Lost in Translation

The key to any successful project is communication. But that can be a little difficult when it comes to web projects. The terminology used within the web industry can be a little daunting to say the least. In fact, it can often sound like a completely foreign language!

When it comes to building your website, it’s important to have a clear line of communication between the developer and the client, something easier said than done when the majority website terms are not used in our everyday language - many aren’t used in ANY language. 

To help your next web project run smoothly, I’ve decided to help demystify some common web jargon that you may not fully understand the meaning of.

With a better understanding of some of the key terminology used in web development, you’ll be able to explain any concerns you may have during the build, giving the Developer a clearer picture in the process and ultimately resulting in a the exact site you wanted.

Know your Front-End from your Back

You’ll most likely hear developers talking about Front-end and Back-end development, and like most people, you’ll have no idea what they are referring too. Put simply, Front-end development deals with design and interface (everything you see, touch and experience) while Back-end development provides support to the Front-end.

Describing the code that makes what you actually see when you visit a website address, anything that is rendered on your monitor in a web browser is considered to be ‘Front-end’. When we talk about Front-end development, we’re referring to the the work that goes into making the website look and feel the way it does.

Some common front end terms you may hear are:

  • HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) - Commonly referred to as the bones of the website, HTML is used for wrapping "tags" around text, files and images to give the website its structure.
  • CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) - A styling tool for the HTML elements (individual components of an HTML document or web page) CSS is used to place them in the right position, as well as change the color and size of text.
  • Javascript - Providing additional functionality to websites, Javascript often used for animations, form validation, fetching additional content (AJAX), and much much more.

The ‘Back-end’ refers to the functionality of the website that lives on the server and is responsible for such things as user authentication (making sure the username and password you entered to log-in are correct).

A key responsibility of the backend is to interact with the website’s database, where all the content and settings are held for the website. Because this information needs to be kept private, it’s kept on a server away from the end user.

User requests are also handled on the backend. For example, say you searched for ‘cats’ on the Front-end. The search phrase ‘cats’ is then sent to the server where it will query the database for any pictures tagged with ‘cats’. The results (numerous cute cat pics) are quickly sent back to the user.

Some common back end terms you may here are:

  • PHP: Self-referentially short for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor, PHP is a widely-used open source general-purpose scripting language that enables a website to interact with a database and perform certain functions on its back-end. 
  • Python: A clear and powerful object-oriented programming language that uses an elegant syntax, making programs easier to read.
  • Java: Best described as a general-purpose computer programming language, Java is designed to produce programs that will run on any computer system.
  • Ruby: A dynamic, open source programming language with a focus on simplicity and productivity.

Now that you know your front from your back, let’s take a look at some of the commonly used website terms you may experience in the middle!

Ajax

Not the popular cleaning brand you may be thinking of, Ajax is in fact a client-side script that communicates to and from a server/database without the need for the page to completely refresh. Often used as a generic term for various JavaScript techniques used to connect to a web server dynamically, Ajax offers a method of exchanging data with a server, and updating parts of a web page – without reloading the entire pages.

Content Management System (CMS)

Enabling the owner/user to manage the content of their own website, the CMS or Content Management System is an application or website built using both Front-end and Back-end languages. Content can then be easily created, and modified, through a user interface - without coding required.

Some common content management systems are:

Javascript

Javascript is the coding languages used to achieve effects and functions on websites that normal HTML and its variants cannot achieve. These bits of coding (or scripts) are normally embedded into a web page and will automatically activate as soon as someone arrives on the page. Referred to as a "client-side" programming language JavaScript scripts are read, interpreted and executed in the ‘client’, or your Web browser as you’d know it.

Note: Don’t be fooled into thinking Java is simply a shortened version of Javascript. JavaScript is distinctly different to Java.

jQuery

Best described as a fast, small, and feature-rich JavaScript library, jQuery makes things like HTML document traversal and manipulation, event handling, animation, and Ajax simple via its easy-to-use API that works across numerous browsers.

Get web savvy with self-learning programming courses

If it’s all still a bit much to take in (or maybe it’s sparked a hidden interest?) there’s plenty of self learning programming courses available online that don't cost a thing and are easy to follow

The best way to learn about the web is to dive straight in, so search for a course that interests you or check out some of the available courses currently run by our friends over @ the Codemaster Institute.