The Internet business took a hard hit around 2000 after the tech bubble burst. To call yourself an “Internet agency” or even an “Internet startup” was considered nothing less than masochistic. That is when most Internet companies started to get into “consulting” and “branding” and “marketing”, while they just wanted to get rid of the negative connotations of “Internet” and “agency”. How do you find out if an Internet consultancy is really a consultancy and not just a web design company ashamed of itself?
The answer is simple: Listen to what they say, and if it seems bogus it is bogus. If an internet consultancy uses funny terms, ask them what they mean. If the answer is darker than the original term, they don’t know what they’re saying.
Can you explain it to a child?
If you can’t explain it to a child, you don’t understand it. A bold statement? I heard this from a philosophy professor and Kant specialist. If you cannot explain Kant to a child you don’t understand Kant? Yes. Now that I halfway understand what Kant is trying to say (after eight years of studying philosophy) I can explain to a child, what I halfway understand about him.
Put your Internet consultants to the same test, and if they fail you know: They’re not consultants—they’re sales men. Consultants are clear. Consultants are candid. It’s their job to be clear.
(Of course, you have to keep in mind: As specialists, we often forget that what we say is unclear. So please, don’t hesitate to ask. I am still waiting for someone to ask me about the ominous “mental model” and “content model” that information architects use to determine the structure of a website.)