Decoding the acronyms and jargon of a tech project

The Developer Society
5 min readApr 11, 2018

Every group does it. They develop their own ways of communicating with specific words and codes that can be almost impossible to decipher from the outside. Developers are some of the worst culprits and it can end up causing a lot of headaches.

If you’re in an NGO or charity and working with a tech team it can be seriously disorientating to have to constantly interrupt a conversation to ask what javascript actually is or why that image you sent over wasn’t really a vector (this was the story of my life for a long time).

Then on top of that there’s a whole extra layer of embarrassment you have to go through because who wants to admit they don’t really know what a server is or why SEO is so important? Much easier to just nod along, really.

Tip # 1 from 10 More Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings has gotten me out of a few tricky situations!

If you’re coming from the NGO or charity world, then you not only have to deal with your own confusing lexicon from NDAs to logframes and FSAs to RFPs but also all the pain of learning a new tech language and it can be a real pain.

So we’ve put together a quick list of the most common yet impenetrable tech language to help you through. Here’s our breakdown of key words, acronyms, initialisms and other horrible jargon that might just save you a lot of confusion:

A/B testing: A test that compares two versions of content under controlled conditions to determine which version performs better.

Agile: A methodology for delivering a project which focuses on the process rather than solely the final output. You can read more here.

Back end: The data access layer of software, often all the parts of a project that are necessary to make it work but that aren’t immediately visible to users.

Brand guidelines: A list of design criteria that need to be adhered to, often detailing logo positioning, fonts, colours and other design points. Most orgs have these ranging from a few bullet points to detailed guides.

Browser: What you use to access the World Wide Web and view sites. A system such as Chrome or Firefox.

Bug: An error in the code (not your fault!).

Call To Action (CTA): A clear request for the user/visitor to do something. Important to include to increase conversion.

CMS: A Content Management System is a way of creating and editing digital content, often encountered as the way you change content on your site.

Community Benefit Society (CBS): Our legal wrapper at DEV, as opposed to a Limited Company. In short we’re legally structured to work for your benefit.

Conversion: When a person does something you want online (signs petition, donates etc.)

CRM: A Customer Relationship Management system is a database of contacts and records and a way of managing these.

CSS: Cascading Style Sheets is a way of formatting the presentation of HTML and other markup.

Django: An open source web application framework used to build most projects, coded in Python.

DNS: Like sign-posts, DNS is how the internet knows which servers your email and web services use.

Embed code: Lines of HTML or other code which is added to a site and allows content from elsewhere to be displayed on that site too such as embedding a YouTube video on your site allows users to watch the video without needing to open YouTube.

Front end: The data presentation layer of software, often all the parts of a project that the user sees from layouts to animations.

GDPR: The General Data Protection Regulation is an EU wide piece of legislation governing how organisations collect and process data online.

Glitter: Front-end content management tool we built on top of Django.

Google Analytics: Google’s system for tracking the performance of a site. Needs to be setup for each new website.

Hosting: The way of making your site accessible via the web. Typically how you purchase a URL and connect it to your content.

HTML: The standard markup language for building websites. The code that is written which creates the site itself. HTML brings the design of the site to life.

Image dimensions: The proportions of an image, often expressed as a ratio such as 2:1 (an image that is twice as wide as it is tall) or in total pixels such as 1200 x 900.

Javascript: A programming language for producing software.

Kanban: A system of organising tasks to be completed via a board system which is common in software development. Often run via a program like Trello or Favro.

Mobile app: Software designed to run on smartphones and other mobile devices.

MSA: An Master Service Agreement is a contract which governs how the overarching ways of working between organisations with project specifics outlined in SoWs.

MVP: The minimum viable product or the smallest possible version of your project you can build that has the core functionality. You would produce an MVP in order to test your project out early and modify it through an agile process.

Python: An open source programming language used by CERN, Google, NASA…and DEV.

Responsive design: A way of building software so that it presents and functions well on all devices.

SEO: A way of structuring the code on your site to make it more likely to show up in unpaid searches.

Servers: The computers where the code to run your websites and data on lives.

SoW: A Statement of Work is a contract which details the deliverables, timelines and key details about a given project.

SSL: A Secure Sockets Layer is a standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a server and a client. A standard digital security measure denoted by the S in HTTPS in a URL.

UI: The user interface is how people interact with software.

URL: A Uniform Resource Locator is best understood as the address of the site ( for example).

User testing: The process by which you can test a site/app/other build with people and record feedback.

UX: The user experience, for explain how it is (and how that makes you feel) to use a certain site.

Vector images: Image formats such as SVG or EPS which can scale infinitely without losing quality and pixelating.

Waterfall: A methodology for delivering a project which outlines a specific list of functionality.

Web app: A website that presents and functions like an app and lives on the web, rather than on a device.

WYSIWYG: What You See Is What You Get — a form of editor allowing you to modify content in your CMS in a way that closely looks like how it will present on the live site.

…what have we missed? Let us know and we’ll keep adding to the list!

  • John Dunford is the Campaigns Lead at The Developer Society, a not-for-profit digital agency, working with NGOs and groups with a progressive mission to help make the world we live in a better place.

Stay in touch by subscribing to our updates here. Follow us on Twitter too to show a bit of extra love.

And of course if you liked this article, please add a clap below and share the piece — it means the world to us at DEV.



The Developer Society

We help non-profits change the world, crafting one digital project at a time.