“When you don’t understand how something works, that’s a power imbalance”.
I visited the Coed:Ethics conference in London last week, and this is the first in a series of blogs inspired by the big day. The importance of explainability was mentioned in passing by several speakers at the event, and it’s something that really resonated with me, because so many developers don’t take this seriously.
Just today, I spoke to someone who is struggling to make alterations to the content on her website because when she asked the developers for their assistance, they sent her a seven hour YouTube tutorial. That’s a power imbalance.
Of course, this isn’t just a problem for developers and their clients. This is a problem across a multitude of industries, and it’s something that’s all too often forgotten about. We all want to be seen as real experts in our respective fields, and with this comes spouting plenty of buzzwords and technical language. This can quite easily damage your relationship with your clients, who probably won’t understand a word of what you’re trying to say.
As experts in our fields, we know what we’re talking about. Our clients know that we know what we’re talking about, and that’s probably why they hire us. We don’t need to prove our expertise with our own tech language – we need to relate to our clients in a language they’ll understand.
I've always believed that when it comes to client relationships, whether they're a new prospect or an old friend, we should always make a point of focusing on hand holding. When I build a website, I create multiple calls to action to hold visitors' hands through the entire process. When I speak to clients, I guide them through proposals, contracts and ideas in plain English, because WestCoastCo. work ethically; we look to empower our clients rather than putting them in a position where there is an imbalance of power.
For some of us, that's much easier said than done. So, how do we ensure that we're always giving our clients as many opportunities as possible to understand how everything works? I always like to think back to when I was a tiny tot, and we did exercises in school where we had to try and explain things to someone from another planet. My favourite one was "explain to an alien how to make a cheese and cress sandwich." As an eight year old, this seemed completely ridiculous, but at twenty four it makes a lot of sense. To someone who has never thought about it before, web development might seem completely alien, so I need to use this thought process when I'm explaining it to them.
Knowledge is power. That's not just a cheesy saying, it's the truth - if you know how something works, you've got twice as much power as somebody who doesn't. It's not something that we consider on a day to day basis, but if we want to form true, lasting relationships with our clients, then we need to strip that away and balance the playing field a little. I don't want to toot my own horn here, but this is entirely my jam. People choose to work with WestCoastCo. because they know that we'll talk to them as human beings in their own language: we'll never try to throw in a cheeky upsell without their knowledge, and we'll do everything in our collective power to ensure that nothing whizzes over our clients' heads. Whether you're working with us to develop a new website, write a press release or put some sparkle into your social media, you can be safe in the knowledge that our clients come first.
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