The tech industry is full of ideas and concepts that are hard to wrap your head around, so when we find a simple word to explain something, we usually take it and run with it. “The cloud” is a good example. The problem with buzzwords is that they grow in popularity very fast but most people don’t take the time to look them up, and we end up with exaggerations of their usefulness and purpose. Be honest with yourself – how many times did you hear about “the cloud” before you decided to see what it really meant?
The most common misuse of a buzzword is when a client wants something simply because he or she continually hears about it. Ten years ago, everyone wanted a Web 2.0 website; then it was social media; today it’s responsive design and mobile first. While these were all brilliant ideas, they don’t apply to everyone’s situation. Not every website needed glossy buttons, jQuery animations, Twitter feeds, and single-column layouts with enormous typefaces.
As experts providing web services, we need to determine when something is beneficial to a client and when something is unnecessary or even detrimental. Sometimes this means turning away a client’s money by educating them on why a simple two-page, informational site doesn’t need to be built with AngularJS or why the metro/flat look isn’t a good reason, in itself, for a design overhaul.
Another issue with buzzwords is that they make things appear more important or authoritative than they really are. Let’s consider the “mobile first” trend. If your website is selling a product that is primarily geared toward mobile device users, then mobile-first is probably very important. But, if you’re building a company intranet site that uses Internet Explorer 8 as its default browser, then mobile-first makes no sense. However, due to the importance that people place on the mobile-first buzzword, it may be difficult to convince someone that mobile-first is not a good approach in this scenario. Even best practices have exceptions.
The next time you hear about the need for a responsive, flat-design website/application with hero panels and infographics (placed “above the fold” of course), remember this: buzzwords and trends die out over time, but a good website serves its purpose well, regardless of what fashionable jargon was all the buzz when it was built.