Boost recurring donations this giving season with the new upsell prompt!Learn How >>

Glossary of Terms


Here at PICnet we understand there is a lot of web jargon that gets thrown around. We know not everyone can keep track of the endless stream of acronyms that get used while you are working with technology companies like us. Though we try to keep the language simple we know that we too are guilty of dropping a CSS or a MySQL bomb every now and again. So, we have gone ahead an put together this short glossary of the most popular web terms that you might hear while working with us on your website. Don't worry, there won't be a vocab quiz at the end.

API: stands for Application Programming Interface. An API is an interface that allows a program to communicate with another program. APIs are often used to connect your website to other services such as a bulk email provider (like MailChimp or Constant Contact) so that you can collect email addresses on your site and have them added to your email list within your email provider account automatically.

Backend: The backend is the place you go to make edits and changes to your site. If your website was a home, you could think of the backend as the kitchen or the place where the food (content) is prepared.

CMS: stands for Content Management System. For the web, a CMS is a web based software program that helps to built and maintain the content that goes on your website. It manages all of your site content including images, files, and text.

CRM: stands for Customer Relationship Management. Many clients tie their website to a CRM platform such as Salesforce so that they can track their constituents. Common things to track include constituent data (name, email, address), donation history, involvement with your organization, and more. CRMs can be very powerful as they help organizations build stronger relationships with their supporters and mangage their communication with these valued supporters.

CSS: stands for Cascading Style Sheet. This is a file that lives on your website and controls how various elements look. The power of CSS is that one file dictate the styles across every page in your site. It dictates the site font, colors, header styles, and more. Prior to the creation of CSS, styles had to be added to elements on a page-by-page basis. As you can imagine doing this could be very time consuming and it was easy for page styles to become inconsistent. With CSS, if you change a header style on the stylesheet of your site the change is global and goes into effect across all pages of your site simultaneously.

DNS: stands for Domain Name Service. This is a computer program that translates domain names into IP addresses. This tool is important because providing a unique IP address (or unique number identifying every computer on the internet) allows for the proper transfer of files and assets on the web.

Embed: When you embed something on your site it means that it still lives at the original location (for example embedded videos from YouTube still live on YouTube) but it appears on a page within your site. The value of embedding assets is that you don't have to own or store the asset yourself. This is important because certain assets such as videos take up a lot of room and can eat up the storage space on your hosting account. In addition, large assets stored locally could cause your site to load more slowly.

Frontend: The frontend of your site is the public facing view of your site. This is where people come when they type your organization URL into the browser address bar. For example, when I navigate to I am seeing the frontend of our site. If your website was a home, you could think of the frontend as the dining room or the place where the food (content) is presented and eaten.

HTML: stands for Hypertext Markup Language. HTML is the language of the web. It is made up of a series of tags that determine the layout, content, and formatting of a web page. Web browsers use these language cues to determine how to present your site content.

Internet: The internet is network that connects millions of computers throughout the world. Every time you connect to a website, information and files that are hosted at a server (live on another computer) are called by a browser and displayed for you on your own computer.

JavaScript: is the most popular scripting language on the internet. What can you use it for? Is can be used within a website to create specific actions that take place on a given page. JavaScript is frequently used for validating forms, creating image rollovers, and to open pop-up windows. It is not a stand alone language, meaning you cannot use it alone to build a whole website. Instead, it works with other languages and platforms to add additional special site functionality.

Joomla!: is one of the most popular open-source CMS platforms. Open source means that the underlying code that runs the platform is not owned by anyone person or company. Instead the code is free and public. Joomla! has been created by thousands of contributors across the globe. It has gotten widespread popularity due to how flexible it is for building various different types of websites. In addition, it has become popular in part due to its easy to use backend or administrator interface that enables even the accidental techie to make edits and changes to their website. Non-profit Soapbox is built on Joomla!

Keywords: are words on your site that can be added directly into the site content or into the meta data so that search engines can more easily understand what the content is about and recommend your site to individuals who are searching for similar or related terms.

Meta Data: is information or words that describe various elements on your site. Meta data is used by search engines so that they can read all of the various elements on your site and understand what it is about. Meta Data is especially important for items on your site that are not text based such as images and videos so that search engines still know what these elements are and can get a complete picture of the content on your website.

MySQL: is a free open source database software that is frequently used on the web. When you build a website using a CMS (content management system) it still needs a database working in the background to help organize the site files and content. Many popular CMS platforms are built using a MySQL database.

Phil Penn Gwynn: Phil Penn Gwynn is the Online Communications Director / Bookkeeper / Database Administrator / Webmaster / Video Blogger at At approximately three feet tall, this inflatable penguin has become a beloved PICnet client. Phil has been doing contract work for many of our other clients and partners and can be seen helping NTEN raise funds, the Government Accountability Project fight corruption, and Active Minds boost company morale.

PHP: stands for Hypertext Preprocessor. It is a programming language that developers use to create dynamic web content that interacts with a database (often a MySQL database). Joomla! is written using PHP.

PICnet: Founded in 2001 by CEO Ryan Ozimek, PICnet is a web services company that has brought open source software and services to the hard-working non-profits and socially responsible businesses that make our world a better place. From enhancing online communications to building mission critical online applications, PICnet has positioned itself as a leader in Web software development, leveraging existing technologies and building unique solutions for the non-profit sector.

SAAS: stands for Software as a Service. SAAS " is a software delivery model in which software and associated data are centrally hosted on the cloud. SaaS is typically accessed by users using a thin client via a web browser." [source:]

Salesforce: is a cloud based CRM tool. This powerful database is becoming extremely popular due to its easy to use interface, flexibility, and ability to be customized to meet a company or organization's specific needs.

SEO: stands for Search Engine Optimization. This is all of the various activities and configurations that you can do in order to optimize your website for search engines. This includes creating valuable content, including relevant keywords in your site content and meta data, getting linkbacks to your site, and creating a sitemap. For more SEO tips and tricks watch this SEO your web page for Google video ยป.

Web Domain: This is the same as a URL. It is your company or organization's unique address where your site lives.

Web Server: A web server is basically just another computer that stores your site files and delivers them to other computers via a web browser when they are called for by someone visiting your site domain.

WYSIWYG: stands for What You See is What You Get. This is a web editor that basically provides various tools and buttons similar to those found in the toolbar of Microsoft Word. These tools help you to style and edit your site content on many different CMS or other web based platforms.

Interested in learning more? Check out this extended glossary provided by ยป

Have more questions? Submit a request
Article is closed for comments.