Yuck! Learn Technical Terms Related to Websites

learn tech terms on chalkboard

Learn Technical Terms About Websites and Have Fun, Too

This post aims to make yucky technical terms fun. Many of you will say, oooh, no, I don’t want to learn more technical vocabulary! Aw, come along, have fun with the explanations and definitions. Can you learn technical terms without feeling the yuck?

Drupal: A content management system, sort of like WordPress, but more complex. So why would anyone use such a thing? Well, some folks got some complex data/content/calculations they need to present. I typically won’t recommend Drupal to a small business owner, but you never know – some of you prefer complex. I’m currently upgrading a site from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7 (and having fun doing so), so if you do have Drupal questions, feel free to ask.

phpMyAdmin: Most of you should rarely have a reason to touch phpMyAdmin. But if you do have a bent for technical detail, phpMyAdmin can be fun to learn. It’s basically the guts of your database, and it provides ways you can do tweak all sorts of details inside the database. You can use it to backup your database. It can also be used to restore a database. This is definitely a proceed with caution area. Like I said, you don’t really need to use phpMyAdmin – but if you have database problems, you may be hiring someone to poke around in there. So now you have the word in your brain when your tech person mentions it to you.

SQL:
SQL is a database language. I’m not suggesting you need to learn SQL. What you do need to learn is that WordPress backups (and Drupal backups as well) are in SQL format. At the end of the backup, there should be a little .sql extension (unless the file has been zipped, then it has .zip or in UNIX .tar). How big is it? Take note of the size of your backups. If the size grows and grows and grows and grows, time to take a look at database optimization.

Below is an example of a database before and after it got optimized (and even more optimizing is being planned):

optimizing database - note database size changes

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets): I do try to convince folks that CSS is fun. Colors, shapes, sizes, images – lots of cool stuff. Here’s an easy example. You have some text that you want a little larger and in orange. To do this quickly, add an inline span tag to the text like so:
a little larger, bold and in orange
The code looks like this:

<span style="font-size:larger; color: #FF6633; font-weight: 800px;">a little larger, bold and in orange</span>

That little piece of code has three rules for the text: make the font a larger size, use the color #FF6633 (which is a version of orange), and use a font weight of 800 (400 would be normal). If you wanted a smaller font, you could use font-size: smaller.

If you want to pick a color other than orange, use a color picker tool. My favorite is the Color Blender by Eric Meyer.

If you use a piece of CSS code over and over again (or even just twice), it is a good idea to put the code in your stylesheet. But learning where your stylesheet is and how to update it would be a topic for another post (you can get started on this by reading about FTP).

Your Turn, Please

Do your eyes glaze over when you see tech terms? Or are you eager to learn more? Have you optimized your database lately? Did you even know that your website or blog has a database?


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37 Responses to “Yuck! Learn Technical Terms Related to Websites”

  1. Susan Cooper says:

    I’m no tech person, that’s for sure. Nevertheless I found what you had to say interesting, especially the part about CSS. Anytime I can change the look of something will always get my interest I now know what that means when my web guy mentions that. That is cool. :-)

    • Leora Wenger says:

      I think you would enjoy CSS, Susan. If you can learn the ins and outs of those complicated drawing and video programs, you can learn CSS. Just start with the little stuff, like how to add color, bolding, borders and other styles.

  2. Hannah says:

    I confess that I only understand CSS in this post even if I am not sure I understand how it differs from HTML!
    But I think our business students learn about SQL.

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Ah, in the early days, CSS and HTML were lumped together. But then it would take forever to change one color on a site. Now the style is separate from the form. If I gave you a page to edit in the two different manners, you would get it quickly.

  3. It pains me to say that I will probably never apply myself enough to be completely independent in managing the “back end” of my blog, but I’ve learned a little along the way. Partly thanks to you!

  4. Hi Leora, what can I say. I am a web developer by day. So these things and many many more are part of my bread and butter. BUT, I also have learned and been confused by these and a lot more over the years and in starting my blog. The key is take just take tiny bites, and to find good tutorials on the web.

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Ashley, one of the benefits of blogging is you can learn as you teach. So, for example, say you wanted to learn PhPMyAdmin a little better. Compose a blog posts on the basics, and you, too, will learn as you go.

  5. Mary Slagel says:

    My eyes don’t glaze over when I see tech terms. I love learning new things and as a blogger I think it is important to know the ins and outs, but my problem is following tech descriptions. I may understand half of it but then some words are over my head.

  6. Dan Meyers says:

    I’ve lived in the world of IT consulting for a decade now, but I still cringe when I see all of those terms!! It’s a double-edged sword for me, because I know I have to know them, but I don’t necessarily enjoy them. My first blog was in Drupal and I switched to WordPress since… and am much happier now :)

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Drupal is definitely not made for blogging. When I tried it initially, I thought I would use it for this blog. I’m glad I learned otherwise.

      For a company that has lots of events and diverse articles and a full-time or almost full-time webmaster, Drupal can be great. But it needs a techie to keep it going well.

  7. Arleen says:

    I know the tech terms you discussed, but I have to say I am happy that I have web developer so I really don’t have to worry about it. The one thing we did in the CSS style sheets is to remove the tables. Google indexes better without tables

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Tables are fine if they are used as tables. Tables for layout – that is the no-no. In the olden days (1990’s) one needed tables for a fancy web layout. No more.

  8. Edward Reid says:

    Anytime you can take very technical material and explain it in a way that most of your audience can understand, you have succeeded in conveying information well. I’m far from a technical expert, but I, like most folks, use databases every day. It’s good to know a little about how it all works.

  9. Catarina says:

    It might be great fun but, for some reason, I don’t believe the outcome of me messing around with php, SQl and CSS would be a happy one. Maybe hilarious?:-)

  10. The best part of me learning the tech terms is that I now have a somewhat better understanding of WHY I’m not touching or fooling around with any of those things. I’ve been debating changing from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, but the idea of having to wade through the strange and I’ll admit, terrifying tech world is what keeps me where I am. :)

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Debra, good point about knowing what not to touch. FYI, if you get paid help for just the part of moving the blog to self-hosted WordPress, the rest you could do yourself (maintaining the site). Sometimes getting a web developer like myself to tweak the look of the site can be helpful, too.

  11. Matti Pekkanen says:

    I’m pleased to see that SQL is still considered a relevant technical term. I was at the university when the first books about SQL, all the various “normal forms” and ER-modelling were published, and I got so excited that I ended up working for Oracle in its very early days.

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Unix is also still in use. I just used SQL last week – I do a lot of careful looking up of the language, as I rarely use it. But it’s there in the guts of many databases, whether we know it or not.

  12. Grace says:

    These are great terms to know! I’ve heard Drupal tossed around, but never quite knew what it was. And you (somewhat) simple example of css makes me want to give it a try! The sql info makes me wonder if my blogs are backed up? Is that something that wordpress automatically does? Do you know where I could find those files?

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Grace, no, WordPress doesn’t automatically back up blogs! Your web host might (or might not). There are many plugins for doing backups, as well as some non-plugin methods (like using PhPMyAdmin).

  13. Geek Girl says:

    You know I love all things ‘geek’. Although I love to ‘dabble’ and understanding the language is important, I like to leave stuff like this to the real techs like you. I like to ‘play’ once that work is done. Give me apps! LOL

  14. Jeri says:

    My eyes both glaze over and widen with excitement with learning more. I see my husband writing code all the time, so in a way I want to know more about it just because that’s what he does all day long. I would also like to know more about it because I am intrigued by web design. Even though I don’t plan on returning to the classroom anytime soon (if ever) I have one year to renew my teaching license. That means I need to take six credits to do so. I’m toying with possibilities for courses. Photography, Photoshop, or basics of web design are my top three.

  15. Adrienne says:

    You know Leora, none of us really want to even know what this stuff means but it’s so necessary.

    Around December of last year I started having issues with my blog and although I’d heard the terms database and knew that they were the heart of my blog I’d never been into the phpMyAdmin. Well I definitely got an introduction to it and found where some of my files were having issues and finally found someone to help me with those. Rude awakening for sure girl.

    I’m happy to say that I’ve heard of all the phrases you mentioned here although I haven’t necessarily had to know about them all.

    Thanks for the fun lesson though. ;-)

    Enjoy your weekend Leora!

    ~Adrienne

    • Leora Wenger says:

      So I can convince you, Adrienne, that investigating phpMyAdmin can be fun? Well, I suppose if you are looking at it due to major headaches with your blog, that would certainly not be a fun tea party of a time.

      I admire your skills in figuring out a problem, Adrienne, even if you don’t consider yourself a techie. You’re kind of borderline (that’s a compliment).

  16. At some point I might actually find some time to start digging into css more. For the time being I am happy concentrating on other areas. The writing projects I have just on their own are enough to keep me hopping like a one armed juggler with fleas.

  17. Leora — sorry, my eyes did glaze over. I wouldn’t dare try to touch my code. I’m sure I would totally mess everything up. I leave that to my webmaster. I envy you and others who are so tech savvy.

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Jeannette, and I am grateful to my plumber! We all need to know our strengths. In tech, if someone wants to learn a little, it is easily done. I’m not sure I would encourage that as a plumber.

  18. Becc says:

    I definitely glaze over when it comes to technical words. With that said, I did learn a few things in this post which is fabulous!

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Becc,

      That’s what I aim to do – make it less scary and maybe even kind of fun to learn some technical terms. In my teens the only techies I knew were male … then I discovered my mom was actually quite knowledgeable technically, and she was my first computer teacher. I got quite good once I had more confidence! Happy to teach others.

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