What is in a Word? WordPress Terminology at the Crossroads

WordPress is not like other content management systems (CMS) on the market. Sure, there are free and open source alternatives. But they don’t have nearly as much market share.

This puts WordPress in competition with commercial offerings. Platforms like Shopify and Wix come to mind.

Again, these systems cannot match the market share of WordPress. But they have an advantage in muscle marketing. They have the resources to create a seamless campaign. They can speak clearly to their target audience.

WordPress tends to struggle with messaging. You can see it at both the macro and micro levels. It covers big things like defining what the platform does and who it is for. And it also happens with individual elements.

The result is confusing – even among seasoned users. It also makes things more difficult for those who teach others. There is a lack of consistency. Not to mention frequent changes in the terminology we use.

How much does this affect WordPress? Could it harm the long-term future of the software? And what can be done to create a more user-friendly vocabulary? Let’s take a deeper look at the words that define WordPress.

Who are we talking to?

WordPress is an extremely flexible platform. We can use it in different ways. Hence, it appeals to both technical and non-technical users.

This appeal is both a blessing and a curse. On the bright side, WordPress continues to thrive in part because it offers so many possibilities.

But the words we use to describe WordPress are not universal. Conversation between developers is bound to get more technical. Certain terms are likely to confuse everyday users.

But developer speak seems to be the primary language in WordPress. We use exclusive terms that are difficult for others to understand. You see it in the core software and third-party themes and plugins.

Perhaps this stems from where WordPress and its ecosystem come from. Many developers are responsible for building and promoting products. Most are not marketers by trade.

Product descriptions and documentation are usually written by developers. So, it’s likely that developers speak will be used. The content is not as user friendly as it could be.

The ever-changing core of WordPress

WordPress has changed significantly over the last ten years. The arrival of Block and Site editors has had an impact on content creation and website design.

Each of these items underwent a descriptive overhaul. The Block Editor was originally referred to as “Gutenberg,” for example. The name was derived from the Gutenberg project, which oversees this and other features.

As for the Site Editor, it is also part of the Gutenberg project. But the feature was originally called “Full Site Editing”.

The names were eventually changed. They now show more precisely what each feature does. These are positive movements and good intentions. But the cat was already out of the bag, so to speak.

We now see these terms used interchangeably. This may not bother veteran WordPress developers much. But what about new users? Do they understand that Site Editor is the same as Full Site Editing? And what to make of the differences between block themes and classic themes?

We created an unnecessary situation. And there is plenty of blame to go around. For example, writers like myself added fuel to the fire.

The terminology surrounding the Block and Site Editors can be confusing.

How Do We Set Up the WordPress Word Scramble?

Here comes the difficult part. How do we use terminology that everyone understands?

I think it starts with the WordPress project. Feature names should reflect what they do. But they should be named and described in the simplest terms.

This may not sound like a big deal. But WordPress contributors have a lot on their plates. There is only so much time to argue about names.

We’ve seen a lot of thought about this recently, though. The Command Pallete feature that shipped with WordPress 6.3 has been renamed. Project participants debated the merits of the original name (Central Center). They realized that it could be taken out of context and addressed the issue.

Creating terms that are easy to use will affect the entire community. Writers will use it in their tutorials. And product makers will use it in their marketing efforts.

The community also has a responsibility. We need to speak to WordPress users in plain language. We must limit the use of developer terms.

A little guidance would also help. WordPress has a developer-oriented glossary and a user-oriented Semantics page. We should study them.

But maybe we can educate product makers on ways to create user-friendly marketing materials and documentation. That is not necessarily the responsibility of the WordPress project.

Still, it could help make the platform easier to understand. And it’s part of keeping WordPress on top in the long term.

The simplicity of WordPress terminology starts with its open source project.

User Experience Starts with Words

The words we use matter. They can be the difference between friendly advice and insult. People use them to form opinions.

What people read about WordPress will influence their decision to use it. If the software gets confused, they can go into another one. They may never see a demo for themselves.

We all need to think about how we talk about WordPress. Are we considering new users? Or are we losing them to technical jargon?

The impact may not be immediate. But by simplifying our language, we can attract more users than we lose. That is extremely important for the future of the project and its ecosystem.

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