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Top Development Terms Business Leaders Should Know

Common software development terms

Top Development Terms Business Leaders Should Know

Every industry seems to have its own secret language and cracking each code can be a challenge.

Think about when you receive your EOB (explanation of benefits) from your health insurance provider, read over the T&Cs (terms and conditions) in your new cell phone contract, or the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts list when taking your car into the shop for a repair. Industry-specific lingo is an integral part of our daily lives, and the tech world is no different.

In fact, it can be even more confusing (and intimidating) if you are a business leader preparing to work with a software development team. Sure, you may be confident that you know the difference between an API and a software service, but it may not take long before you get lost in a world of unknown acronyms and seemingly complex jargon.

One way to prevent this type of frustration is to work with a software development team that speaks your language rather than the other way around. Software development teams who throw around a lot of jargon and don’t take time to explain why the solutions they are proposing are the best fit for your company will end up costing you more time and effort in the end.

Regardless, knowing standard software development terms gives you credibility within your organization, broadens your knowledge base, and empowers you to ask the right questions to get ahead. Of course, a complete software development glossary organized by categories and subcategories would quickly turn into a TLDR (too long; didn’t read) situation. Instead of throwing out hundreds of words, phrases, and acronyms, we narrowed the list down to the top terms you may hear throughout your software development project.

Common Software Development Terms (Get the Basics)

  • Frontend development: The design that users engage with from page layout to menus. Common frontend languages are Angular, Vue, and React.
  • Backend development: The skill that powers the web, but without the fanfare (behind the scenes). Common backend languages are Java, PHP, Python, SQL, and ColdFusion
  • Full-stack development: The combination of backend and frontend development tasks. Full-stack developers are engineers who can handle everything from databases, servers, and systems engineering, to how sites, apps, and systems look and feel.
  • Onshore developmentAn outsourcing model that relies on local or US-based developers and software engineers who work as an extension of your team.
  • Offshore developmentAn outsourcing model that relies on web developers and software engineers from other countries, commonly Russia, India, and South Korea.
  • Sitemap: A file with information about your website, such as pages and videos, and the relationships between them. Sitemaps are how search engines learn what’s important on your site and what’s changed, and when.
  • User-flow map: Paths that typical website visitors take through your site–through various pages, where they tap or click, and where they exit.
  • Web app: Unlike mobile apps, which run on specific mobile operating systems, a web app is accessed through an Internet browser (Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari) and adapts to different browsers and devices.
  • Application: Applications perform specific tasks within a program. For example, some everyday applications are Google Docs, Slack, and Spotify. 
  • Plugin: This is a mini-application that can be added to a website, eliminating the need to write a separate program. Plugins are commonly used with WordPress and can include forms, page templates, etc.
  • Framework: Like the framework used to build a house, a programming framework provides a foundation for a website. Frameworks provide shortcuts to pull content, image, and other databases together to create web pages without having to create custom coding.
  • Open source: Programs that are designed to be publicly accessible (usually cheaper than commercial software or free to use).
  • Third-party software: Programs and applications that are purchased rather than built as part of the development process.
  • Responsive design: A design that changes the appearance of a web page or application, depending on the type of device. Responsive designs can resize or shuffle the items seen on a desktop screen to make them more legible when viewing on a mobile device.
  • Bug: An error that prevents a program or application from functioning correctly.

Software Development Process Definitions

  • Agile: A project management approach used in software and web development that breaks large projects up into phases (“sprints”). Progress is assessed after each sprint, and adjustments are made before continuing to the next phase, resulting in more efficient and effective solutions.
  • Mobile-first: In this approach to development, applications and websites are first designed to work on mobile devices (phones, tablets), then scaled up to work on desktop devices.
  • Minimum Viable Product (MVP): An approach (sometimes called a build/measure/learn approach), which essentially means that your developers will learn about the problem, outline the easiest way to solve it, and provide minimal features that deliver value for early users. Then, they collect feedback and build a better product for more users.
  • Mockup: A visual to demonstrate what the site, web app, or system will look like and do (not interactive or clickable).
  • Wireframe: A blueprint to present structures and layouts.
  • Prototype: Prototypes demonstrate how the final product will look and respond to commands without the backend programming. Prototyping allows development teams and their clients to “try out” different commands, workflows, and options before creating the beta version.
  • Beta: A beta version of an application or program is used by a limited number of people to test whether the application or program works as designed. Beta versions are a way of testing whether potential users find the application or program easy to use.
  • Backups: These are the critical copies of files and programs that are made to ensure that information is not lost in the event of an emergency or system update failure.
  • User Stories: Developers create user stories to help clients work through the target audience for the web app. User Stories are extremely useful in the early stages of development since they help developers, and their clients identify key requirements from the prospective user’s perspective.
  • Debugging: The process of removing “bugs” or errors from a program or application.

Software Development Acronyms to Know

  • UI (User Interface): UI is all about aesthetics and making a product beautiful and interactive. This term is usually used when discussing overall layout, colors, size, fonts, and menus.
  • UX (User Experience): UX is all about how your customers use and interact with the application or website. This term is usually part of conversations surrounding product functionality.
  • SaaS (Software as a Service): Any service that’s in the cloud. Your collaboration tools, marketing software, HR software, and accounting programs are probably SaaS products.
  • API (Application Programming Interface): This is a set of rules and specifications that help software programs “talk to each other.” APIs (third-party and custom) provide all the necessary elements to help developers create web apps quickly.
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization): SEO is used to prioritize your site in search engines. Some techniques to accomplish high SEO rankings are to use specific keywords or terms in your content and to ensure a compelling UX, including quick load times to ensure that your site and web apps are among the top items displayed in an online search.
  • GA (Google Analytics): A solution that measures critical web presence metrics that can uncover links/relationships within your data to help your business find more clients and better serve your current customers.
  • CMS (Content Management System): Allows users to create and edit websites and applications. Common examples of CMS include Drupal, WordPress, etc.
  • CRM (Customer Relationship Management): The tool that manages all your company’s relationships and interactions. CRMs, such as Salesforce, help you store customer data and track conversations and sales.
  • ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning): This type of business management software integrates financial, human resources, operational, and other programs. ERPs such as SAP and Oracle help organizations share data between the programs and operate efficiently.
  • HCM (Human Capital Management): Sometimes called an HRIS (Human Resource Information System), this system helps the HR team and can include everything from recruiting, training, compensating, managing, and developing employees. Standard HCM software programs include ADP Workforce Now and SAP SuccessFactors.


Phew! The world of software development is full of terms, isn’t it? But the good news is, with the right strategic partner, you won’t get lost in the jargon. As you get familiar with these common terms and how to apply them to your business, you’ll better be able to take a more active role at your next development project meeting. As a result, your web and software projects should run smoothly, and you will be much happier with the outcome.

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Common software development terms

Top Development Terms Business Leaders…

Every industry seems to have its own secret language and cracking each code can be a challenge. Think about when...

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