A Guide To Web Development Lingo

Posted by Pete Molinero on April 10, 2014

Unless you're more tech-savvy than average, discussions with web developers may leave you scratching your head at times. For example, they may tell you that they made some DNS changes and are waiting for the adjustments to propagate. Or maybe they'll refer to connecting to the server via SSH. This guide will help you understand their lingo a little bit better.

Just enough to impress your web developer.

Web developers have often spent years learning their trade, so don't expect to be able to fully grasp every concept after a short read. I won't even try to present a comprehensive guide to each concept. Nevertheless, the basic summaries that I present here will still be helpful for you; you'll be able to better relate to your web developer and better discuss and understand the project at hand.

Time for some terms.

Alright, let's jump right in. If there are topics not listed here that you'd like to have me discuss in a future blog post, feel free to post them in a comment on this article.

Web Browser

Note: If you don't fully understand this concept, read this section carefully. Web developers can suffer serious mental trauma from finding out that their client doesn't know what a web browser is.

The internet exists out there whether you visit it or not. But from time to time you may decide that you'd like to visit a website. In order to do that, you need to use a program that can tap in to the internet and see what is on it. A program that can do this is called a web browser. Put succinctly: a web browser is a program that accesses the internet. There are many web browsers that are available for use, but they all tap in to the same internet. Some of the most common web browsers are Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Opera. Most of the world uses Google Chrome, and most web developers will probably recommend that you use it. Many web developers hate Internet Explorer with a passion.

Enter a caption for your image.

Many developers love the browser on the left (Google Chrome)
and hate the browser on the right (Internet Explorer).

Web Hosting

Web sites are basically just files on a computer somewhere. There are many companies that specialize in running and maintaining computers (called "servers") dedicated to the purpose of storing website files. These companies are called Web Hosts, or Web Hosting Providers. When your developer tells you that it's time to purchase web hosting, what he or she is really saying is "We need to pay a web host so that they'll let us store your website files on their servers." There are a lot of good web hosting providers; it's usually best to just trust your web developer's decision regarding which one to purchase hosting from.

Domain Name

You can access most websites by typing a simple address into your web browser. For example, you can access Google's website by simply typing google.com into your web browser. These addresses are called "domain names." Whether you're looking to have your web address be mycompany.commycompany.orgmycompany.net, or anything else, they're all domain names. To get technical, only the first part of any web address is the domain name. In the following example, only the bolded part is the domain name: google.com/chrome. Your web developer should help you through the process of selecting and purchasing a domain name.

DNS Management

Okay, now things are getting a little more advanced. This topic is far too complex to discuss in much depth here, but since I mentioned it in the intro paragraph I figured I had better at least touch on it. DNS Management is basically the process of managing the complex system and settings that allow your domain name to actually take people to the files stored on your web host's server. This requires configuration of nameserversdns records, and more. Put more simply: DNS Management is the process of  (1) pointing your domain name to your web host and (2) configuring that connection. In actuality, it's a bit more complex than that, but that's a good starting point.

One good thing for you to know is that when a developer makes changes to the DNS configuration it can take 24 to 48 hours to go into effect. When a developer is waiting for those changes to go into effect he'll often say he is waiting for the changes to "propagate."

FTP and/or SSH

If you purchased web hosting, you now have the ability to store your website on a server somewhere. But how do you actually get on the server so that you can put files on it? That's where FTP and SSH come in. Both FTP and SSH are merely ways of accessing and managing the server that your web host has provided for you.

FTP is a bit more user friendly; it's similar to just opening a folder on your desktop--except in this case you are opening a folder that's out there on your server. The web developer can drag and drop files onto the server just like they would drag and drop files into a folder on their computer.

SSH is a much more complex way of accessing/managing the server. It's basically a command line connection to the server. Think of the movies or tv shows you've seen where there was a geek typing commands into a black screen. That's basically it. In the right hands, SSH can be much more powerful than FTP, which is why many developers prefer to use it.

That's all for now

That's all I'm going to cover for the moment, but if you have additional topics you'd like me to discuss, feel free to suggest them in the comments below. Perhaps I'll do another blog post on "web development lingo" in the future. Thanks for reading!

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