Who decided jargon was a good thing? When did we start believing it made us look smarter?
I don’t know about you but one of my biggest gripes as a designer is the amount of jargon I come across, especially in the web industry!
I despise it so much, I actually created a strict ‘No Jargon Policy’ over at Web123 and I encourage my design partners to follow the same suite. If we absolutely must use jargon for some technical reason, our rule is that we also explain it in plain English just in case our client doesn’t understand.
A note from Preston: This post is written by Bianca Board who has recently accepted the offer to become a regular contributor on our GDB writing team. I couldn’t be more excited about the content that Bianca will be sharing with the GDB community. She brings a unique perspective that none of our other writers can bring, including myself. I am a huge fan of her content at her own blog and can’t wait to learn more from her as we go. Please join me in welcoming Bianca by leaving a comment on this post.)
I’m a jargon-buster and here’s why.
We don’t use jargon because we don’t want to set ourselves up as boffins who are better than our clients… because we aren’t. Yes, we know more about web development and design than our clients do, but it doesn’t mean we’re superior.
Sometimes I think we’re a single beacon of light in a world of geek-speak web developers… but I hope you’ll join me in my crusade.
Oh and by the way, if any of my darling web geeks DO accidentally talk in jargon I make them sit in the dunce’s corner and watch grumpy cat videos until they promise never to do it again.
The only time jargon is ok is when…
The one exception to my no-jargon rule is if you’re ‘talking shop’ with another designer or developer. I understand you’ll have to talk CSS and PMS and all that jazz. But try talking CSS, XHTML5, W3C and PMS to your average client and you’re going to get some very strange looks!
Seriously, my message today is that you won’t get more sales by confusing people with jargon unless you’re in one of the following industries:
• Weight loss products (“Now with added Bioperine”. That’s just black pepper by the way!)
• SEO suppliers (don’t get me started)
• Health supplements (double the wing of your wang)
• Web development (but only the bad ones do this!)*
Did you notice that graphic design isn’t in that list? That’s because it shouldn’t be. Ever.
*Now here’s the rub… In web you may get a few more sales over the line using jargon. I call that selling by fear, uncertainty and doubt (or FUD for your pure acronym pleasure). But it doesn’t create raving fans and I think it’s bad karma. Get used to speaking in clear, plain English. It will make you more approachable and therefore trustworthy; and trust is what puts a whole lot more in your bank account; more than jargon ever will!
Why clear communication is everything.
Jargon and abbreviations bamboozle clients and makes them feel stupid. And that’s not playing nice is it? It gives them a feeling that maybe, just maybe, you’re pulling the wool over their eyes.
Don’t believe me? How would you feel if a marketing consultant contacted you looking for business and they said this:
“We provide communication strategies which create resolutions to problematic aspects of effective communication.”
Is it just my Aussie ‘cut-the-crapola’ attitude that cringes at this? I’m sure it doesn’t matter what country you’re in, this sort of language does not build trust. I’d be thinking I was about to get a whole lot of baloney from this guy, wouldn’t you?
The #1 reason to kick jargon out of your business-speak.
If you want to build a successful design business then you need to build rapport with your clients and sales prospects; and that means no jargon.
If you’re talking in designer ‘geek speak’ then you’re not communicating and you’re certainly not building that all-important rapport.
So, since we’re all designers here, and since I want you to get more profitable, let’s look at some potential jargon pitfalls you or your team could be falling into (that I hope you’ll stop, like right now!).
1. Brand alignment.
“We will be bringing all your visual corporate elements into ‘brand alignment’.”
Ah-huh. Is that a way of saying we’re going to ensure all your sales and marketing materials are consistent?
2. Paradigm shift.
“We’ve shifted the paradigm on logos, now we’re offering a cohesive design that works with your marketing message.”
Come on, really? Aren’t you just designing an awesome logo for better brand recognition? I don’t care how kick-ass your design is, how exactly is it going to shift anyone’s paradigm?
“We’re offering you the cutting edge of web design, a complete web2.0 experience.”
OK fine, I raise you your Web2.0 with MY awesomest newest website creation which is, like, totally Web4.7. Come on, does this even mean anything to anyone anymore?
“We’re leveraging WordPress to deliver an enterprise platform to your kindergarten stakeholders”
I’m sorry this doesn’t sound serious and corporate, it just sounds wanky. Didn’t you mean you’re going to be “using” WordPress as the platform to build their new kindergarten website?
5. Open the kimono.
“We’re going to open the kimono and show you how to brand your business.”
This means ‘sharing information’… but way creepier. If you hear anyone using this one, you have my permission to give them a virtual slap. Only joking! Mostly.
6. FTP – File Transfer Protocol
“We use file transfer protocols to safely share information between parties.”
Sheesh, if you mean you securely share files online, just say so.
7. GUI – Graphical User Interface.
“We’ll research and design a complete GUI consistent with the abilities and mindset of your target market.”
I’m pretty sure they’re just talking about making the website/device easy to use.
8. Enterprise Level.
“Our enterprise level CMS software uses state of the art CSS and XHTML5 coding.”
I think I hate corporate marketing/tech language most of all. Sure it sounds impressive but do clients really understand what it means, or even care? No. They just want to know that it’s going to work. Period.
“I’ve just been running SEO for SMBs so that they can effectively hit their KPIs.”
Why couldn’t you say ‘I’ve been helping businesses get seen on Google for maximum results’? *facepalm*.
10. Web ACRONYMS in general!
If you’re about to write out an acronym to your client, STOP and think. Can you say it simply? The web industry is the absolute worst for this. For example:
“We deliver website solutions using a mix of state of the art technologies that leverage W3C compliance to HTML5 (November 2013 WhatWG Draft) and CSS3 (ensuring backwards compatibility to CSS2 ensuring compatibility with all leading client-side platforms, on top of an enterprise-grade ORM CMS platform that is built to enable compliance with 80% of PCI-DSS 2.0 requirements without additional resourcing.”
Believe it or not, this actually means something; but after being forced to read it, do you even care anymore? I know I lost the will to live right after the words ‘we deliver’.
Oh and another amazing one I heard the other day was a company that claimed to be “building websites using technology created by NASA”. I’m not even sure what that one means!
So, in summary, please remember if you say something that your client doesn’t understand then you’re not communicating, you’re just talking at them, and that’s bad for business.
If you want to earn more respect, build better relationships and win more clients it’s a no-jargon policy from now on, ok? Do we have a deal?
What’s the worst jargon you’ve ever heard?
I know there’s tons more I could have listed here so let’s keep the conversation going… Let me know in the comments below!