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19 Jan 2016

Glossary: Useful words and acronyms for digital projects

By: Nadine Ishani

We know that there are lots of words and phrases that we use during our web projects that not everyone understands, so we've compiled a glossary to explain some of the terms that are used most frequently. We have written this in the context of what to expect when working with us but if you have any questions please do give us a shout!

Basecamp

Basecamp is an online project management tool. Widely used by companies across the world, we use it to keep track of our projects. It's available online wherever you are and any user can log in for a quick catch up on what's happened lately. Conversations can be managed in threads so that you can easily go back and find information so it's great for keeping a record of updates, discussions and sign-off. It also has a simple calendar facility - good for plotting out a project timeline. Project timelines can have separate tasks, milestones and events. They in turn can be assigned to a group or individual and when assigned, it sends out a reminder in advance of anything upcoming (start or end of a task, milestone or event). Basecamp also has to-do lists. All of these features are used to help track progress. Other products are available - we use Basecamp for a good proportion of our projects. For bigger, more complex projects we use other tools - the best know of which is probably JIRA.

Mantis

Here at Tincan we use a bug tracking tool called Mantis to report on fixes once our sites are built. At the relevant point in the site build we give our clients access to this so that they can easily report an issue (strange or otherwise) that they uncover during testing and content load. Each issue that's raised is assigned to an individual member of our team (or back to our client) so that we can fix problems quickly. Once an issue is fixed it can be marked as 'resolved' and then everyone knows it's done and that they can focus on something else. We love Mantis. It has a dry interface but it's an indispensable part of testing and delivery.

IA - Information Architecture

In its simplest form this the structure or sitemap for a website. Looked at in more depth, IA is concerned with how the content (or information) is arranged so that users can find what they need most efficiently. This means organising, structuring and labeling content in an effective way. The goal being to help users find information and complete tasks. To do this, we need to understand how the pieces fit together to create the larger picture, how items relate to each other within the system and the rules and criteria for both managing and offering them to the end user.

The trick here is looking at the content from a user perspective rather than from an organisational point of view (see UX below for more).  It's one of the first stages to work through in a project and the decisions made here can influence the design of the site further down the line. Often it raises tricky questions and that's why we work with clients to create personas. Refering back to these personas can help us to prioritise content across the website to help a client meet their business goals.

UX - User Experience

This is a huge area of our work - it's about approaching a project from the user's perspective or experience rather than the internal point of view of the business. This requires that the project team empathises with their user(s) and use that to drive decision making through a project. That might seem simple, even obvious, but organisations can often have differing internal needs and expectations . A UX approach to web development allows everyone to stand apart from these potential points of conflict and put the user in the driving seat. As such it informs the language of your site, from the look and feel, navigation, body copy to every link and button.

You want to make sure your website users get what they want and need from you and this requires insight and empathy with your audiences/users. You may provide resources and pay for your website but ultimately it belongs to your users, so it must be built for them. To help with this we work with you to develop personas. Each persona represents a target audience, fleshed out with details gleaned from user research, analytics and your experience of your customers to make them feel like a real person who you can design the website for. These personas can then be 'consulted' during decision making further along the project.

User Journey

Building a user journey is a way to identify the likely interactions a user will have with your website (or software, product etc..). You can map out how it works now - and see if you can find problems that you can fix - or you can map out how you want something to work. First you need to identify the user/persona you want to focus on and allocate a task, eg buying a ticket online, and then go through all the steps that they go through to complete that task. Different segments of your audience will have different user and customer journeys - there are lots of different journeys to think about. Mapping these user journeys out will involve research and analysis and is typically faciliated via workshops, discussions and lots of post-its.

CX - Customer Experience

In a way, this is an extension of the above. It looks at the customers experience of the organisation as a whole, rather than just as a website user. With the proliferation of channels and the countless different ways a customer will interact with an organisation, it's important to make sure that their journey to the core information is as simple as possible. It's an opportunity to take a step back and review how all parts of your business communicate with your customers - on and off line. This will allow you to identify pain points to iron out and opportunities to make their experience better. 

Customer Journey

Similar to a user journey but whilst the user journey may focus on the website that you're working on, the customer journey incorporates the contact points the customer has in order to get them to the website in the first place. So it'll consider all of the different channels you use for marketing. It will also continue after their web visit finishes. For example, they bought a ticket - so what happens next? This will probably incorporate some aspect of a cycle - ideally a chunk of your visitors will return!

UI - User Interface

This is the part of the website/software that a user interacts with - to add content, submit an application form, etc...

Wireframe

Wikipedia defines a wireframe as a blueprint - which is quite a nice way of thinking about it. A wireframe lays out the content and shows the functionality of a page. It plays a key part in visualising the content model and helping to define the specification and provide a framework for the website design. Typically we'll produce wireframes for a variety of key pages (we use content types, a bit like templates, so one wireframe will cover multiple pages in the sitemap).

CTA - Call to Action

This one is also fairly self explanatory. A call to action is something that provokes your website user to *do* something - that might be to buy a ticket or product, sign-up to a mailing list, join a group or donate to a project you're running. It could be as simple as filling in a form or downloading an important report. A site or project will have multiple CTAs and in truth every page ought to have one (you ought never leave a user with nothing to do). However, there can and usually are different level's of CTA, with the more important ones associated with the site's most important user journeys or Red Routes (named after inner city transport routes along which no parking or blocking is permitted

Often CTA's will be things that are worth monitoring in your KPIs and will help you identify you're losing customers so that you can fix it! This blog post from Paul Boag outlines how to make an effective call to action.

Another, more recent blog post about making a 'crazy-effective' call to action.

Red Routes

Important roads in London are known as ‘red routes’ and Transport for London do everything in their power to make sure passenger journeys on these routes are completed as smoothly and quickly as possible - no parking, blocking or stopping by anything other than permitted public transport vehicles. Similarly for web projects, define the red routes for your web site and you’ll be able to identify and eliminate any usability obstacles on the key user journeys.

Discovery

The majority of our projects consist of four distinct phases. Discovery is the name we've given the first phase of our projects because it's where we discover more about our clients, their audiences and what they want to get out of the project (plus their relationship with us!). It involves research and analysis of a spectrum of data and information. Everything from webstats (typically Google Analytics) to brand guidelines (in whatever form they take) to marketing and customer data (e.g. a MOSAIC report or user survey). 

GA - Google Analytics

Almost everyone we work with has Google Analytics set up on their website. GA can be a very powerful tool that is underused by many companies. It can offer great insight to your audiences and help you identify strong and weak points of your website to help you improve your site over time. Other analytics tools are available that will give you different sorts of insights as to how users interact with your website. Find out more about what you can do with GA.

Google Webmaster Tools

It's definitely worth setting this up - it only takes 5mins as it can verify your site using the Google Analytics code on your website. Webmaster tools gives you insight into search, will notify if it finds any issues with your site, shows you who's linking to your site and all sorts of other things... Find out more about Google Webmaster Tools.

Note: Webmaster tools are also available for other search engines. Google accounts for approx 88% of search which is why everyone focuses on it so much. Bing is the second most popular search engine* since they now provide search results for a number of other sites including Yahoo!, Facebook and MSN and make up roughly 8% of searches.

Hosting

This could refer to a couple of different things and as such often gets confusing for those with less digital experience. The domain hosting refers to the ownership and management of your domains. Often we find that clients will own several domains through several different hosts and may even have outsourced this to previous developers.

We recommend getting these hosted all in one place that you can access whenever you need to - ie you're not reliant on a supplier to do so. We also recommend that you don't set the contact email address as a member of staff. Various renewals and verifications will use the contact address you give so you need to be able to receive them in case of staff absences or changes. A website launch requires access to this so make sure you have your ducks in a row in advance of the website launch to keep things simple.

Then there's website hosting which is about the server(s) that the website sits on. This is usually billed as a monthly or annual fee and is included within our SLA for clients who choose to host their sites with us. Our SysAdmin team manage and monitor our servers to help ensure that your website runs as efficiently as possible.

SLA - Service Level Agreement

This is the agreement that governs our relationship with our clients once a project has launched. In advance of the launch we will agree this with a client to meet their specific requirements. The SLA will take care of hosting, server/site maintenance, how we tackle new work together amongst other things.

Prototypes

Depending on the scale of a project, we may produce HTML prototypes of a website before we go into the full Drupal build. This will show you the front end of the website only (with fake/sample content) to give an idea of how the site will look and function in a browser.

Open Source

The most well known open source product that people use is probably Wikipedia. Anyone can write, edit or share content on the Wikipedia website. Similarly, open source software is built by many different people around a common framework so that it will all work together.

Open source CMS like Drupal, Wordpress, Joomla, Silver Stripe (to name a few) have thriving communities of developers around them who share knowledge, build modules that others can use and improve each others work. 

Drupal

Drupal is one of the worlds most popular open source CMS and it's the one that we use to build our websites. Using Drupal gives us access to a huge shared resource of modules and knowledge that we can lever to build your website.

Ecommerce

This is just another way of saying online retail or describing the action of selling things online. There are lots of ways to do this and a lot has been published about the best way to do this. A lot of this learning can be applied to selling tickets online.

Integration

Losely this is a way of describing that two or more different software systems can or will be set up to talk to each other/share information. There are different ways to do this. We've built sites to integrate with

  • CRM systems (most often ticketing/box office),
  • email lists, 
  • social media,
  • fundraising tools,
  • collections management systems,
  • archives

- the list goes on. Every project is different depending on the level of integration required and the workflow of an organisation. We've written a list of key terms that we think you should know if you're embarking on an integration project.

ECM - Email Campaign Manager

ie MailChimpDotMailerCampaign MonitorConstant Contact, etc... Another long list these tend to the most popular ones amongst our clients. Each have their pros and cons and some integrate well with different ticketing systems which allows you to manage your customer data in one place.

Cookies

Cookies are little data files that are stored on your computer so that websites can track users - they are used for a number of different reasons. Cookies enable website owners to find out more about how people use their website which allows them to make improvements (Google Analytics). If you're buying something online, it allows the website to store your basket as you shop and is also what keep you logged in. 

Every website user can control their cookie settings on each of the browsers and devices that they use. These different settings can affect the experience that they have when visiting the website - especially when it comes to things like ticketing and ecommerce. 

The EU introduced a laws in 2012 requiring all websites to flag how they use cookies to their visitors. Here's an example of their own cookie policy to give you an idea of the sort of information that you should include in yours - read the ICO cookie policy.

CRM - Customer Relationship Manager

For a lot of arts organisations, their CRM is their box office system. It's where they hold all the information about their customers. Other CRM include Salesforce, Oracle, Microsoft Dymanic - for some organisations it might be Raiser's Edge or another fundraising tool.

For historic reasons, many organisations have multiple CRMs set up across their organisation and don't currently have a 'single customer view' where they can see every interaction that a customer has with their organisation. This can make it difficult (or impossible!) to get a solid picture of how your customers interact with all of your services, which in turn makes it difficult for you to devise services that meet all of their needs.

PCI DSS

Otherwise known as PCI Compliance, this stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. It's a system devised by the major branded card companies (Visa, MasterCard etc...) to help reduce credit card fraud. There are 12 key requirements for PCI DSS compliance and most of the technical work falls to the payment gateway handling this sensitive data. By using Drupal we can partner with a number of established, recognised and compliant payment gateways if your website requires it.

Terms & Conditions

This can be about the terms of use of the website but if you sell anything online it must include your terms and conditions of sale as well. We're often asked for examples of these but it is something that is specific to a company and should absolutely already exist somewhere in your company as it's a legal requirement.

SSL Certificate

An SSL certificate provides a secure connection between the website users' internet browsers and websites. This means that a user can safely submit private details online to sign up to a mailing list or make an online transaction. You can tell if an SSL has been set up by looking at the address bar in your browser - secure sites display a padlock and possibly a green address bar (it depends which browser you're using).

Cache

Versions of a website are cached (saved) in difference places between the service and the website user and this helps speed up the website when it's in use. However it can mean that new content or design changes take a little while to display. Find out more about website caching.

Responsive Website

This will usually refer to the design and functionality of a website that has been built to work across multiple devices. The website will 'respond' to the device the customer is using so that they get the best experience.

Mobile Optimisation

This is a step on from responsive really. To optimise a site for mobile you need to consider that your customer may interact with your website differently when using it on a mobile device - so it might be that a phone number is made larger and easier to tap so the user can tap it to make a call immediately. It might be that you drop some images on a few pages to speed up the site load (and use less of your customers mobile data allowance!).

Research from Mobify in 2013 identified that over 50% of mobile users would abandon a purchase if the shopping cart wasn't optimised for mobile - which shows how important it is to get it right. Mobile usage has risen dramatically since 2013 so the number of customers that you may be losing will only be growing. 

Alt text

This is a short bit of text associated with an image. It will stand in for that image in the event that the image can't be loaded. It is also read by screen readers and search engines and as such it contributes to the accessiblity and the search rankings for the website.

Content Guide

We provide our clients with a content guide when we deliver CMS training. This includes details of images and typography in use on the site and brief info about good practice (how to use headers to best effect and filenames for images you will upload).

It will outline all the different images that you will need to upload across your site, giving you the dimensions for each one and the corresponding file size.  We also list out the different font sizes and style that are available on the site so that you know what to expect. 

Content Load

This is the part of the project that is down to the client. At CMS training we will provide you with your CMS logins and then it's over to you to populate the site with all of your content! The content load phase also doubles as a testing phase for clients before the launch of the website. If you come across any bugs during this period we will be there to help resolve them in the run up to the launch of the site.

CMS - Content Management System

There are a lot of these around but the one we use is Drupal. A CMS allows you to edit the content of your website without the aid of a web developer. Not everything will necessarily be fully editable as the design or functionality of a website can be negatively affected by some changes so you'll still need to talk to your web developer to get those things changed.

QA - Quality Assurance 

This is an ongoing process through the project but there are a few points where time is specifically dedicated to QA in the schedule. In the earlier stages of the project this will be to ensure that the spec and design of the site combine to meet the agreed project goals. It also helps us ensure that we can build the project within the allocated time and budget and helps us plan our resourcing to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.

You'll also see QA pop up later in the process once the site build is complete. During this period, your project manager will test the site that our developer(s) have handed over to them. They will check it against designs, wireframes and prototypes (as appropriate) and make sure that the site and the CMS work as required. The site is also checked across the various browsers and devices that we support to make sure that the user experience will be just as good across all of them. 

Agile

This is a project management methodology that gets a lot of air time these days! There's a lot written about it on the internet so I won't spend time on it here. Depending on the project we may incorporate elements of agile methodology if it feels appropriate. Find out more about Agile project management.

Waterfall

Another project management methodology and probably closer to what we use for most of our projects. In a waterfall project there are distinct phases of a project and each must be completed (and signed off) before progressing to the next stage.

Privacy Policy

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 every company is required to have a data protection policy. If your website allows users to submit any personal information then you need to have this reflected on your website so that users can make an decision about whether they want to give you their details. The content of the privacy policy on your website should reflect your organisational policy and explain to your website users what you will use their data for.

The Data Protection Act 1998 is governed by 8 key principles that you can read about here. If you are covered by the Freedom of Information Act then you should also include details of that on this page or an associated, specific page. This is another one where we're often asked for example. Like your T&Cs, it is something that is specific to a company and should absolutely already exist somewhere in your company as it's legally required.

Taxonomy

This is how content is categorised and organised. It might be that a venues events are categorised as music, theatre or dance; that list would make up the taxonomy library for events. If a website has filters on it then there will be a taxonomy library with preset options driving that filter. How things are classified should always be driven from the user perspective to make sure that it's useful and that the terms being used make sense. Sometimes taxonomy is used 'behind the scenes' to control how or where information displays on a website. 

Touch First

This is an approach to designing a website that can be used on touch devices (ie smartphones and tablets) as well as on desktop. By approaching design as touch first it means that users on mobile devices don't lose some content or functionality that may be present on a desktop site. 

Asset

A digital asset is a file that is not part of the code of your website - so it's images (including logos), videos, sound files, pdfs, word docs - all of those things and more.

Meta Description

This is a text description of your website that displays in search results. It should include key words or phrases but should also make sense enough to a human reading it that they know whether your website is what they were looking for.

Personas

Personas are fictional characters that we create with you at the beginning of a website project to reflect the different customers you have. Each of them will have different requirements of you and of the website. As we move along with the project we will use them as a reference point to aid in the design and build of the website. It's a tool that we use to help the project team focus on the website from the user perspective.

DX - Digital Transformation

This is a term that's thrown around all the time these days. It's about thinking digital and customer first to ensure your systems work efficiently and effectively for your customers and staff. This often involves working more closely across teams/departments than in the past. Without commitment and investment from the top it's very hard to get this going - a problem that companies across all sectors have encountered. There are several definitions out there - this is how we understand it. Here's an interesting bit of research and analysis about definitions and implementation by Jason Bloomberg.

There are an awful lot of abbreviations to get your head round in the wider world of digital marketing.

If you think we've missed anything off - or any of our explanations aren't clear enough - drop us a line on email or twitter and let us know!

Get in touch about your next project!