Mobile Dictionary: Lingo Every Startup Founder Needs to Know

There’s a lot of lingo that goes along with mobile development and startup culture. Some terms are commonplace, but others might leave you nodding your head as your developers and designers geek out.

Development Terms

Android: Mobile operating system created and maintained by Google. “Open” system able to be licensed and modified by other companies like Samsung, Motorola, etc. for their own devices.

API: Application Program Interface. A set of routines, protocols, and tools for interacting with an app or system.

APK: Android Application Package. APK files store Android apps and can easily be transferred to any Android devices for testing and distribution.

Asset: Images or icons that are being used in an app. For example, a ‘login button’ would have a visual image ‘asset’ stored in the software.

Backend: Code in the cloud acting “behind the scenes”, responsible for providing the front end with necessary data.

Bug: An error in an app’s code, design or framework causing a feature to not work as expected.

CSV: Comma Separated Values. Like a spreadsheet, but condensed down to be super-efficient for a computer to process. Annoying for a human to read because it’s full of commas.

Database: A collection of information that is organized so it can easily be accessed, managed and updated. Also similar to a spreadsheet but dynamic and massive.

Frontend: The user-facing app (aka what users are interacting with). If your app were a car, this is the steering wheel, shifter, leather seats, etc.

IAP: In-app purchase. Additional content, services and features that can be bought in an app

iOS: Mobile operating system created and maintained by Apple. “Closed” system that only Apple is allowed to use.

.ipa: A type of file that stores iOS apps and can be transferred to specific iOS devices pre-approved for testing and distribution.

MVP: Minimum Viable Product. The first version of the app created with only the core functionality required to make the product viable in the market.

Operating System: Software that allows devices to run applications and programs.

Programming: The process of developing and implementing various sets of instructions to enable a computer program to do certain tasks.

Provisioning Profile: A list of devices allowed to install a beta version of an iOS app. Every time a new device wants to install a beta build, the provisioning profile must be updated to include the new device, and a new build sent out.

Push Notifications: A feature that allows an app to notify users of a new message or event even when the user is not actively using the app.

QA: Quality Assurance. Testing the app to ensure that functionality works as designed and exposes any bugs so they can be fixed.

SDK: Software Development Kit. A set of software development tools that allows developers to use an app or system within their own app. For example, Paypal provides an SDK so you can use their payment system in your app.

Server: A computer (or cluster of “cloud” computers) that runs the backend. A common and familiar use for servers is to host websites.

SSL: Secure Sockets Layer. A layer of encryption that enables use of HTTPS web connections which are more secure. We recommend implementing this for every app.

Design Terms

High-level Systems Map: An abstract diagram of the front-end architecture that details the user flows and front-end systems.

Interactive Prototype: A prototype designed to simulate a scripted user experience with basic responsive elements and actions set into a fully designed visual framework.

Prototype: An early-stage product design for testing purposes. The complexity of a prototype can range from a basic paper prototype through interactive prototypes and even a fully functional prototype.

UI: User Interface. The tools for passing information and commands between human and device.

UX: User Experience. The way people interact with a product.

User Stories & Storyboards: A way of writing human-centric development requirements. User Stories and Storyboards picture how potential users might go through a successful interaction with a mobile app from beginning to end.

Style Guide: Outlines the visual elements of the app project and gives specific guidelines for their use beyond V1 development. It focuses on the practical use of various UI elements, screenshots, iconography, color palette, typography and more for use in marketing efforts or updates and upgrades.

Wireframe: A diagram of a user interface layout plan.


A/B Testing: Comparing two variations of a feature with live users and determining which one performs better.

Analytics: Studying historical app data. Installing common analytics tools like Google Analytics, Flurry Analytics, etc. allows you to analyze user behavior data and identify relevant trends that can be used to improve the quality of your app.

ASO: App Store Optimization. The process of improving the visibility of a mobile app in an app store

Churn Rate: The percentage of customers that stop using the app within given timeframe. Defined as the number of customers lost in a given period divided by the number of customers at start of period.

Daily Active Users: Or DAUs. The number of people using your app daily.

Lifetime Value: How much value the average user provides throughout the time they interact with your app/business.

Monthly Active Users: Or MAUs. The number of people who have used your app in a given month.

Retention Rate: The percentage of users you’re retaining.

Return on Investment: Or ROI. A performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments.

Stickiness: How often people come back to your app.

To learn more about what it takes to turn an app idea into a scalable and successful business download our PDF.

This post originally appeared on our App Partner resource center. Click here for more.