Tech Terms You Need to Know

NOTE: This is a basic tech dictionary that contains terms that may be found in articles on this website. The term list will change with time as articles are written. If you would like to see specific terms included in the list of if you have corrections/additions to current listings, please contact me.

Click on a term to view its explanation.


Application Programming Interface (API)

In its basic form an API specifies how some software components should interact with each other. For instance, one software package may be able to interact and use the data residing within another software package through an API. Your website uses an API if you are displaying your Twitter or Facebook streams.

Automattic

The parent company of WordPress.com was founded in 2005. In addition to providing a hosted solution to the use of the WordPress website platform, Automattic also licenses the use of the Akismet WordPress plugin for comment spam filtering.


Backend

A term used to describe the WordPress dashboard area of a WordPress website. It is the administrative area where themes and plugins may be installed and where posts and pages are edited and published. Backend refers to the ‘behind the scenes’ area which is not visible to the general public, whereas Frontend refers to the public-facing portion of the WordPress installation


Cache

In reference to the Internet and websites, a web cache is a mechanism for temporary storage of web documents such as website pages and images. Most web browsers (Internet Explorer, FireFox, Chrome, etc.) have a caching function that saves website pages in whole or part so that when you return to the same site/page the saved version may be rendered quickly rather than waiting for files to be downloaded through the Internet connection. Caching software can also be installed on website servers so that CMS-based websites which have static pages (unchanging) can return a complete page to the requester rather than generating a new page from the database system.

Child Theme

The appearance of a WordPress-based website is determined by the Theme included as part of the WordPress installation. Child themes are a way to modify the underlying or parent theme in a unique manner determined by the website designer. Using child themes ensures that the parent theme customizations are retained with future parent theme upgrades.

Content Management System (CMS)

A software system that allows publishing, editing and modifying of the content on a website. In the context of the WordPress CMS, it allows the website owner to write and revise information to be presented to a website visitor. That content is saved in a database ( MySQL ) and is retrieved and displayed when it’s associated page is requested by the reader.

Codex

In it’s basic form a Codex is a book with pages bound on one side. It was preceded by the writing tablet and the scroll as the written word spread. When used in reference to the WordPress CMS it is the online user’s manual for the WordPress software, found at Codex.WordPress.org.

CSS (Cascading Style Sheet)

A means of describing the look of a web page that is interpreted by the web browser (Internet Explorer, FireFox, Chrome, etc.) that is displaying the content. Style instructions are usually saved in a separate file ( with the .css extension ) which is loaded as the web page is rendered. The styling instructions reference specific areas of the web page and instruct the browser to use desired colors, fonts, spacing or images.


Domain

A website name easily readable by humans, such as example.com. Domain names are registered through ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, usually through one of their assigned registrars (GoDaddy, Bluehost, Hover, etc.).

Domain Name System (DNS)

A hierarchical naming system for computers web services or any resource connected to the internet or a private network. The DNS translates easily recognized names for websites into numerical Internet addresses. It is a worldwide, distributed keyword-based redirection system. For instance, this website SierraWebSolutions.com is actually at the Internet address is in the form (IPv4) nn.nnn.nnn.nn (where n is a single number). When you type a website name into your web browser and press enter/return, that website name is sent to the DNS server that your internet service provider uses. The DNS then translates the word name of the website to the numerical location of the requested website and the request continues to it’s destination.


Framework

A Framework in website design is a software package that supports the development of dynamic websites and web applications. It removes the overhead associated with common activities that are required to complete a project. Some Frameworks include libraries of functions easily accessed or database access routines. In the arena of WordPress Themes, Theme Frameworks operate much the same way – they provide basic theme functionality and styling that can be used as a stand-alone design and also provide or allow add-on or Child Themes that augment the basic theme framework to provide a unique website look.


Gutenberg

Gutenberg started out as the name of the project to move the WordPress content editor to a content-block driven editor rather than a simple text editor. When the project was included into the WordPress core files (WordPress version 5.0), the ongoing development of the project was moved to a plugin called Gutenberg. As capabilities are developed within the plugin project and are found to be stable and useful, they are incorporated into the WordPress core files.


Hosting Account

The files which make up a website (which display the content in a given manner) are stored on a computer connected to the Internet. When an individual requests a website page to be displayed in their computer’s browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, etc) a request for the appropriate files is sent to the computer storing that file and the files are sent to the individual’s computer to be displayed. The files are stored on a computer using a hosting account – the owner of the files is renting space on the computer in which to store the files. If the website is set up on Squarespace, you are renting space on the Squarespace computers (servers) to store the files. That is the same with any service which provides a ‘hosted’ solution. Renting space on the computer (server) of a hosting provider and storing your WordPress installation there provides the maximum flexibility in your WordPress website operation.

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol)

HTTP is the foundation of data transfer for the Internet. Hypertext is the structured text that uses logical links between nodes or websites. HTTP is the protocol to transfer or transfer the hypertext. It functions as a request-response protocol between web browsers and the servers were the requested information is located (web servers).

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)

The main markup language for creating web pages that are displayed in a web browser. It is a type of programming language that contains tags and styling elements usually found in pairs and enclosed in angle brackets. The tags such as <i> </i> are interpreted by the web browser (Internet Explorer, FireFox, Chrome, etc.) to mean that the content between the opening and closing tags is to be styled or displayed in a particular manner. The example <i> tag tells the browser that the information between the tags is to be displayed using italics like this.


ICANN

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN is a non-profit organization headquartered in Los Angeles, CA in the United States, created in 1998 to oversee Internet-related tasks. ICANN is responsible for the coordination of the Internet’s system of unique identifiers, including the assignment of the unique Internet Protocol ( IP) address spaces.

IPV4

IPv4 is the fourth version of the Internet Protocol of the Internet and routes most of the internet traffic to it’s specific destinations. IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses which limits the number of unique Internet addresses to 4,294,967,296. This number of unique addresses on the Internet was achieved on February 3, 2011. This stimulated the development of IPv6. IPv$ addresses are most often written in a dot-decimal notation consisting of four octets in decimal and separated by periods, such as 192.0.2.235

IPV6

With the exhaustion of all of the available IP addresses using the 32-bit IPv$ system, a means of generating additional addresses was needed. IPv6 was developed as a result.IPv6 uses a 128-bit address, allowing 2 to the 128th power unique addresses. The Internet Protocol system is designed so that the two IP systems (IPv4 and IPv6) are interoperable. IPv6 addresses are represented as eight groups of four hexadecimal digits separated by colons, such as 2001:0db8:85a3:0042:1000:8a2e:0370:7334


Learning WordPress

WordPress, although it started out as a simple blogging platform, has developed into a very powerful, sometimes complex CMS. The WordPress foundation has developed a free WordPress learning platform as part of the WordPress.org website (https://learn.wordpress.org). There are other free and commercially available sources to learn the operation and development of a WordPress website – wpbeginner.com, udemy.com, wordpress101.com, and LinkedIn Learning are a few of the more popular examples.


MySQL

A free open-source relational database management system ( RDBMS). SQL stands for Structured Query Language, the means by which the database is queried or asked for specific information from a database containing varied information. MySQL is the database portion of the WordPress CMS and is the ‘M’ in the term LAMP, an open source web application stack consisting of Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP.


Open Source

a type of computer software license that makes the source code of a program available to the general public for use, modification and re-distribution. GNU GPL or just GPL is the most widely used General Purpose License associated with Open Source Software. It guarantees the end users the right to use, study, share (copy) and modify the software and requires that those rights be retained with redistribution of the modified software. The current version of the license is GPLv4. Wikipedia


Plugin

A software package added to the WordPress installation which adds some bit of functionality to the website not provided by the basic installation. This may be in something fairly simple such as a way to display a logo on the login page (Login Logo), a bit more complex such as a Form builder (Gravity Forms, Contact Form 7, Ninja Forms) or very comples such as an eCommerce shopping cart system (WooCommerce). Plugins are available for free from the WordPress plugin repository (wordpress.org/plugins) or available for a fee from commercial plugin providers.

PHP

a server-side scripting language designed for website and web application development. The term originally stood for Personal Home Page but now stands for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor. PHP code is interpreted by the web server rather than the client (web browser) as HTML or Javascript. The result of the PHP code interpretation is generally a web page that is then sent to the requesting client. PHP code can be embedded directly into an HTML document and will be interpreted by the server with the code result returned with the HTML document. The WordPress CMS is written primarily in PHP.


Query

in relation to database operations a query is a request to the database for data stored in the database tables, often specific information with portions matching specific criteria. Such as all profile information for any user with a first name of John.


Self-Hosted WordPress

An installation of WordPress in which the website owner has downloaded the WordPress software from WordPress.org(see below) and has installed it into a hosting account purchased from a website hosting provider. In effect the website owner has rented space on the hosting provider’s website servers (computers) where the files which make up the website are stored.


The Loop

The function within WordPress which queries (asks) the WordPress content database for all items within the database which meet certain criteria (such as all posts published with a specific category) and then iterates through the result of the query, displaying the posts in the order specified within the query ( usually the newest first).

Theme

A WordPress theme determines the look or design of a WordPress website, from basic colors to complete page layouts. Some themes come with sample content and graphic media which show where the site owner can place their personal content, other themes provide a set of instructions on how to make your content appear where the content appears on a sample view of the theme. Themes are available for free from the WordPress theme repository (wordpress.org/themes) or for a fee from commercial theme development companies.

Top Level Domain (TLD)

A top-level domain is one of the domains at the highest level in the hierarchical Domain Name System of the Internet. Examples of top-level domains are those ending in .com and .net.


Uniform Resource Locator (URL)

a url is also know as a web address, especially when using HTTP. It is the address that you type into the web browser to navigate to the desired web page. A typical url would be http://example.com.


Wireframe

A wireframe is a tool used by website designers to present a web page layout to a prospective client. It is a blueprint for a web page and is often populated with sample text and graphics. The layout may be rearranged as needed to generate the proper page layout for the content and purpose of the page.

WordPress

WordPress is an open-sourse software platform licensed under GPL/2 that is written primarily in the PHP programming language that uses MySQL database software to operate as a content management system (CMS). WordPress is a fork of the blogging software b2/cafelog modified by Matt Mulllenweg and Mike Little beginning in 2003. (From WordPress.org)

WordPress.com

A blog web hosting service owned by Automattic. It provides free blog hosting for registered users and is financially supported via paid upgrades, “VIP” services and advertising.

WordPress.org

The website of the non-profit portion of Automattic (the WordPress Foundation) which maintains and oversees the WordPress open-source content management system software, WordPress. Potential WordPress users may freely download the complete WordPress software from the WordPress.org website and install it within their own hosting account or on a development server. The site also hosts a repository of free WordPress themes and plugins.


eXtensible markup Language (XML)

a language that defines a set of rules for encoding documents in a format that is both human-readable and machine-readable. The design of XML focuses on documents but it is used widely for the representation of arbitrary data structures. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) often process XML data and XML-based formats have become the default for many office-productivity tools such as Microsoft Office.

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