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Acronyms for the Non-Technical Person

written by Sue Yi

In the world of web design and programming, you begin to discover that everything has an acronym. Like PB&J, there are several acronyms that are commonly used.  To make your life easier, we created a list of different acronyms, along with their meanings, that you may run into often.

HTML – Hyper Text Markup Language

This is a markup language available for website creation. HTML is the foundational language for creating webpages and hypertext documents that create the structure within the page.  It’s easy to learn and often where many people start to learn basic front-end web development.


XML – Extensible Markup Language

XML is a markup language like HTML, but was designed with a different goal in mind.  While HTML is more about the way data is displayed and how it looks on a web page, XML focuses more on how the data is described and on what the data is. XML works side by side with HTML to improve the overall way a webpage looks and is structured.


CSS – Cascading Style Sheets

Also known as Vanilla CSS, it works hand in hand with HTML. While HTML is the language that formats the webpage, CSS is the language used to style a webpage.  CSS tells HTML elements how it is to be colored, which fonts to use, and how the items on the pages are to be organized. Every time you look the design of a webpage, chances are that what you see comes from CSS.


SASS – Syntactically Awesome Stylesheets

When you think of SASS, think of it being as an extension of CSS, but better. SASS uses CSS syntax but provides more options on what you can do with CSS, such as creating reusable variables and fancy, powerful mixins.  One of the purposes of SASS is to make creating stylesheets more efficient.  Sounds “awesome,” doesn’t it? We agree.


SAAS– Software as a Service

SaaS is a type of business model. It’s exactly what it sounds like.  Users can purchase software as a service on a subscription basis.  Some examples of this may be Google Drive, the Box, 1Password, and so much more. Rather than a company paying a license fee right up front, many software programs (such as CRM or project management systems) provide software services to businesses at a fixed monthly or yearly rate.


SQL – Structured Query Language

All good apps require an efficient database. How do you look at data in a database? This is where SQL comes into play. There are numerous database interfaces that you can interact with, but having the ability to quickly spin up a “query” to get a specific type of data is what makes developers excel in their skills to program effectively.


JSON – JavaScript Object Notation

We’ve mentioned XML earlier, but JSON is the “new” kid on the block. It’s another way to represent data, but in what the community calls “key (or attribute)/value” pairs. Try to stick with us here! This type of pair is simply saying that a key of “first name” might have a value of “Sally”. This would be a pair. The flexibility of how developers can arrange JSON data is one reason why it’s becoming a more popular way to represent data.


API – Application Programming Interface

According to Tech Terms, an API “is a set of commands, functions, protocols, and objects that programmers use to create software or interact with an external system.”  An API makes it easier for a programmer to create a mobile or desktop application without having to create code themselves.  Different APIs serve different purposes based off what the programmer needs.  For example, Twitter offers an API where developers can get Twitter feeds for their own app! How powerful is that?


SDK – Software Development Kit

You are probably familiar with various operating systems, such as Windows 10 or the iPhone IOS.  Each operating system has specific requirements in which a programmer must use to develop an application for that operating system.  Let’s say you want to develop an app for an iPhone and an Android.  Both function on different operating systems and require you to develop the app separately (unless you use the Ionic Framework, but that’s beside the point).

The beauty of companies like Apple or Microsoft, is that they create SDKs or Software Development Kits for programmers.  An SDK is a combination of different software to be used in developing an app.  When using an SDK, you typically expect to see documentation for how to write code, sample code, an integrated development environment (IDE). Essentially SDKs encourage programmers to create applications for operation systems more easily.


IDE – Integrated Development Environment

As mentioned in the previous section, an integrated development environment is a part of an SDK.  But what is it? Think of it as the “workspace” or the area in which the programming takes place.  It consists of a text editor, a debugger for any errors, a compiler, and so many more powerful tools!

SVG – Scalable Vector Graphics

Have you ever wondered how people take an image and blow it up to the size of a billboard without losing the quality of it?  Well, chances are they were using a SVG to do it. A SVG is based in XML and keeps high quality regardless of how the image is resized or zoomed in. It’s the best image choice when needing to scale an image.

PNG – Portable Network Graphics

PNG is another image type that is commonly used in replacement of a GIF and is compressed in a lossless fashion   Unlike a GIF, a PNG can hold transparency in an image, making it easier to place an image over another image without bringing a background into it.  On the other hand, a PNG cannot support animations like GIF can.

JPEG – Joint Photographic Experts Group

JPEG is another lossless compression that is commonly used on websites today.  The downside of a JPEG is that the higher the quality of an image, the larger amount of space it will take up.  However, it is still a widely-used method of compressing images.


KB – Kilobyte

A byte is a unit of measurement for the amount of space digital information takes up.  A kB is the smallest unit of a byte.


MB – Megabyte

A MB is another unit of space for digital information.  One MB is equivalent to 1000 kbs.


GB- Gigabyte

Just like kBs and MBs, a GB is an even larger unit of measurement. One GB contains 1,000 MBs and 1,00,000 kBs. You probably recognize a Gigabyte, as most phones and computers are advertised to have “x” number of Gigbytes of space.


UI – User Interface

A user interface is the interaction between humans and the computer. Can a computer user simply operate the computer software and make choices while the computer processes the user’s choices and reacts?  That is what the user interface is designed to do.  If you ever hear about a website or app not being user friendly, the user interface is probably difficult to navigate.


UX – User Experience

The user experience is how the user feels about a website or application.  Is it easy for the user to navigate and find the information he or she is looking for? Is it visually appealing? If you ever hear about a website or app not being user friendly, the user experience is poor. If users are dissatisfied when using a website, their experience will probably push them away from going to that website again.


HCI – Human Computer Interaction

The HCI is an area of research used to determined how humans and computers interact.  It focuses on functionality, design, and the use of computer technology.


AI – Artificial Intelligence

If you haven’t heard of artificial intelligence at this point, you probably don’t pay attention to the news often, huh?  AI is when technology performs tasks that prior to AI could only be completed by humans.  AI programs can communicate with humans through speech recognition and visual perception.  Just like humans, AI can make its own decisions based off data and what it learns through its interactions.  One popular AI technology is IBM’s Watson.  Amazingly, Watson has helped several businesses simply through its ability to understand and analyze data. For example, Watson has helped doctors in the medical field diagnose patient symptoms faster and more accurately.


AR – Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is a new technology that enhances our senses.  Users of augmented reality can experience reality unlike anything they could ever imagine.  Through computer-generated environments usually seen through a phone or special glasses, a user can experience a whole new world.  You could be sitting in a room and put on these special glasses and can see computer generated objects “in real life.” If you have ever played the popular app, Pokémon Go, you have experienced augmented reality. Or if you have taken a video or picture on snapchat with special animated filters, you have experienced augmented reality.


VR – Virtual Reality

While augmented reality adds to a real environment, virtual reality is different in that it creates an entirely new environment using vision and sound.  Virtual reality is often used for simulations to practice for something real, such as a pilot learning how to fly.  Virtual reality is also commonly used in video games, giving the user an entirely new experience with gaming. Just like augmented reality, virtual reality is the future.






Acronyms for the Non-Technical Person

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