An officer from the help desk department came by to help one of the new employee set up their company e-mail account and when the officer ask the employee to create a password with a minimum of 8 characters and at least one capital, the employee came up with ‘MickeyMinnieDonaldDaisyGoofyPlutoChipDaleWellington’. That’s a total of 8 Disney characters and the capital city of New Zealand.
The above exchange is of course a joke, but the point I was trying to make is that communication between someone from a technical background and someone who’s decidedly isn’t can be complicated. This issue can be especially important if the person with the technical background isn’t exactly a shining beacon for communication, which actually happens far more often in web development that we’d care to admit.
HTML and CSS? Are those government acronyms?
To begin with, I would like to direct your attention to Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony to the United States Congress that happened earlier this year in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal that was unearthed the same year. On one side you have Mark Zuckerberg, the 34-year-old tech billionaire who launched Facebook as a 20-year-old from his dorm room and on the other side we have the United States lawmakers with an average age of 62 and some already in their 80s. You can see where I’m going with this, can you?
“How do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?” was the question 84-year-old Senator Orrin Hatch asked of Zuckerberg, to which the answer was simply, “Senator, we run ads”. Keep in mind that Facebook’s business model isn’t exactly different from how free-to-air TVs and radios work so it was pretty absurd that someone with as much experience in life could miss that point. The Facebook hearing underlined just how dangerous it can be when the people who were assigned to solve that problem have close to no idea what the problem actually is.
I once worked in the network department for an ISP and I know just how problematic this knowledge gap can be. When you’re trying to communicate a highly technical issue to the customer service department who in turn has to communicate that issue to the actual customers, something will inevitably get lost in translation. When it comes to technical issue, it’s always a good idea to make sure that everyone is on the right page, not just the same page, and web development is no different.
Make sure you both speak in a common language
The best doctors and lawyers speak in a language normal people understand because both the medical and legal field are filled with terms and jargons that would simply fly above most people heads. Assuming we’re leaving the underlying code off the table, which is something you should never concern yourself with anyway, web development isn’t as convoluted but there would still be a learning curve involved. The idea is to find someone who could meet you halfway, translating technical concept with words and analogies you can readily understand.
Don’t be ambiguous about what you’re looking for
Look, the idea of friendzone is a thing in 21st century because it is absolutely real. Sometimes, it’s because the pursued acts like a jerk by stringing the pursuer along without any intention of making the relationship move pass the platonic stage but other times, it is because the pursuer doesn’t have the nerve to say what they want in the first place. The lesson here is clear, if you want to get something done the way you want it to be, come out and say it.
This is especially important when you’re outsourcing your web development to an external firm as your level of control for the resulting work is less than the one you have if it’s being done in-house. Communicate clearly on what you expect the end result would be and check back at regular intervals to see how the work is coming along. By knowing what you’re looking for, your web developers could also help you with ideas you’re not previously aware of owing to their expertise and it’s this constant two-way communication that should serve as the ideal.
Establish deadlines and progress reports
Getting what you need however is only half the battle, the other half of the equation is getting it when you need it, which is what deadlines are for. It is important however to also establish mini-deadlines along the way in the form of regular progress reports, which can work for both your benefit and the web developers. Having regular progress reports enable you to correct any mistakes they might’ve made early on in the project while it would also enable developers to work on the project at a steady pace, avoiding the issue of crunch time commonly found in anything project-related.
In the 80s, way before Marvel has a virtual chokehold on the film industry; Superman was a very big deal. Featuring the late Christopher Reeve in his iconic role-within-a-role (Reeve playing Superman playing Clark Kent), the Superman film was notable for starting the trend of comic book films. It was also notable for the troubled production of Superman II, where original director Richard Donner left after the majority of the film was completed and was replaced by Richard Lester.
The resulting film wasn’t bad, but after the film was subsequently aired on television featuring some of Donner’s work, it left people wondering what Donner’s finished version might’ve looked like. It was eventually answered, partly, when Superman II: The Richard Donner cut was released to the public in 2006. The way I see it, neither is better than the other but the difference in tone is quite striking. Donner’s cut is more philosophical while Lester’s had a much more comedic take.
One thing both versions have in common is that they can be both inconsistent, which underlines just how important it is for the producer and director of the film to be in the same page. It might seem a little bit hyperbolic to compare the above issue with the field of web development but the analogy works. Establish a clear line of communication with your web developer and endeavor to always be in the same page but try to keep an open mind for suggestions. Remember, your web developer is better at this than you probably are.