The Importance of Creating a Client/Agency Glossary of Terms


One of the aspects of this industry moving so quickly is misunderstanding, or worse yet, perceived understanding (read: incorrect understanding) of terms and concepts within in. I have worked with clients who realize their own limitations and others who had such a similar lexicon of terms that they assumed they knew what we were conveying and that we understood their meaning – of the same words!!!!

It seems remedial to articulate meaning to one another, almost a step back.

It isn’t.

Industry terms in Digital are as varied and different as cultures are within a single continent.  So it is important to ensure that the meaning you intend with your words are what the other person is hearing.  Over time as the relationship continues, this gets easier – in fact as an agency/client partner you may even begin to write your own shared lexicon – but in the beginning, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Agencies in the interactive space have a responsibility to their bottom line as well as their clients education to share with them the knowledge and understanding they posses.  It’s not a line item in the RFP. It’s rarely considered when creating an estimate and it never hits the outline in scope of work and yet, it is critical to the success of a relationship, not to mention the project, to ensure a common understanding is at the core of how we talk with one another.I always remind myself, the client is asking for our services, because they aren’t able to execute this on their own.

This came up in my house a few weeks ago, not related to work at all.  My wife asked me to take out the garbage before work. I did, because after 12 years of marriage, we figured out I take out the trash, she puts a new bag in the trash can.  But something was different this time.  My wife and I are moving to Los Angeles in a few weeks and so we are in temp housing.  In our previous house we had a can for trash and a can for recycling – they filled up at different rates and rarely got taken out together. In the temp housing, no separate cans.  When she asked me take out the trash, I grabbed everything in or near the can and took it out.  What I did was throw away the recycling.  To her chagrin.

The point being, even between two people who have known each other for two decades, married and living together for over half that time, a simple change of venue affected our language with one another.  So, it can happen between clients and agencies and with real money on the line.

Below are some terms I find driving wedges in conversations (or worse yet, not driving wedges, until real effort has been put into them). I won’t define them just yet, due to variances in definitions, it can open a religious debate.

  • responsive vs adaptive
  • responsive vs liquid
  • adaptive vs progressive
  • UAT vs DIT
  • UAT vs VA
  • Alpha vs Beta release
  • bug vs defect vs expected function
  • Agile vs agile
  • API
  • Content Strategy
  • definition of KPI’s (not definition of KPI)
  • Website Support & Maintenance
  • Analytics Plan
  • Taxonomy

Just a few… 🙂

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