How Much Jargon Do You Use?

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As a web designer, I am always very aware that many of the clients that come to us don’t know much about the Internet. Sure, they can surf with the best of them, but when you begin to talk about HTML, Databases, Javascript you can see the eyes begin to glaze over almost immediately and before you know it the eyelids are closing down like steel shutters. Then a funny rumbling sound emerges from the direction of their lips, which you finally begin to realise is a snore.

So, how can you solve this? In actual fact, it is quite simple. Don’t use the jargon or technical wording unless you can either explain it in plain English, which can then lead on to the more technical aspects, or don’t use it at all. Either that or be very sure the client understands what you are talking about!

Wouldn’t that mean the client has no idea what they are getting? I can hear you asking.

No. What you have to do as the designer is work out ways in which they can understand the terms. Plain good English is what this is all about. Too often we get caught up in our own marketing and advertising wording and forget that while many others in the industry have no trouble understanding us, and it looks and sounds impressive to bring the clients in to you, you have to avoid doing it once you have their interest.

A prime example is one I have experienced recently. A group that was set up to help local businesses decided to have a web site designed. It wasn't a cheap site either, coming in at nearly £2000-00. They duly did that, and it has a mixture of HTML and PHP with a mysql database server being used. Now, while the database aspect was useful for them in some ways – updating yearly events became easy, as did adding new members or taking off old ones – they had no real idea what the site did for them. It also meant they were very limited in what they could add to certain pages (for example member pages were restricted to 2 pictures each) and they felt aggrieved that this hadn’t been properly explained to them at the time. All they knew was it was restricted to two pictures, and believed that was too save space rather than the way the site was designed (in fact they have 40 mb, far more than they would ever need.) So, when some wanted more individuality to reflect their business adding to the pages, they found they couldn’t do it.

The designers had done a fantastic overall job, but what they had failed to do was fundamentally think about whether the clients really understood what they were getting for their money. When asked about the site and what it could do for the group, science blinded them!

So, I was asked as a favour to go to the group and look at the site, and file back a report for them. I had to remember that many of the people in the group where not proficient on the Internet, even if they had their own web sites, and some members hadn’t even got a computer. I managed to give them a full report, explaining the pros and cons about the system they had on their web site, and many went away thanking me, because at last (after over a year) they finally understood what the web site could do for them. They are now discussing as a group whether they want to keep the current format or change it to a static site only. Plain English has now given them that option.

Be honest with yourself. Do you bother to ask just how good the prospective client is on their computer? Can you make sure you can explain things to them so they can fully understand what you are giving them (even if it’s just a basic one page site.)

Try it out see how you do. Find someone you know who is computer illiterate, but would perhaps benefit from a web site presence. A family member for example – I use my mother when I want to run something through!

Now, talk to them and see if they can understand the basic issues you are trying to raise. Ask them what annoys them the most when finding out about computer related issues. Get feedback, and most importantly listen to what they have to say and take suggestions on how you can improve the communication skills very seriously.

You will find it helps benefit not only you but your clients as well.

Publication Date: Thursday 17th July, 2003
Author: Bill Buckle View profile

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