Development Terms and Abbreviations

When I first joined the world of professional development, I felt bombarded with terms and abbreviations I didn’t yet understand. Of course, I knew the basics, like HTML and CSS, but when CMS, GUI, API and Git all got thrown at me in the same day, I must admit I was lost. At times like these, I usually turn to Google and Wikipedia, but more often than not I left more confused than I started.

So, I’m going to attempt to explain the main ones in human terms, while having a good excuse to use some semantic <dt> and <dd> tags.


CDN – Content Delivery Network
A server that distributes your files based on the location of the user accessing the file. Basically, instead of delivering common libraries like Bootstrap, Normalize.css, and jQuery over your slow server, access the power of Google and make them handle it.
GUI – Graphical User Interface
Almost any software you use is likely a GUI. It’s an image-based, user-friendly program. Windows is a GUI for MS DOS; SourceTree/Tower is a GUI for Git. We use the word a lot as developers, because we can do a lot through Terminal and the command line, and using a GUI might be optional.
VCS – Version Control Software
Git is a version control software software. It’s used to keep track of changes in your code. It’s not even close to being the only one, but it’s definitely the most ubiquitous and trendy at the moment.
API – Application Program Interface
Usually, a third party software you can embed into your website. For example, you would use the Twitter API to embed tweets into your site/app, or the Google Maps API to embed a Google map into your site/app.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization
Clients want to know that you’re doing everything you can to give traction to their sites. It’s helpful to submit your site in a Seo Site Checker to see what you can do to improve it.
(S)FTP – (Secure) File Transfer Protocol
A way of transferring your files from one host to another. Usually used to transfer files from local (your computer) to live (the server provided by your host).

SSH – Secure Shell
A secure way of accessing your site and files through the command line. Generally more secure than SFTP, but with less GUI.
WYSIWYG – What You See Is What You Get
A drag-and-drop interface for creating websites. Useful for clients who have no knowledge of coding to be able to edit their sites.
DOM – Document Object Model
JavaScript communicates with your browser through the DOM. JS is an “object-oriented” programming language, in that it organizes things into objects to later manipulate. Your entire browser is just an object to JavaScript. HTML tags are one layer of objects, or a node. A class applied to a tag is another layer.
CMS – Content Management System
WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla are the three most popular content management systems. In a static HTML website, you have to edit everything through code. Any system where you edit content through an admin panel or back end is a CMS – such as this blog.

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