  Many business owners, while not understanding the tech talk their developer is using, may just grin and nod as if they understood. I thought it would be nice to explain some of these terms so that you can truly make informed decisions when it comes to talking to your developer about your online business.


Responsive basically means that your website will change it's layout automatically based on the size of the screen or browser window.  When your website is responsive, it will look great across all devices, including desktop, tablet and mobile.


I used to work in construction, so the easiest way for me to explain HTML is in terms of construction.  We all can relate to the way a house is built, for example.  You first have the foundation and frame, the structure of the house which is basically just 2x4's put together in the basic shape of the house.  In the world of web, this is what HTML is. It describes to the browser the basic structure of your website.  So you have information on your website, but it is organized into headers, footers, menu's, sidebars, boxes, containers, etc.  HTML tells the browser what type of  "container" the information is in.  However, just like a house being built, once the 2x4's are up, to make the house beautiful, it needs the sheetrock, the siding, the paint and finishes that make it beautiful.  That is what CSS is.


CSS is like the paint and finishes that decorate the house under construction.  Basically, CSS is the style and design of your site.  It describes how the header, footer, sidebars, boxes, containers, text, etc should look.  It describes things like how wide, height, color, shadow, borders, etc.  The cool thing about CSS, is that if all the headers on every page of your website need to be updated with a different color, for example, all you have to do is update one line of code that describes the header style in the CSS file and everywhere that header style is referenced in the site, it will be updated.  There is no need for the designer to open and edit every single page.  This is great, especially if your site has hundreds of pages.


XML is a way to exchange data from one source to the next. For example, you may have a real estate website where you put all your listings.  Well, it would be great if you could enter your listings on your website, and then have them populated automatically on other listing sites like Zillow.  Well, with XML, your developer can write code that will format the listings on your site in a way that Zillow can then take and display on their site.  So, in the world of construction, XML is like an adapter.  Have you ever traveled to another country and found that you couldn't plug in your electronic devices without an adapter because the outlet was different?  But when you attached an adapter to the end of your plug, you could then plug your device in.  This is exactly what XML does.  It allows you to use or transfer your data to other sources that otherwise couldn't use it.


This is a file placed on the server that tells search engines, like Google and Yahoo what should or should not be searchable on your website.  It's like if you had your house constructed but you didn't want to list your phone number because you wanted to keep it private. You would tell the phone company not to list it.  This is what the Robots.txt does.  It tells Google and Yahoo not to list or search certain pages on your site.

301 Redirects

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another.  Let's imagine that you used to live at 123 Example St. but that your new house is built on 456 New St.  Well, you may not have been able to tell all your old friends your new address, so you put a sign on your door that tells everyone what your new address is.  That way, if they happen to drive up to your old house looking for you, they will be redirected to your new house.  This is what a 301 redirect does.  It redirects site visitors and search engines to a different URL other than the one they may have originally typed into their browser.


If HTML is the structure of the site and CSS is the style, then Javascript is the electricity, gas, and utilities of the house.  So on a website, the Javascript controls the functionality of your site.  Things like animations, slideshows, and much more.


jQuery is a Javascript library of shortcuts and pre-defined functions. It makes coding with Javascript much easier.  In the terms of an actual language, like English, we know that sentences are made up of words, verbs, adjectives, etc.  But to create an understandable sentence, we have to put those words in a certain order.  Now imagine your job is to  write training books for workers on how to do specific jobs.  As you write these training books for various companies, you find that you are often describing the same exact job over and over.  So to make the writing of these books easier, you create a library of common job descriptions.  Next to each description in this library is a ID number.  Now, when you are writing these books for various companies, instead of having to write the same description over and over, you can just tell the workers to look up the description in your library with that ID number.  That is essentially what jQuery does.  It helps programmers implement Javascript code into a website much faster and easier.


Ajax is not a language but a way to exchange data with the sever without having to refresh the browser.  Imagine you have a website that displays to users scores of certain sports events in real time as they are happening.  Well, you may want your site to update automatically with the new scores without having to make the user refresh the browser.  Ajax is the methodology that makes this possible.


JSON is used to transmit data between a server and a website or web application.  It is often used as an alternative to XML. All of the content and data on your site can be described as text, written with the JavaScript object notation.  So it is basically like that adapter we talked about earlier.  You have data stored on the server.  When the server sends that data as JSON, it can then be displayed on your site or application.


Liquid is a back end scripting language and this is what really sets Adobe Business Catalyst apart from other platforms.  Unlike other platforms that allow you to access the back end of the site, Business Catalyst only allows programmers to access the front end.  This is great because it keeps your site extremely secure.  But we can still program what happens on the server through the front end of the website using Liquid markup.    Liquid and Javascript are similar in purpose, but Javascript is executed on the browser side while liquid is executed on the server.  So, let's imagine that you have a backdoor to a secure room in your house that stores all of your valuable things. This is like the server for your website.  To make this room even more secure, you decided to remove the back door completely.  Now, this room can only be accessed through the front door, and to get in, they first have to go through your guards.  Now the guards will allow you to pass if you have the secret password.  That is essentially what Liquid is, it is the secret password markup language that allows you into that secure room, the server side, of your site.

API's and SDKs

API stands for application program interface.  This is how software and computers can exchange data without having to give the other software or computer access to the whole program.  API's are what programmers use to create integrations for your website.  An example of this would be if you wanted to sync your CRM contacts in your Business Catalyst site with your Google Contacts.  To accomplish this, your programmer would need create an application that uses Business Catalyst's CRM API and Google Contacts API.  

SDK's are software developer kits.  Basically as jQuery allows programmers to use Javascript much easier, SDK's are basically the same thing for API's.  

This is a basic rundown of these terms you may hear your developer use all the time. I hope that you found this informative and hopefully at least now these terms are a bit less intimidating. 

Recommended Reading

If you'd like a much more in depth explanation of not only these front end web technologies but also other tecnhologies you use in your business such as web hosting, the cloud, databases, software and more, I recommend reading How To Speak Tech, by Vinay Trivedi.  You can purchase it on Amazon.  Just click this link, or the image below to check it out.  Both the print and Kindle Book versions are available.


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