Humanizing Technology for Non-Technical Audiences

Humanizing Technology for Non-Technical Audiences

Working with What is Up Indonesia (WIUI) in collaboration with ecommurz, I try to explain how we illustrate complex technical topics for the public

·

4 min read

Over the course of our work we may encounter times where we need to explain heavily technical concepts to non-technical audiences, be it company management, lower-level employees, or even customers. While we in the tech industry prefer complicated graphs made in draw.io or Visual Paradigm, we need to admit that not everyone prefers this method. Audiences may also not gain from additional information, and the constant info-dumping can lead to further confusion rather than clarification.

This was an issue I encountered last week where I worked with What is Up, Indonesia (WIUI) and ecommurz, both of which have audiences of more than 260k followers with various levels of technical proficiency, on an piece explaining the Indonesian Ministry of Information and Communication’s plan for a unified national DNS. I will try to cast aside my opinions on the matter, and focus on how we work to craft a digestible and fun explainer of an admittedly complex topic.

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a complex system involving NXDOMAIN calls, Top-Level Domain (TLD) queries, DNSSEC, Nameservers, Root Authorities, etc. While this is one of the core concepts of computers, we need to remember that admittedly many of us didn’t pay attention at our computer classes (I know I didn’t), and in creating a post for maximum public appeal the accessibility of the material presented is paramount for us to clearly communicate the technical of the plans and the issues with it. content_1660980189981.png Above is the technical explanation of how a DNS server work. Now if we just slap this inside of the post, I’m sure there would be plenty of individuals that are able to decipher what this means and how the system works. However, our goal is to design something that’s digestible and accessible for audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

To start, we need to make it not only relatable to what audiences do day-to-day, but also put it in a more digestible form. I decided to go through with the style of a webcomic, borrowing character designs from shows I like such as Bee and Puppycat & Adventure Time. I also use sites like Reddit and ArchiveOfOurOwn (for audiences unfamiliar, it is a site dedicated for the archiving of alternative literary fanworks of various films, shows, cartoons, etc) as these are sites that audiences that read both WIUI and ecommurz (audiences within the Gen Z and Millennial age range) relate to and use on a day-to-day basis.

content_1660980539534.png While many would say that this process oversimplifies the DNS protocol, we need to remember that the goal of the post is not to create working knowledge of the DNS protocol but giving enough information to the user as how the system affects their day-to-day use of the internet. For most audiences DNS is something they interact with everyday but never physically see manifested because everything is done on the backend, so by humanizing the process audiences can better realize the impact of a service has on their activities.

Impact is a very key factor in illustrating technical concepts, as most in management rarely care about the innerworkings of a technical product but they do understand the consequences or benefits if a product works in a certain way. For example, we try to illustrate why the national DNS project will limit the flow of information and content accessible in the internet.

content_1660981043476.png While you can effectively illustrate the points using clever copywriting, visual aids with striking design work as a catchy way to gain audience attention. Showing, not just telling, work as an incredible way to communicating ideas and concepts to audiences that don’t understand the gravity of the situation.

It’s easy to get frustrated as tech professionals when upper management decides that your idea is not interesting because your presentation contains a word salad and a draw.io spaghetti sidedish. Designing for general audiences have not only given me the opportunity to use a long lost talent and aspiration of mine, but also use it as a tool to explain complex important topics to people in an interesting and meaningful way.