If WordPress Had A Voice, What Would It Sound Like?

Back in March, Fred Meyer, shared his thoughts on why the core of WordPress needs a writing style guide. The post generated a healthy conversation, including this comment by Matt Mullenweg:

WP has always been optionated software with a lot of personality. Every year or two people try to neuter it, remove a bt of its soul, and sometimes it gets through. There are always convincing reasons, like this post, but it’s sad nonetheless. If anyone is going to stop using the software over these we probably didn’t create something very compelling in the first place. You could also create a “dry” localization of the software and see if it gets much traction.

After the conversation subsided, Meyer created a survey to determine the thoughts and opinions of users. The results are now available with a total of 69 respondents completing the survey. While the small sample size makes it hard to conclude anything, there are two things that came to light based on the results.

The first is that WordPress could improve the text so it’s spoken with a clear, well-defined voice. Second, irreverent and goofy humor is rarely a user’s preferred way to receive WordPress messages. Instead, users appear to prefer content that is as clear as possible in its technical details.

Meyer’s Next Course Of Action

I asked Meyer what his next course of action is now that he’s had a chance to analyze the results. He said he “plans to move forward with advocating for a tone review, with the intent of seeing if it can be added to the to-do list for WordPress 4.0”. I asked if anything about the results surprised him:

One thing that surprised me about the survey was how dry people’s favored content was–e.g., “Powered by WordPress” instead of even “Proudly Powered by WordPress.” I really think there’s a danger (again, as Matt said) that a content review, particularly one done by committee, could squeeze the color out of WordPress, in favor of writing that is really safe and technical and that no one can possibly take issue with.

The survey seems to reinforce Mullenweg’s opinion that this issue isn’t something that will make or break people’s decision to use WordPress. At the same time, the survey showed users would appreciate textual content that is better suited to them, content that is more helpful and contains a more consistent tone.

Time To Decide Which Voice We Want WordPress To Have

Meyer said that the community will need to decide the tone of the language used in WordPress. Focusing on colorful language that is consistent, helpful and inviting to English speakers outside of North America.

If you’d like to follow along with the project and contribute to the cause, follow Meyer on WPShout.com. He’ll be using the site to inform those interested of the progress. You can also get in touch with him directly via email, fred@pressupinc.com.

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