The great I.T. Divide – I hate big words

I hate big words although I often as not use them.  But I try to stick to English words that one would find in the dictionary not words one would only find in the User Manual to Client I.T. obfuscation!!  It is true that when working with a client there has to be some sort of give and take on knowledge.  As a developer we are beholden to learn their business and as a client they are beholden to learn some basic terminology of information technology .  If this is not done then the lines of communication break down and the end result is a application that does not meet the client’s needs and or expectations. As illustrated by the below cartoon some words should simply not be used…



There are several types of clients one will meet in your foray into software development.  Here are some of the ones to watch out for:

The “Nod in complete agreement” Client
We have all been there.  You sit down with a client and explain what your plans are for their requirements and instead of asking questions they simply nod in agreement.  This type of client will kill you in the end as their expectations will never live up to the final result.  It is often the case that this type of client does not want to appear dumb and so simply nods in agreement to everything you say. When dealing with this situation you need to make the client feel at ease and place yourself as the dumb one who does not understand their business.  This will place the client in a feeling of knowledge and superiority and allow them to open up with comfort.

The “buzz word” Client
These types of clients are trickier to deal with as it is hard to tell if they actually understand what they are saying.  The worst part is that you have to tread a fine line of insult if you push this type of client on any particular concept they are throwing out into the air.  If you are lucky you can pick up on the terms they actually understand versus the ones they are just throwing out there to appear knowledgeable.  Again, this type of client needs to be made to feel at ease and you need to stress a non combative environment and at all times that they are the knowledgeable one and in control.

The “Just Like this” Client
These clients are the one who throw out example web sites in rapid succession with no details as to what they are referring to.  These are the type of clients who drop in things like FaceBook, Feedburner, Google Maps, RSS without any thought to the cost of such implementations.  To them everything is easy and simply plug and play.  In the developers case this results in plug and pray we stay on budget.  In order to deal with these sorts of clients you need to slow the conversation down and get the client to focus in on their needs and the costs associated with them.

Of course I do not want to spend this entire post berating clients as they are only half of the equation if not less.  The majority of the responsibility in my opinion sits with the developers and project managers.  The client came to us not the other way around and therefore it is our job first and foremost to provide the necessary solution.  Unfortunately as ‘techie’ guys we all have a bad habit of falling back on big ‘techie’ words to impress the client and take them off the real issues.  Below are some techie terms you should never ever say to a client under any circumstances.

  • Object Oriented (OO)
    Object Orient is bad enough but to mutter OO as if it is an exclamation of awe is simply a no no under any circumstances. If OO has a direct impact to a client in there long term plans then explain it in terms they can understand. I like to use a fridge as an example; it has properties such as color and methods such as open. You can then have a truck with many fridge’s and with the press of a button change all of their colors to red instantly. It may seem a little silly but you have to judge the clients knowledge and use the right example and stress how this will help them in the future.
  • Serialization
    Don’t use it, they don’t care and never will. I hate this word even among fellow chip heads and it is extremely overused.
  • Polymorphism
    Instant ticket to jail with no ‘get out of jail’ free card in my opinion. Dropping this one on a client is beyond reproachable and there should never ever be a reason for it. Again a term thrown out for no good reason by developers to developers as well. This term is like using ‘tuple’ for describing a database record rather than the term ROW!!! It has been around since the 60’s just like polymorphism and nobody cares.
  • Cross browser compliant
    How about ‘Works in all browsers’. Need I say more.
  • Obfuscation
    Not only hard to pronounce and spell right but nobody cares if the client side code has been obfuscated. Drop this one into a client conversation and be fearful of the results. Hell the definition of the word on the urban dictionary used the quote “Any politician worth his salt is an artist in obfuscation”. You really want to be paired with politics in the client’s eyes. How about simply saying ‘we have changed the code in the browser to make it more difficult to be hacked or played with!’
  • AJAX
    I am a massive fan of AJAX but don’t use it with clients. How about Web 2.0 or even better ‘improved user experience’. Stick to a more PR/Marketing term for this one, they will get it.
  • Reuse
    Saved the best for last and it goes hand in hand with OO. Never ever ever use this one on a client. Simply put in most situations the ONLY person who is going to get reuse out of the code you wrote is YOU. By the time the client comes back to revamp their site chances are technology has moved on so much that you simply CAN NOT reuse that code you wrote 5 years ago. But, if you dropped this one on the client then their question becomes ‘You said it was reusable so why so much cost to redesign the site?’ Need I say more?

Until Next Time


One response to “The great I.T. Divide – I hate big words

  1. Well written, ha, I’ve dealt with all these clients, especially the “Just Like this”, I feel that “kind” is the worst to deal with, because no matter what you say, they think all those functions are achievable in their time frame, and for their quote. These type of clients usually introduce the most scope creep.

    I think it is safe to say that dropping ALL IT words is the way to go, a developer who interacts with the client, needs to be in marketing shoes, not developer shoes when doing a pitch. IT ways of thinking tends to over-promise, excite and under-deliver due to final budget/time constraints.

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