Blog Post

10 Tips for Working with the Not-So-Tech-Savvy

[digg=]It’s easy to forget that the average web worker’s skills and knowhow is quite specialized, even though Internet use is growing gradually over the years. Your colleagues might have Facebook accounts, but do they know how to use it for networking? Likewise, a client may have an existing website, but have they maximized its potential? You might have been brought in to deal with the tech issues, or you may have some ideas on how to make things work better. How do you do your job well if those around you aren’t as knowledgeable in your web working ways?

1. Avoid jargon. What may be commonplace terminology to you may sound like Klingon to your colleagues and clients. When someone asks you to define something and you answer with a hundred other words they aren’t familiar with, then you’re not really helping, are you?

2. Use analogies. If you’re to avoid jargon, how do you explain how things work? Well, it helps to use analogies. However, use them sparingly and only whenever you’re asked for more clarification – otherwise it will look like you’re overly dumbing things down.

3. Talk results, not process. Usually, people don’t want to know the details of the work. They just want to know the results and when you’ll be able to deliver them. In other words, don’t discuss step-by-step keyword research or how you managed to make the CSS compliant to all browsers. Instead, give the finished product and explain what they mean to the client.

4. Link to additional resources. Instead of spending too much time explaining yourself and not enough time on the work, you can link to outside sources such as websites, PDF reports, videos, or presentations that can clearly explain the concepts your client or colleague wants to understand.

5. For proposals and reports, use visuals. Ever noticed how the best presentations have more graphics than blocks of text? It may be a cliche, but a picture truly paints a thousand words. If you convey an idea via visuals, the message will come across faster compared to text, which the reader has to read, process, and analyze before reaching comprehension.

6. Have ready access to case studies. If you’re proposing new hardware or software tools or even a new process, it’s best to show how it helped similar businesses or individuals in the past. The case studies need not be formal, and in some cases, statistics will do. It’s just a matter of demonstrating that the same technologies have worked well for others.

7. Refer to related events or issues that have been brought up by mainstream media. News features about bloggers, the effect of blogs, social media, and websites are circulating mainstream media. It helps to bring up relevant news items, as it makes your clients and colleagues feel as if your knowhow is relevant in the day-to-day world, and not just in some niche techie planet.

8. Illustrate what that idea/app/process has to do with their jobs or sales. More often than not, people can’t see the weight of your contribution until they realize what it has to do with them. Demonstrate what your part is in the bigger picture and what’s in it for them and their business.

9. Introduce new technologies gradually. For example, if you’re creating a blog for a small business, start by discussing the basics of blogging. Don’t overwhelm your audience about the benefits of certain widgets, how to promote the blog via social networking, etc.

10. Be patient, or at least look like it. It’s hard enough trying to grasp new ideas, so it’s even harder if the person sharing them with you is showing signs of frustration. It won’t be easy explaining something you find so familiar and easy to another person who’s hearing about these things for the first time. They’re bound to ask several obvious questions and ask you to repeat yourself. Try to keep your cool under these circumstances.

Your understanding and mastery of computers and the Internet might seem like a distant universe to most people, but it doesn’t have to be that way. True, the technology and jargon seems alienating at first, but with a little work and time, the divide between web workers and the people around them won’t seem as wide.

21 Responses to “10 Tips for Working with the Not-So-Tech-Savvy”

  1. This is a timely subject! My role with clients is often to tell them when there’s a better way to do something. I find there’s a lot of overwhelm with clients when it comes to using the web. It can be frustrating when you really have a better way, but there’s resistance to taking the few minutes to learn about it. Alan’s PM quote sounds like the typical sentiment.

    Great topic!

  2. The computer-illiterate can be so hard to work with, it’s almost as if nothing can help! Just kidding – good tips. I can most relate to “Be patient, or at least look like it,” because for me it’s all the latter.

  3. Being a former valley denizen and an early adopter of all things tech (I had email in 1990), I take it for granted that everyone in my business knows about the common web tools for collaboration. Not so.

    I write and rewrite web site and collateral copy for tech and industrial sector businesses; energy, service, tech durables, etc.

    Many of the Web production companies that I deal with (the project managers) have no idea about Google Docs, Delicious, Twitter, or any of the tools that could make us more productive.

    I asked one PM to use delicious for the interesting links he was sending me, rather than use email – his response, “I dont have time to Sh*t, let alone sign up for some weird service from the valley”.

    What you think of that!