What was your most frustrating experience dealing with "non-technical" people?

ben profile image Ben Halpern ・1 min read

I don't mean to imply that "technical" and "non-technical" is a binary, but we usually box ourselves into these roles regardless. Anyway, I want to hear your stories!


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"I have an idea for an app!!"


"Would you be interested in 1% of the project in exchange for developing this for me?"


And you get to develop both the App and do their website and keep it updated ... oh sign me up


Same thing recently actually.


I always appreciate when someone tries some basic steps to resolve their own issues with some tool before going to someone else, but it can be a little frustrating when a person develops a pattern of associating totally unrelated actions to a fix. Eg "I closed Notepad and suddenly Completely-Unrelated-Tool-X worked properly again!" - this then spreads as a tip throughout the rest of the team and all of a sudden you have dozens of people closing Notepad to try to resolve totally unrelated issues.


"When I turn my monitor off, spin my chair, then turn it on again, the save button works properly"


Spinning your chair can fix a surprising number of problems...

Wheeeeeeee..... :D


Oh, I have somebody who still does this when programming. Gets one error, sends all the files to me saying "this doesn't work".


Post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy a clàssic.


For me, its initiative. What have they(non-tech) done to understand my domain, if I'm expected to understand theirs (sales constraints, support queries, SLAs etc).

So you have a question, that's fine, but what have you done first to try answer it? (If not, do you think your time is more valuable than mine? Rude. Also wrong?)


I get quite frustrated with the amount of user-blaming in this industry. Yes, it can be annoying when non-techies ask questions when the interface already makes things very clearly, but I think it's always good to look for the reason why people keep asking those things. What's confusing them? Are we making assumptions about our users' knowledge and experience that aren't true? This goes for products, but also for communication within a company. While it's never acceptable to be rude, not even (or especially not) as a manager, there's probably a reason why they get so angry. Look at the differences between your and their assumptions (it's like UX in real life :)).


"Oh yeah, I know you, you're good with computers, right?"


Then they say something like, my TV is broken, you can fix it right?😂😂😂


One of the Execs I worked with used to have late night emergency service requests often. They were generally caused by multiple The Fonz fist pounding attempts to "speed up things" before contacting IT. So if an email with a large attachment was sending slowly... he would literally repeatedly hit his screen, tower, mouse, or whatever other part he deemed was to blame.


Oh, I remember when I asked my non-technical manager at the time if we should ask the customer if they want to migrate some data (I don't remember now why I thought about migrating it, there was some data type change). She told the whole team later on that I wanted to throw away the particular set of data...


Front-line support for a thick-client desktop app... same customer calling in multiple times a week with the same questions every time. Certainly the questions became easy to answer, but the frustration only grew as every time the customer called in I (or another support tech) would be subjected to a lecture about how lazy we were because it would be so easy for us to change our application to suit his edge case/use case. He knew because he worked with IBM mainframes in the 70s... it was a different time... etc. etc.


I was discussing with a salesman (working in home-electrician field) about smart-home and smart-living. He was/is planning on implementing his own smart solution because he thinks he can make good money doing so. His problem: He has no idea about the technology behind all this. He asked me (I'm a software developer) how much such a solution would cost and how much he had to pay for "the cloud". The discussion was kinda amusing for me due to the lack of his knowledge.


To me, it's explaining to my family my job. I work remotely, from home, on software. When your family is used to the good old 9 to 5 and going to work every day, well it's a adventure...

In general, it's always a bit frustrating (but necessary) to adapt your speech to non-technical people. I can't talk the same way to a colleague and to my father who knows nothing about software. It's challenging, but it also shows if you really understand your subject


"How long will this take?" - "More than a week, less than a month." - "But all you need to do is X and Y, this can't take this long."

After a couple of decades of this I'm getting increasingly rude about estimates for incomplete specs judged by people who don't have the skill to do it but know exactly why the estimate is wrong.


Relative newbie here, one of the more frustrating things for me is the lack of understanding of relative complexity of different projects.

In bootcamp one of our first projects was a CLI game of Tic-Tac-Toe.

My final project is a ReactJS single page app working with a Rails API on the back-end that took me 3 weeks to build from the ground up.

Guess which one gets more ooohhhs and aaaahhhs at family parties? :)


A little bit of psychology and talking in their terms goes a long way. I gently show people how to help themselves and they usually do. Plus this always helps me to improve documentation and UX anyway. That being said, it's funny how my wife expects me to know how every software application/website works. I guess that's better than her thinking I'm an idiot. 😊


I had a very frustrating experience working with some people who both had no idea how a software application came together, but also wanted to be extremely prescriptive about what little they did know. It left me in a very frustrating position of feeling micro-managed while also not being managed at all.

And talk about Dunning-Kruger effect! These people seriously thought they knew everything and would not budge on a few really bad ideas. But since they were so ignorant, I couldn't really even have a reasonable conversation in order to reach any compromises.

Needless to say, the project didn't go very well.


I sadly sympathize more than I'd like to.


"I have this innovative idea for a social network for [insert professional category here]. Yes, users will be paying for access and reading material other users write. We can revenue share on this, 'cause my budget isn't very high, but I expect 10000 users the first month. Of course it should be fast, usable, beautiful, clean and have a mobile app too..."


I'm most bothered by non-technical types that are convinced they cannot understand technical content. That is, despite visuals, analogies, metaphors, or whatever presenting a programing problem in a non-technical way some people continue to insist they can't understand it because it's too technical. Fortunately I've only ever met a couple such people.

I meet a lot of people that are afraid to try things on a computer. They end up getting blocked because they don't just go in and play around with menus, settings, options, etc. It's perhaps made worse by technical people constantly telling them not to screw up their machine!


Right from the start they think they don't know how to. They start with that belief and they don't want to listen what you're telling them, they think it's technical and therefore complicated right from the start, without even seeing what's it all about first. Even when it comes to accessing a simple smartphone setting in some cases, where a smartphone's UI is created to be as simple and as interactive as possible for normal non-technical humans to use.


I think the most frustrating thing is code aversion of some "non-technical" people. I have heard that things being too hard for "normal" people if it involves any code, even if it is copy and paste.


"Why is Bing back? I deleted Bing!"


"Are you the boy from the computer department? Get this fixed, sharpish, some of us have work to do."

I was 32 at the time.




Providing tech support for family members. So frustrating. I don't know exactly what it is, but it drives me up the wall. My wife had to remind me to be patient. :(


Working with a team that regularly bolds, highlights, changes font sizes, all-caps and changes font-color in their emails because they think it has a better chance of being read that way.


Fixing those goddamn printers...


Any conversation that starts with "Why don't you just..".


Being managed by a "non-technical" person. :-\


Client keeps adding things to plot on his graph until it reaches 6.


Can you set up my [laptop, computer, ipad, toaster]?


Non-technical person (while laughing me in the face):“That's ridiculous. We don't have blind users. Why would our site need to be accessible at all?”


Programming is not related to fixing a printer!


Client keeps adding things he wants plotted on a graph until it reaches 6.


"This should be a quick one."

Just because it can be described quickly, doesn't mean it can be done quickly.


An old boss brought me his mouse and said it was broken. The first thing I did was check the batteries. Fixed!