Join Lauren Bacon for an in-depth discussion in this video Web vocab: Acronyms, part of Web Career Clinic.
- [Voiceover] Hi, I'm Lauren Bacon and welcome to this week's edition of the Web Career Clinic where I'll explore how to build a career you love making good stuff on the web. Today I'm going to demystify some web career jargon that you'll likely come across. You may be familiar with some of these terms, but even veterans sometimes misunderstand what they mean and inadvertently use them the wrong way. So you might want to use this to test your knowledge and see how many you get right. But don't be surprised if you learn something new. Today's focus is acronyms.
Those lovely smushed up bunches of letters that can seem so intimidating when you first encounter them, like HTML, CSS, PHP and so on. So first up, HTML, the big mama of web design acronyms. HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language because back in the day, it was mainly used to write really basic web pages containing text and links. And those links by the way, were delightfully referred to as hyperlinks, everything was hyper. It was the future, except most of you watching this weren't even born yet, so yeah.
Hypertext Markup Language, also known as HTML, now does a whole lot more than markup hypertext obviously, but those are its roots. If you want to see some HTML in action, just visit any webpage, like the one you're on right now, and click view source in your browser's menu. Voila, HTML in all its glory. Okay, let's talk about CSS or Cascading Style Sheets. These are also referred to simply as Style Sheets because they contain all the style information for a webpage.
In other words, the design details, like what fonts are being used, the color palette, how wide the columns should be and so on and so forth. The cascading bit is because they have a trickle-down effect in that the first style sheet you reference in your HTML file will be loaded first, and then the additional style sheets will effectively be read in order by the client's browser, and interpreted within whatever context that first style sheet created. Next up, PHP. PHP is a bit of a tricky one because technically it stands for PHP Hypertext Preprocessor, which doesn't tell you very much.
And it's also a bit of a cheat as far as acronyms go. Originally it stood for Personal Home Page, which is another retro throwback of a term like hyperlink. If you remember what a personal home page was, you've probably been online a long time. This is what we had before blogs existed. But, I digress because neither of those definitions actually explains to you what PHP does. It's a server-side programming language, the language underlying many of the applications you probably use every day, like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, MediaWiki and even Facebook.
PHP has a reputation for being one of the easier programming languages to learn, so if you're itching to learn to code apps, it could be a good place to start. Next acronym, CMS. You're probably familiar with this one if you've built websites using WordPress, Drupal, Joomla or Squarespace. It stands for Content Management System. In other words, a CMS is an app that you use to create, edit and manage all of the content on a website. The text and images that appear on the various pages and sections of the site.
There are tons of CMSs out there, and some of them do very specific things like Tumblr is a CMS for blogging, Shopify is a CMS for eCommerce sites and so on. Okay, I want to spend a bit of time talking about some acronyms that relate to specific roles within web teams. So let's discuss IA, UI and UX. IA is short for Information Architecture, which is the work of creating structure and labeling conventions for all of the content on a website or application.
In other words, it's the art of organizing and naming everything from your menu items to the page titles and every single bit of content, including multimedia, text and so on. IA is essential to making websites and apps usable and to making content findable. Imagine a website where every piece of content and every navigation item had a wacky title that required you to sit and concentrate for awhile to figure it out. That's what the world would look like without Information Architects.
UI stands for User Interface, so it includes everything to do with the interface that a user sees when they're using your site or app. That means the content and the design, and even the interactivity, like if a modal window pops up when they click on something as opposed to taking them to another webpage, that's a specific User Interface decision. That's all part of the UI. UX on the other hand, stands for User Experience. That's quite a bit broader than the User Interface because while the interface is kind of the surface layer of what the end user sees and interacts with, the UX is about the entire experience they have, mentally, emotionally, physically.
One analogy I love is from UX coach, Whitney Hess who says, "User Interface is a car, "User Experience is a road trip." The User Experience is about what the user does with the interface you have designed and how they feel about it. So when someone says they're a UX designer, they should be thinking constantly about the end user and how they're going to respond to the project as a whole. While the UI designer is going to be more focused on testing out the design and the usability of specific details.
Okay, that was a bit of a whirlwind tour through the land of web acronyms, but I hope you found it helpful, and maybe even learned something new. In the next vocabulary lesson, I'll define some jargon relating to project deliverables, like user stories, wireframes, mockups and so on. That's it for this week's Web Career Clinic. Tune in next time as I explore another topic for web professionals. If you have questions about your web career, hit me up on Twitter at @laurenbacon, using the hashtag #ProWebClinic. See you next week.
Tune in every Wednesday for a weekly "small dose" of advice, an explanation, or an interview with a web veteran. Lauren Bacon has mentored and coached many web professionals as they were starting out and loves sharing all that she's learned from her 15-year career as a designer, front-end developer, and agency principal.