Just Syndrome


Jason Clark
Jason Clark

on 10/15/2011

There’s a peculiar thing people do, both inside our office and outside. Actually it occurs in all aspects of life, but we see it most at work, well, because we work a lot. It’s a common way that people phrase requests. Have you heard something like this?

  • “It should just take a couple minutes to change this, right?”
  • “Just change the background color.”
  • “Just write a 500 word blog post.”
  • “Just duplicate what you did for that other client.”

It’s always rubbed me the wrong way, and I’m responsible for doing it myself. I’ve thought this over the past few days and here’s my take.

I’m coining the phrase “Just Syndrome”.

Inserting the word “just” into requests implies that you understand the entire request, and think your request is simple. Unfortunately that’s only the case sometimes. There is complexity hidden behind the most simple things. Take the Google homepage for instance. A multi-billion dollar corporation has been born out of that one simple search field. If someone asked you to “just put a search box there” to mimic Google’s extremely complex algorithm & business model, I’m sure we’d all laugh.

This attitude is born out of an ignorance and sometimes a downright disrespect for another person’s skill set. I don’t think it’s malicious most of the time. But we should all be aware that the veneer of what we see is not always the entirety of the work or thought process that was put into it.

A programming example:
We have built probably 10 different types of calendar systems, from simple lists to robust web applications that will register you, create waiting lists and process credit card orders. In my experience most clients need at least a little customization of something that may have already been built. It’s never been as simple as “just” copying a code base and changing the design.

A design example:
Our designers are skilled at what they do, and all the ones I work with have proven themselves time and time again. They have years of experience in creating successful, award-winning designs. Color and font choices take not only a trained mind, but years of trial and error. Asking a designer to “just” change a font or a color palette is not taking into account the hours of time it probably took to reach the decision that was made.

So the next time you find yourself asking someone to “just” do something, you may have caught a case of “Just Syndrome”. My home remedy: Take a shot of bourbon, and take the time to respect the complexity that may be lying behind your request. At the very least, don’t be offended if the person rolls their eyes or doesn’t give the answer you’re looking for.



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