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A Glossary of Mobile App and Web Terminology

Communication is the most effective when we all know what we’re talking about (obviously, right?). Whether you’re an expert or a beginner, here’s a straightforward glossary of essential terms and acronyms that will be helpful to know when building or testing a mobile or web app product. Feel free to Control-F if you're looking for a specific term, or just scroll through the full glossary for a quick crash course on tech terminology.

What is 3D Touch?

A touch screen technology announced by Apple at the launch of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. The screens of those two phones are sensitive to varying degrees of pressure, which means you can activate distinct functions and commands depending on how hard you press.

How does A/B Testing work?

Testing two or more variations of app elements to see which one performs better. Examples could be buttons, background colors, icons, screenshots, fonts, and app content.

What is the definition of Accessibility?

In a technology context, accessibility is a general term for features offered by devices and operating systems to make them easier to use for people with visual or physical impairments.

What is Agile Development?

Agile development, as opposed to waterfall, focuses on building software iteratively, according to the principles of the Agile Manifesto. Example: The project is divided into small modules (the smaller, the better) and delivered in weekly or monthly sprints (more on sprints below).

What is Airplane Mode?

Mobile feature that turns off cellular, wireless and Bluetooth activity on a tablet or handset. You won’t be able to pick up emails or tweets, access/browse the internet. It can be switched on via the Settings app or, from the control center on your mobile device.

What is the definition of AI (Artificial Intelligence)?

A machine’s ability to make decisions and perform tasks that simulate human intelligence and behavior.

What is Android?

Android is a mobile phone operating system platform created by Google. Android and iOS (the iPhone and iPad system) are the two largest mobile operating systems in the world.

What is an API?

API stands for Application Programming Interface. Together with backend databases, APIs provide a set of fixed rules and specifications that define interactions between software components. An API can be created for libraries, operating systems, and applications. A good API makes it easier and faster to develop an app by providing all of the “building blocks” for it.

What is an Apple ID?

An account used to make purchases from the Apple Store. Also used to access other apple services like iCloud and Find My iPhone. It can be set up from Settings > iCloud in iOS and Settings > iCloud in Mac OS X.

What is the App Store?

This refers to the digital stores where Apple sells apps for iOS and Mac OS X (the iOS store is usually just called the App Store, whereas the Mac equivalent is called the Mac App Store). It also refers to the Apple programs on each of those platforms that allow you to access the stores, and buy, pay for and download the apps.

How does App Provisioning work?

Creating a profile provision on iOS platform for particular app provision contains two types of elements one is the app id and the second is the list of devices (the list is only required in the case of development provisioning and not during app store submission).

What does APK stand for?

An APK is an Android Application Package. It is a file format that is used to deliver mobile apps to Android devices.

What is Arrangement Mode?

Mode that enables you to rearrange the icons on an iOS home screen or within Dashboard in Mac OS X. Identified by the ‘jiggling’ around of icons and small crosses appearing at their top-left corners. Accessed by holding down any individual app icon for a second or two. Quit Arrangement Mode by pressing the Home button, or Done button in the top right-hand corner of an iPhone X (and related series).

What are Badges?

Apps use badges to indicate a new message, push notification, voicemail or email. Each app with the unread information has the number in the upper right-hand corner of the app that is called badges. They warn users about unread emails, messages, etc.

What does Backend mean?

Backend development is typically talked about in terms of databases, which provide a way for developers to link to cloud-based storage.

What is a Beta version?

Beta is the version of your app that undergoes beta testing (the process of testing a pre-release version of your app). In contrast to the alpha version, which may not be a complete one, the beta typically contains all of the features planned for release.

What is a Blacklist?

Blacklist is a list of IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) numbers that are barred by mobile operations for use on their network.

What is a Bug?

Bugs, sometimes also referred to as issues or defects, are any sort of unintended behavior in your mobile app. You know you’re working with a proven team of developers when your bug-fixing (the process of elimination of said defects) includes mostly change requests (a call for an adjustment of the system, so it fits your needs better) and code reviews (systematic examinations of code done by the developers to find and eliminate vulnerabilities overlooked in the initial development).

What does CDP stand for?

CDP stands for customer data platform — it is a software platform such as Segment or mParticle that collects and organizes user data across a variety of touchpoints. A CDP is a crucial tool to create individualized customer profiles and begin to form a 360 view of the customer for growth marketing efforts.

How does a Chatbot work?

A chat robot (chatbot for short) that is designed to simulate a conversation with human users by communicating through text chats, voice commands, or both. They are a commonly used interface for computer programs that include AI capabilities.

What is the Control Center?

iOS & Android feature that enables quick access to many frequently used settings and features, including the volume and brightness controls, the toggles to switch Airplane Mode, Do Not Disturb mode and Bluetooth on and off, AirDrop, the camera, and the torch.

What does CRM stand for?

CRM stands for customer relationship management — it is a software platform that enables organizations to store and categorize customer data, document activities and interactions between the customer and the company.

What is a Cross Platform App?

An app that is developed to target more than one platform, using a single programming language to do so. For example, apps developed in Unity and Cocos2d-x can be exported to both iOS and Android platforms.

What is a Device ID?

This is a generic term used to describe the unique identifier each iOS or Android device has. On iOS this is also sometimes called a UDID.

What is a Display Port?

A high performance digital interface used primarily to connect a laptop or computer to a display (monitor). It can include both audio and video, and also supports other forms of data like USB. Most Macs use the same interface as Lightning to run Display Port.

What is a Dock?

Feature at the bottom of iOS and Mac OS X home screen/desktop that contains icons for commonly used apps. On Mac OS X can also contain folders and documents and the Trash Can.

How does Do Not Disturb mode (DND) work?

Mode on iOS devices that blocks phone calls and makes the phone run on silent. Useful for meetings, public events, and bedtime. On default settings, repeated calls to the iPhone will be let through after three rings, but you can tweak the way it works. You can even set it to allow through VIP callers only.

What is an Epic?

As the term implies, an epic is a relatively big body of work created during the agile development process.

What are Gestures?

A set of finger movements that you use to interact with touch screen devices like the iPhone and iPad. Common gestures include ‘flick’, ‘pinch’ or ‘unpinch’ (opposite gestures performed with a finger and thumb), and tap.

What are Haptics/Haptic Feedback?

Haptics are a raft of technologies based around the concept of touch-based feedback: screens that respond to the fingertip in such a way that it feels like you are touching the physical object depicted on them, or like the screen is ‘tapping’ you to get your attention. By adding a sense of feel, the device tells the user when certain on-screen items have been touched or activated. Many mobile phones use haptic feedback through subtle use of the vibrating alert.

What does HIG stand for?

Human Interface Guidelines. Apple’s guidelines for creating user interfaces for iOS devices.

What is the Home Screen?

The main screen that displays available apps and folders in iOS or Android. You can swipe left and right to show more apps and folders.

What does IAP stand for?

In-App Purchases. When users buy stuff within the app.

What is the definition of iOS?

iOS is Apple’s mobile operating system, found on iPhones, iPods and iPads. (NOTE: In order to create an app, the developer will work with the Swift or Objective-C languages)

What is iCloud?

A range of cloud services offered by Apple. Notable features include push email, contact sync, calendar sync, Find My iPhone/iPad and iTunes Match.

What is iMessage?

Service offered by Apple that enables users to send SMS-style text messages between Mac OS X and iOS devices. Free to send but requires both users to have an Apple ID. If iMessage is not available message is sent from iPhone using SMS instead (which is charged for).

What is the definition of Jailbreaking?

When you jailbreak a device, you remove the locks and restrictions that are put into place so that you can only install officially approved apps from the App Store.

What does JSON stand for?

JSON stands for JavaScript Object Notation. It is a lightweight data-interchange format that is easy for humans to read and write and for machines to parse and generate.

What does JWT stand for?

JSON Web Token. From the RFC: "JSON Web Token (JWT) is a compact, URL-safe means of representing claims to be transferred between the two parties." and

What is a Lightning connector, port, cable or dock?

Lightning is the name Apple gives to the connection port used to connect its most recent iPhone, iPod touch or iPad models to the mains for charging, or to a computer for charging and sync. Older models - such as the iPad 2, which has since been discontinued - use the older 30-pin dock, which is wider.

What are Live Photos?

A feature announced by Apple at the launch of its iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. If you have this feature activated, your iPhone will automatically capture 1.5 seconds of video before you take a still photo, and 1.5 seconds after, thus preserving a 3-second video of the moment that can be activated at any time by using 3D touch.

What is Material Design?

Google’s guidelines for creating user interfaces for Android devices. View the Android App Terminology Standards.

What are Mockups?

A critical part of the product design process is creating mockups, which are meant to show the end-user what the app will look like without having to actually build the app or its underlying functionality. Software UI mockups can range from very simple, hand-drawn screen layouts to realistic bitmaps and even semi-functional user interfaces. They are comparable to architects’ blueprints. Not to be confused with Wireframes - see description below.

What is a Multimodal Interface?

A multimodal interface is an interaction that offers and uses multiple interfaces for input and output of data. WillowTree specifically highlights multimodal as it relates to voice technology inputs and outputs. A multimodal interface allows for a user to speak via a variety of entry points—for instance, within an app, within an assistant like Siri, or within a chatbot, and then the user then receives information visually through an app or through dedicated messenger or bot applications.

What does Multitasking mean in tech?

In the general sense, of course, this simply means the ability to do more than one thing at once. But in the tech world it refers to running two programs at once - something that historically, iPads and iPhones have been unable to do. (You might think you’ve got two apps running at once, but for most intents and purposes every app except the one you’ve got open right now is frozen in a static state.)

What does MVP stand for?

MVP stands for a minimum viable product, which is a first new version of a product that has the minimum required number of features to satisfy user needs and provide a foundation to inform future iterations.

How does the Notification Center/Drawer work?

Feature in iOS and Mac OS X and Android that enables you to view recent messages and alerts on the device. On an iPhone or iPad, you access Notification Center by swiping downwards with a finger from the top of the screen.

What is Objective C?

Programming language created by Apple and used to develop Mac OS X and iOS software.

What does OS stand for?

The OS is the Operating System within which you create your app. (Do not confuse it with Open Source!)

What is Open Source?

It is a software whose source code is made available for use and modification.

What does OTT stand for?

OTT stands for over-the-top -— it is any media streaming service that is provided via the Internet rather than cable or satellite, such as Netflix of Hulu. OTT devices such as Roku provide media streaming options outside of typical Internet-enabled devices like laptops and mobile phones.

How does Pinch to Zoom work?

Gesture made on iOS & Android devices and Mac trackpads. Made by pinching finger and thumb together on screen, or ‘unpinching’ them apart. Often used to zoom in on items (web pages, photographs, and so on). Technically speaking it’s usually the ‘unpinch’ that zooms into maps and so on, whereas the pinch zooms out, but we still call the feature ‘pinch to zoom’ in a general sense.

What does PR stand for in engineering?

Pull Request, a way to let others know that you have code that is ready to be reviewed.

How do Push Notification (aka: Push) work?

A push notification is a short message that can be sent to app users even when said users don’t have their mobile applications open. The messages are displayed on the home screen of the device (even when locked). iOS requires that apps ask permission from users before sending push notifications; Android does not. There are two types.

  1. Remote: sent from an external source to the device
  2. Local: sent by the app to the device (e.g. a calendar reminder)

What is the Sleep/Wake Button?

The button at the top, right side or back of iOS and Android devices that enables you to wake up the device, or put it back to sleep. If you hold it down you can power the device down completely. Sometimes also called the power button.

What is the definition of Scrum?

Scrum is a strategy in which the team works as a unit to reach a common goal through daily communication among all team members and disciplines in the project.

What does SDK stand for?

SDK stands for Software Development Kit, which is a programming package that enables developers to create apps for a particular software platform or framework. An SDK typically includes one or many APIs, programming tools, and documentation.

What does SEO stand for?

SEO is search engine optimization: it is both a technical and a content-driven tactic to increase the likelihood that a website or web pages show up in organic search, with the goal of driving higher volume and more relevant traffic to a website via search engines such as Google.

What is Siri?

Voice-recognition technology featured in more recent iPhones and iPads. (The iPad 3 and later, and the iPhone 4S and later, get access to Siri if they’ve updated to the most recent version of iOS.) It enables you to perform many features on the device without having to interact with the touchscreen.

How does Siri Shortcuts work?

Siri Shortcuts is a powerful feature in iOS 12 that allows your app to expose its functionality to Siri. This enables Siri to suggest your shortcut at relevant times based on various context. Shortcuts can also be added to Siri to run with a voice phrase on iOS, HomePod and watchOS.

What is Spotlight Search?

Search technology found in iOS and Mac OS X devices that enables you to find many different types of information: contacts, documents, music files and so on. Can search through documents as well as by the file name.

What is a Sprint in engineering?

Teams working in sprints, forecasting to complete a set of user stories during a fixed time period. Sprints can be one, two, or four weeks long, but generally 2 weeks each.

What is the Status Bar?

The top bar running along iOS and Android devices. Displays many small icons related to the status of the device (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G and so on).

What is a Stand Up?

This style of meeting starts each day with a brief meeting that allows participants to know about potential challenges as well as to coordinate efforts to resolve difficult or time-consuming issues. Example: What you did yesterday, what you’re working on today, and blockers, limit to 1-2 minutes.

How do Taptics/Taptic Engine work?

A contraction of ‘tap’ and ‘haptics’, this is Apple’s take on the haptic concept outlined above. Most famously, a taptic engine in the Apple Watch vibrates in such a way when you get an alert that it feels like it’s tapping you on the wrist.

What is the definition of User-Centered Research?

User-centered research is the process of directly engaging real customers or users in order to learn about their needs, habits, and values and to evaluate and test ideas, concepts, prototypes, and designs.

What does UDID stand for?

UDID is the Unique Device Identifier, a one-and-only 40 character, an alphanumeric that identifies a specific mobile device. Typically it’s assigned by the mobile device manufacturer.

What is UI?

UI (User Interface) is the design of the mobile app with a focus on the experience of the user, keeping in mind the overall interaction. It’s arguably the most important part of your app since it determines how easily a user can make the program do what he or she wants. Even a powerful idea with great technical execution has little value with a poorly designed UI.

What are User Stories?

First, the product owner creates simple user stories, which are a number of sentences in simple language that outline the desired outcome without going into detailed requirements. The goal of user stories is to document requirements with the end-user in mind. An example would be: creating a persona, a personal need of this persona, and the reason for that need (who, what, why).

What is the definition of UX?

Standing for User Experience, refers to how a user perceives, reacts, or feels when interacting with your mobile app.

What is Xcode?

Mac OS X software development environment. A program distributed for free by Apple that enables users to create Mac OS X and iOS software.

What are Wireframes?

These are drafts used to present the proposed functions, structure, and content of an app. A wireframe separates the graphic elements of the app from the functional elements in such a way that developers can easily explain how users will interact with the app.

What is the definition of a Web App?

Web application is a client-server software application that the client runs in a web browser.

What does VPN stand for?

Virtual Private Network. This is a way to connect to a private local area network using a public network, such as the Internet. It enables a user to share and receive data across shared public networks. For example, VPN allows employees to get access to corporate intranet while traveling outside the office.

We hope this glossary has been helpful and we'll continue updating in the future!

Anne Fry

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