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Digital deconstructed

NB this post is primarily targeted at people joining a digital department in a medium / large organisation.


‘Digital’ is a brave new(ish) world covering (almost) every sector.

It’s popping up on C.V.’s and job spec’s all over the shop. Every bank, large retailer and travel agency have their own digital department, even the post office are at it.

This is great as it creates more jobs, more operating efficiencies and (hopefully) more money for the business. But for newbies it can be confusing.

Joining a digital department / project team as a beginner can be a daunting prospect.  There’s lots of new terminology to come to terms with, acronyms to understand, processes to digest and weird job titles. It can be a mysterious place to arrive at. At least that’s what you might think, but have a butchers at this then breathe a sigh of relief friends, because help us at hand to break you in, build knowledge, raise awareness, increase your understanding and neutralise  the fear factor.

Let’s start with the basics – What is Digital?

If you ask 10 people you’ll get 10 different answers because people dress it up with jargon and buzz phrases but actually, when you strip that away it’s easy.

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So a digital team simply create stuff that customers can see and do online.

Here’s a further 38 digital words and phrases you’re likely to hear and a plain English explanation of what the heck they mean.

  1. Proposition – The idea. The concept. Everything that ends up online started out as someone’s brain child, and they like to give it a fancy name

  2. Site maps – Got a web site? Then someone, somewhere should have a site map, possibly several. It’s normally a hierarchy type diagram that shows all the pages, or specific groups of pages and how they link together

  1. UX (User eXperience) –  This describes the overall experience a user (customer) has when using a website or app, in terms of how easy or simple it is to use. So, something that is easy and intuitive to use, and meets the needs of a customer with little fuss or need for help would be described as having a good UX design

  2. UX designer – A specific role who’s sole purpose is to try to make a site / online process as easy and intuitive to use as possible for customers. They will look at things like the order information is displayed, how it is displayed (radio buttons, drop down menus or check boxes) and the number of steps in a journey to name a few

  3. Paper prototypes – At the beginning of the UX design process, a good starting point is some simple sketches, drawn by hand on plain paper

paper prototype
  1. Wireframes – An electronic version of the design, showing the skeleton (lines and boxes) of the design

  1. Customer journey – This describes what the customer has to do in order to get from A-B i.e. from opening an app to buying a product, the steps / pages they go through, the route they follow

  2. Happy path – The customer journey where they successfully get from A-B with no problems (exceptions)

  3. Unhappy path – The customer journey with the places they might get stuck getting from A-B highlighted.

  4. Exceptions – The reasons why a customer might experience an unhappy path

  5. Cohesive UX – A web site that has the same look and feel across all it’s features and functions, regardless of what you are using it for can be described as having a ‘cohesive user experience’

  6. Device agnostic UX – As above but regardless of device i.e. the look and feel and experience is consistent regardless of whether the customer is using a mobile, tablet or a laptop. This is sometimes also referred to as Omni-channel experience

  7. Cross channel – You can go into the post office to buy travel insurance, or you can do it online, these different ‘channels’ should still have stuff in common (colours, branding etc) to make the cross channel experience consistent for customers i.e they go into branch to start the process and find information but then go online to complete the journey

  8. Interface – What the customer see’s when they are viewing your site. The ‘face’ (also sometimes referred to as  front end) that allows the customer to interact with back end systems

  9. Mobile first – When designing a new online thing, this is where thinking about its design and usability on a mobile device is prioritised above before thinking about how it would work on a tablet, laptop or pc.

  10. Customer / User testing – Where you put the design, site or app in front of real people, and you test and monitor the reaction of someone seeing it for the first time. Did they find it easy to use, was the journey clear, where do they get stuck?

  11. Authentication – This one relates to security and who gets to see different features and functions. When a customer logs in to a site or app the company will need to check or ‘authenticate’ that the customer is who they say they are. There may be different levels of authentication. In the case of a bank, if you don’t log in you will not get access to any personal or account information. If you log in with a username and passcode you will get access to personal information and a limited set of functionality. In order to access everything, you need to log in using a PinSentry device. For sites like Amazon authentication levels are the difference between logging in as a guest, or signing up to become a member of the site

  12. Secure – online features or functionality that can only be accessed by those who log in (like the 1-Click purchase function on Amazon)

  13. Unsecured / public – online features or functions that can be accessed by anyone

  14. Accessibility – Websites and apps should be available to all customers, including those who are blind, deaf, have learning difficulties or are impaired in some other way. This can range from providing the ability to change the font size and contrast of a site / app, to being fully audible through screen reader software, or providing subtitles on videos. As well as this being the right thing to do, there’s also a legal reason: if your website does not meet certain design standards, then you could be sued for discrimination

  1. Mobile – This could mean many things to many people so here’s a detailed separate post all about this one

  2. Big data – Normal data is no longer much of a ‘thing’ but Big Data? Well now you’re talking! It’s a term that refers to the fact that so much digital data is being collected that traditional processing applications like access and excel can’t cope. You need specific tools, and individuals with specific skills in order to process, digest and understand these huge data sets

  3. Multi-variant testing – Also known as A/B testing, this is where you put 2 or more variations of the same content live (i.e. 2 versions of your home page), and split customers (so 50% land on homepage A and 50% land on homepage B) for a set period of time. You track the stats and then decide on the ‘winner’ I.e. The one which had the higher conversion rate ( or what ever else your success factors were)

  4. Conversion rates – Statistics that tell you how many people start and finish the purchase of a product online

  5. NPS – Net Promoter Score. A score that indicates how likely is it that someone would recommend your service to someone else

  6. SEO – Search engine optimisation. Huh? This one’s a bit of a buzz phrase right now, so what the heck does it mean? It’s about getting your site high up the rankings of search engines. In short the better your SEO the higher up search engine ranking your site will appear. To appear in the first page of results of a Google search is the dream for most companies

  1. MI – Management information. This is just data dressed up in a pretty frock and a sparkly hand bag (or more likely pie charts and bar graphs so that people can more easily understand it)

  2. Tagging – This is how you get management information. At various places on a customer journey there will be hidden ‘tags’ that when triggered (by clicking on a button, landing on a page, entering information into a field for example) log a data point

  3. QA – Quality assurance. A role who’s responsible for ensuring that any new online functions / journeys maintains a certain level of quality that is expected. They normally work closely with testers


  1. SIT (System Integration Testing). This is to check that different back end systems are talking to each other (when needed)

  2. UAT (User Acceptance Testing). This is to check that the customer journeys work and meet the original requirements

  3. OAT (Operational Acceptance Testing). This is to check that a product or service is ready to be released, but rather than from a technical point of view, from an operational point of view i.e. are there people somewhere who need to support this process, say,  if a customer wants to call someone to talk about it, is the team who receive the phone call ready?

  4. LCT (Live Confidence Testing). Once a product or service is live, or just about to be made live this is a sanity check that everything is still working as expected

  5. Performance testing – Where a test of a large volume of transactions or users simultaneously go through a process. There are normally programs used to do this automatically rather than actually having to find 100 people to click a button at the same time!

  6. Penetration testing (oo er…!) – Some companies employ hackers to try to attack and break your new process, in order to identify any vulnerabilities and see if they can ‘penetrate’ your site

  1. Copy – The words you see on a site / app

  2. Copy writers – People who write the words you see on the site. They take into account the companies tone of voice, brand strategy, content strategy and marketing principles to name a few

  3. Sub editors – Working closely with the copywriter to do a peer review and check the words are fit for purpose, before being published by the …

  4. Content producers – People who ensure the content appears in the right place on the right page, normally using the…

  5. CMS – Content management system. An application that allows creation, editing, deletion, organisation and general maintenance of online content, through a central interface


  1. Stakeholder – Some other people you may need to work with on digital project, who have a vested interest in it

  2. Legal – Lawyers who make sure that what is being put online is not unlawful / illegal

  3. Compliance – People who ensure that what is put online is compliant with regulation and restrictions that impact the given industry

  4. Risk – People who assess the potential harm a new process or copy may cause your company. There are usually different levels of this such as Financial risk, Repetitional Risk etc

  5. Privacy – People who make sure customers data is safe and secure

  6. Ecrime – People who make sure customers aren’t being exposed to fraud

  7. Marketing – People who figure out how to tell people about the new process. Letters to customers, emails, adverts on the site, adverts on TV etc.

  8. Business – Within the company there will be people who are ultimately responsible for the new product or service and for the commercial benefit this may have


Wow. That’s a pretty big list.

Don’t try and digest it all, but bookmark it to use as a reference point for when you get stuck. Share it with people who are new to digital projects or thinking of getting involved.

The good news is that Digital projects typically follow the same lifecycle as any other project. Something along the lines of: Initiation – Plan – Build – Test – Implement – Close – Track benefits.

It’s just the nuances of what get’s done in each stage and the stakeholders that may be different, but now when people talk about it, hopefully you’ll have a good foundation of understanding. Score!

I’m sure there’s some stuff I’ve missed so please add it to the comments below.

Good luck on your digital journey and welcome to the mad house!

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