Had a total of four meetings on Monday. To suggest I was in need of a drink by the time I got home doesn’t begin to describe it.
Whilst each meeting was for a different reason, there was one common theme running through them all: everybody I spoke to about something technical had been led to believe that web development was the preserve of bearded geeks, speaking a foreign language and using the digital equivalent of a cauldron and black magic to achieve their ends.
I really don’t understand this.
Yes, I can speak fluent geek with the best of them. If you want a discussion about the box model hack, why IE6 is evil or the pros & cons of LAMP – then, yes, I will be interested. But the social group that will find these conversations interesting is a particularly small one.
I can also have a discussion with you about why I want a Fender Telecaster, the ideas of evolution as outlined by Charles Darwin and expanded upon by Richard Dawkins or why “The West Wing” is the greatest TV show ever-created.
And, with certain people, in certain situations, I will.
But I also know that, for example, if I’m going to talk about guitars with my girlfriend – she doesn’t need to know the ins and outs of the pick-up arrangement, what wood it’s made out of or the weight & type of the strings I want. It’s not something that she would be interested in. She wants an overview. She’s interested because she cares about something that interests me but she doesn’t need to know every single last detail. “How does it sound?” is likely to be as technical as it gets.
So why do web geeks think clients will be interested that their new web site will, for example, be utilising PHP5 and not PHP4? They won’t. Trust me.
They will, however, be interested in the reasons why. Is it for improved security? Lower development costs? Future proofing? If there are no tangible “something that improves the business” reasons, then it’s unlikely to matter to them.
It’s too easy when something is your “thing” to assume that everybody else is interested. Don’t get me wrong, I can bore for England on some subjects. But using this information as a smokescreen to confuse and bamboozle people? That, I really don’t get.
The only conclusions I can come to are simple one. And, yes, like the best conclusions they’re almost definitely broad brush stereotypes.
Either your average geek doesn’t understand the “no, it’s only interesting to us, not ‘normal’ people” element or, and I fear this is the case far too often, they use the technical explanations as a device of confusion. If a client can be persuaded that the skills held inside the head of the geek in front of them are so difficult to master, require a brain the size of a small planet to understand and are secrets not for mere mortals, then it’s easier to persuade them that they need to pay your exorbitant fee.
Oh, how I wish I didn’t have such high morals sometimes.