WordPress: In crisis

One of the selling points for (the free software that is) WordPress is its user friendliness. Intuitive, accessible, open—all of these words are at the root of what WordPress is and why it is of such benefit to the publishing world. I largely agree with this.

That said, I know I am an insider (albeit peripherally) to the WordPress community, so need to remember that I am an unreliable narrator of WP’s story. I’ve taken a critical eye to WordPress before, and I’m inspired to do so again from the wonderful book “Design for Real Life” by Sara Wachter-Boettcher and Eric Meyer. Comprised of examples of developer choices in language and quirkiness that hurt people in real-life, the book’s thesis aims to shift design thinking toward creating technology that is less assumptive, less witty, and therefore, less alienating.

In choosing to examine WordPress—specifically its onboarding process—I’m not out to indict the product in any way. I know WP well, make my living from it, and honestly, when something powers 26% of the internet, there exists the most potential to influence the web dev industry through leading by example.

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Ixnay on the “you guys,” yous guys

Word choice is important, a fact not lost on famed Norse explorer Eric the Red. When he discovered a semi-inhabitable landmass northwest of his native Iceland, he knew he needed a snappy name to attract settlers. How else would you get people to move to a giant, rocky ice slab roughly the size of the midwestern United States?

And so he dubbed it “Greenland” and tapped into the verdant dreams of his people, thereby successfully pulling off the greatest bait-and-switch ever.

And while some word choices can birth a nation, others have the power to elevate (a Subway “sandwich artist”) or deride (literally any racial slur). But many words are more nuanced in how we use them and how they affect both people, or an environment. I’ve written before about seven words you can’t say to client, but there’s one phrase that I constantly hear that just plain bothers me: “you guys.” Continue reading →