20 Digital Design Terms Every Entrepreneur Should Understand

by Josh Kissel

Here’s a list of a few terms to help you and your designer get on the same page. While this is in no way an exhaustive list, it should help you better communicate in the digital product design space. In no time you’ll know the difference between cmyk and ymca*.

Art Board
The digital version of a canvas within a design tool (e.g. Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketch). The artboard contains designs for a screen usually sized to whatever device(s) the product needs. Additionally, an artboard usually only has one view (see view) or state (see state) design.

[Clickable] Prototype
When designing a digital product, often times you want to test how the product looks, feels, and interacts on a device. A clickable prototype allows you to test the look, feel and interactions throughout your digital experience without having to code anything. Clickable prototypes are usually created in a tool like Invision or Marvel.

Design Thinking
Design thinking is a creative thinking process to help you approach problems in a new way. Design thinking is a solution-focused process. Define. Test. Build. Learn. Repeat.

Design Sprint
A process popularized by Google Ventures, designed to turn a half-baked idea into a testable prototype in as little as 5 days. Design sprints are a series of facilitated group and individual sessions that help a group define a challenge, explore options, make calculated assumptions, build a prototype, test a solution or two, and quickly apply what you’ve learned.

End User
The end user is the known or assumed person for whom you are building the digital product.

Hierarchy can refer to color, typography, shapes, or information. Hierarchy speaks to how a user sees and interacts with elements on a page. Each page of a digital product should have it’s own hierarchy to accurately represent the importance of each element.

Intuitive is used when referring to how easy is it for a user to interact with your digital product. This is directly related to Ux design.

Lorem Ipsum
Lorem ipsum is dummy or filler text. The “language” is based on a few latin texts and aims to mimic the natural flow of English writing. In other words, Lorem ipsum is placeholder content (see placeholder).

A mockup is a visual representation of your digital product. It is a presentation of the design that shows the look and feel of the product but is not interactive like a clickable prototype (see clickable prototype).

An MVP is the minimum set of features in a product or website needed in order to test it with potential clients or early adopters. After receiving feedback from the product’s initial users, additional features are designed and developed.

Pain Points
Pain points are areas that are identified as confusing or unintuitive after testing a prototype with end users (see prototype and end users).

Placeholder [Content]
Placeholder content can be text, graphics, images or photos. A placeholder is meant to be “dummy” or filler content while the true content is being created.

A roadmap is an overview of the steps your product is planning to take, either in terms of development or growth. It’s a tool to help make sure your decisions best serve the overall product success. Additionally, Differential uses a visual roadmap as a way to show off some of the major design steps of a product.

[Screen] Flow
Flow is how a digital product moves from step to step or how a specific interaction (see interaction) moves from step to step. Flow’s steps are usually comprised of views (see views).

Style Guide
A style guide is a guideline that is created to help better define the user interface of your product. It can incorporate existing elements from your brand but also adds to these as your product defines its own character. Style guides help make sure that the product presents a consistent and cohesive visual identity.

UI Design
User interface design consists of the look of the product or the visual design of your digital product. UI and UX design go hand in hand in the sense that they both focus on maximizing usability for the end user.

User Testing
User testing is a process of putting your prototype, designs, or wireframes in front of an end user (see end user) and getting their candid feedback. Usually the sessions are recorded so that you can later go back and review.

UX Design
User experience design is mainly attributed to the feel of the product. This is the accessibility of your digital product. How the user uses your product and how easy it is for the user to accomplish their goal(s). UI design goes hand in hand with UX design. UX generally involves wireframing, prototyping and testing. Its goal is a high quality interaction between a user and the digital product.

A single screen within your digital product. E.g. a login view or a profile view.

The underlying foundation of your digital product that focuses on creating a great user experience. A wireframe is a blueprint showing where and how all the major elements of your digital product are laid out and how the end user will interact with them.

*CMYK is a color mode standing for Cyan, Yellow, Magenta, and Black (key). CMYK is used in printed goods.
The other common color mode you will here is RGB – standing for Red, Green, Blue. RGB is the digital color mode. Anything with a screen uses RGB because the screens themselves are made up of Red, Green, and Blue pixels.

YMCA is a fun but slightly repetitive song and dance routine popularized by Village People in 1978. The YMCA can be found at pool parties, sporting events, and senior homes.

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