Posted by Frank - Follow me on Twitter

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If you work in IT, I’m sure you know the struggles of being able to explain what you do on a daily basis to the average person. Most people associate IT with computers and don’t really know all the ins and out, and the many areas of IT that one can pursue. Personally, as web designer / developer, whichever you wish to call me, I’ve had many people say to me, “explain what you do.” Most of the time, I respond back with, “where do I start?” It can be very complicated translating IT language, and we know it exists, to everyday “normal human” dialect. However, for those of you in IT who are web designers / developers like myself, I’ve finally found the best way to explain what you do to anyone who asks!

What Is All This IT Jargon?

Before I give away my little secret sauce, if you will…I think us IT folk need to tone it down with the IT jargon because we need to remember that the majority of the world doesn’t think or talk like us. So whenever you’re explaining something just remember this little piece of advice for next time.

I always make sure to put the IT jargon on the shelf when explaining something to family or friends, this way they can better relate and comprehend what I’m teaching. Think about it, you don’t see a school teacher who is an expert in statistics throwing out random terms that a new student to the class wouldn’t understand. The same holds true for those in IT, especially if you’re someone who knows how to code. IT jargon makes people feel inferior I’ve noticed because it’s almost like you’re being condescending to them for not being on “your level.” In a way, you already are doing just that because in any profession or skill where you’re fluent with the terminology, you forget to stop and think…oh wait, this person probably has no idea what I’m saying.

Hearing, “I can’t Understand You” Can Be A Humbling Experience

I think for any IT professional to think long and hard about their teaching methods or to explain what you do, you need to hear the words, “I can’t understand you” from someone who knows you well. It’s a humbling experience because they’re most likely saying, “you’re smart, but can you dumb down the language so I can understand?”

Most web designers / developers don’t know how to communicate in “normal human” language because that’s where they lack the ability to communicate, so writing code and talking to the computer makes more sense. For both sides to feel like they’re on a leveling playing field, both parties are going to have to slow it down and explain things in elementary terms. The moment my mom said to me, “don’t even try to explain it, I won’t understand” – was the moment I knew I needed to try a different approach for her to take interest.

Enough! How Did You Explain What You do?

The best way to explain my secret sauce, if you will, is to compare a web designer / developers life to someone who speaks another language. Take someone who grew up speaking English, but decided that they wanted to learn French. It’s a completely new way to read, write, and talk.

The same holds true when learning a computer language. Just like a language you speak, you need to be able to read, write, and communicate that language in the correct format so that the computer can understand.

Look at it this way. If you have no knowledge of the French language, then it’s going to look like gibberish to you. The same holds true if you never had any knowledge of a computer language like HTML. They’re both languages just used in different constructs. Explaining what you do as a web designer / developer in this format goes a long way. Because of this, both my parents have said, “Oh! Now I know exactly what you do and can explain it to people who ask. You just ‘talk’ to the computer, right?.”

It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3…Alright, Maybe Not

While explaining anything that’s foreign to the majority of people can be difficult, IT professionals need to understand that a skill that many others may not be able to comprehend means you need to go the extra mile and think of a creative way to allow them to be apart of what you do! Language in general has always been a huge barrier to entry for people and just because we’re talking about a computer language doesn’t mean that’s an exception.

So, if you’re a web designer or web developer, try using what I taught you the next time someone wants you to explain what you do. Let me know how it works out. Also, I want to know if you’ve ever come across these barriers yourself or any other area for that matter. How did you break the barrier of communication?

  • You know… even though I’m not a developer, I am a pretty proficient online marketing guy, and I’m the exact same way.

    So many people on my side think that talking above the client’s head makes them look impressive, when in reality, it just makes them look like an ass. It’s like Stuart from Mad Tv. “Look What I can Do!” (nobody’s impressed)

    Thank you for writing this, and I’ll be sure to share it!

    • It’s unfortunate that there are many people out there who makes asses of themselves. I couldn’t agree more that someone who tries to gloat about themselves is going to be looked down upon than praised.