Interpretation for the Technology World: 5 Quick Tips

An app developed for the Alabama Birding Trails

An app developed for the Alabama Birding Trails

Okay, you’re an interpreter. You love helping people understand, opening their eyes to the world around them and giving them a passion for something you hold near and dear.

Good thing, too! Because in addition to interacting with visitors, you probably get charged with handling lots of other projects. Bigger facilities may have a whole team of people devoted to developing their “brand” message, to creating apps and websites and innovative tech approaches to enhancing the visitor/user experience. Smaller facilities, not so much. Interpreters often play double and triple duty. And even in large facilities, there are many benefits to involving interpreters in the entire process. Why?

Because who better to work with others to interpret and showcase the place or thing that they have devoted their lives to improving?

A few tips for working with technically oriented people.

  1. Do your homework. Gather examples of things you like—and a couple of things you hate! Developing a smart phone app that will let visitors learn more about your site? Find other apps that you like that do the same things. Find ones that you like the looks of, too.
  2. Share your vision. Sit down at the beginning of the project and give them a genuine overview of what you hope to get out of the project. Be realistic. Give the technical team the big picture—make sure they see your facility the way a visitor does. But give them an understanding of how YOU see your facility, too.
  3. Pay attention to detail. Does your site use the same colors for everything? Make sure you let them know the colors you want used. Give them examples of the colors (never tell them light blue, dark green, etc–give them a real life example). Same goes for fonts, logos, pictures, etc. The more you give them at the outset, the less back-and-forth there will be. And a reduction in revisions can translate into cost savings.
  4. Learn the language. No, you don’t need to learn the entire programming language to interact with programmers. But having a basic understanding of a few things can really help. Think of it like going to a foreign country. If you make the effort to say a few words in the native language, people always seem much happier to help you understand what they are saying.
  5. Be specific. Do you want to make sure the end user provides feedback. Tell the developers on the front end—as soon as possible—that you need it to do that! Want to show multiple photos for each item? Let them know NOW! More information early is the best. Explain how you see the app/display providing a benefit to the end user. Explain how it should be able to take a task you normally do and make it easier. Most of all, be explicit in your instructions.
  6. Bonus round: Be specific. During the revision process—and there will be a revision process—be sure to explain in detail what you want changed. Too much room between two paragraphs of copy? Don’t tell them that there is too much room. Tell them it needs to be 20% closer together.

These are just a few ideas to make the process of working with people who don’t necessarily share your passion for interacting with others easier. The bottom line is to remember that you are an interpreter. You need to interpret the project for the programmers. It isn’t magic! It’s interpretation!

About Joe: Joe Watts is a passionate proponent of nature tourism in Alabama and is currently working with the Birmingham Audubon Society on a redesign of their current website, putting together his interpretation skills and his web development skills to create something that communicates with bird lovers. He also regularly works with the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development on several tourism-related projects, including a recently completed website for Southwest Alabama, He became a Certified Interpretive Guide in 2013 and still remembers being enthralled by the stories of a Park Ranger during a visit to Alcatraz Island 20 years ago.

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