The WordPress Voice and Tone Survey: Results

Morpheus red pill blue pill | WordPress voice tone survey

This survey continues a post from around a month ago discussing the tone and voice of WordPress’s written content, and recommending a community-approved writing style guide.

The post led to a lively discussion about the nature and aims of WordPress content. This survey is an effort to get a sense of what the WordPress community as a whole thinks.

wordpress_tone_survey_graphsClick to see full graphical results

 

 

Survey details

View the full survey as a PDF here.

Sections

The survey consisted of five short multiple-choice sections:

  1. “Current experience,” which asked for general impressions on the written tone of WordPress.
  2. “Current tone,” which asked respondents to identify the current tone of WordPress using a number of qualities (“lively,” “formal,” etc.)
  3. “Ideal tone,” which asked respondents to identify which of these qualities they would want for WordPress content.
  4. “Specific content,” which asked respondents to choose between four options for a given piece of WordPress content.
  5. “About me,” which asked respondents for information about how they use WordPress.

Answer format

All multiple-choice answers had five options: “1 – Strongly disagree,” “2 – Disagree,” “3 – Neutral,” “4 – Agree,” “5 – Strongly agree.” Each test section also had a space for free-text comments.

Respondents

We tried to find as diverse and unbiased a set of respondents as possible. We posted to social networks (ManageWP, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Reddit), as well as on WPShout itself.

A total of 69 respondents completed the survey. No questions were mandatory, so some questions were not answered by all respondents.

Results

Current experience

“WordPress’s written tone is right for me.”

1 – Strongly disagree2 – Disagree3 – Neutral4 – Agree5 – Strongly agreeTotal
21413221667

“I believe that WordPress’s written tone is right for the large majority of its users.”

1 – Strongly disagree2 – Disagree3 – Neutral4 – Agree5 – Strongly agreeTotal
2132619868

“I find that WordPress content speaks with a single, well-defined voice.”

1 – Strongly disagree2 – Disagree3 – Neutral4 – Agree5 – Strongly agreeTotal
3162121768

“My user experience could be significantly improved by changes to the tone of WordPress content.”

1 – Strongly disagree2 – Disagree3 – Neutral4 – Agree5 – Strongly agreeTotal
11161520668

Respondent comments on section

One of the things that made me choose WordPress to begin with, 8 years ago, was it’s tone, which, as I saw it back then, was a testimony of its quality. I wasn’t sure how good WP was code-quality-wise, but Hello Dolly and the other small jokes actually helped me realise this is a good serious project, as weird as this may sound.

With increasing numbers of corporate and corporate-thinking users, the jolly Texan tone is less and less relevant to the userbase. Which is unfortunate.

Its fine as it is

I find that WordPress’s tone largely caters to a few individuals that think it is “cool” or “funny”. These few individuals seemingly cannot care less and don’t want to take the responsibility that the software is no longer only used by a few nerds who live in the attic of their parent’s house. WordPress proudly claims to power more than 20% of websites globally, please let that reflect also in a more mature then, or otherwise hold your mouth forever.

I don’t particularly appreciate some of the tone, but I don’t think it would improve my experience if it was improved.I find the tone of the writing inconsistent but in general it is too folksy and doesnt translate well to non techies, people outside of USA or non English speakers”I believe that WordPress’s written tone is right for the large majority of its users.” – lol – how the heck should I (or anybody else) know? “I believe” is subjective nonsense!

I think things break down in the ecosystem of open source plugins and themes, but other than publishing tone standards (with voluntary oversight), I’m not sure how one would control this (or whether one *should* – this is open source, after all)…

Being “in the middle” (neither neophyte nor advanced), I find sometimes that the WP content needs to be clearer and/or to have more pointers to stuff I need to learn to understand the topic at hand.

Current tone

Descriptor1 – Strongly disagree2 – Disagree3 – Neutral4 – Agree5 – Strongly agreeTotal
Friendly1224261467
Respectful11026141667
Funny9211815467
Helpful31017281068
Formal16181713266
Lively3102922266
Professional7161124866
Consistent7121920967

Respondent comments on section

Sometimes the voice is formal, sometimes it’s the Jolly Texan. There needs to be unity.

Its fine as it is

Has elements of each at times, but seems to be all over the place.

I do agree some will ‘hear’ at least a few messages as flip and perhaps unprofessional. I was just helping a newbie and she needed some encouragement! Mail Chimp, for instance, is often breezy and never negative.

Ideal tone

“I wish WordPress’s written tone were more…”

Descriptor1 – Strongly disagree2 – Disagree3 – Neutral4 – Agree5 – Strongly agreeTotal
Friendly6231151064
Respectful3530141365
Funny12132812267
Helpful1213252263
Formal8122513462
Lively564111467
Professional4427151666
Consistent1225112463

Respondent comments on section

I personally like the Jolly Texan. But I constantly hear from users who don’t like it, and I anticipate that will grow.

I don’t care whether its “lively” or dull – only that it helps me learn. What I like about the WP content is it never (seldom?) puts anybody down (e.g. StackOverflow) for their naivete.

Its fine as it is

Funny – what’s funny depends mostly on the listener/reader. Hard to gauge; hard to translate. Sounding lively, while maintaining consistency and helpfulness, on the other hand seems doable.

There is a balance between being formal which WP doesnt need and being respectful & professional

Specific content

Default tagline

Just another WordPress site9
Another fine WordPress site10
Proudly powered by WordPress17
Powered by WordPress31
Total67

Logged-in text

Howdy, [username]12
Hi, [username]10
Welcome, [username]25
Logged in as [username]21
Total68

Install success message

Success! WordPress has been installed. Were you expecting more steps? Sorry to disappoint.9
Success! WordPress has been installed. We can’t wait to see what you’ll create with it.19
Success! WordPress has been installed. You can now log in and manage your site.23
WordPress has been installed successfully.15
Total66

Admin footer message

Thank you for creating with WordPress. (Looking for it? Scroll up.)4
Thanks for creating with WordPress.6
Thank you for creating with WordPress.26
Thank you for using WordPress.31
Total67

Default 404 message

This is somewhat embarrassing, isn’t it? It seems we can’t find what you’re looking for. Perhaps searching can help.20
We’re sorry, but no content was found at this address. Please doublecheck the address, or try a search of the site.23
Sorry, no content found at this address. Please check the address, or try a site search.14
Page not found (HTTP error 404). Please check the address, or search the site for the requested resource.9
Total66

Quick draft placeholder text

It’s drafty in here…6
What’s on your mind?16
Begin writing post draft33
Enter text here13
Total68

Respondent comments on section

Most of the suggested alternatives are wordy and not at all helpful. Being friendly is fine, but not at all useful at the expense of _brief_ helpful instructions. Priority #1: Provide quick guidance Priority #2 (optional): Motivtate and be engaging

Install Success Message: How about something like “Success! WordPress has been installed. Not go create something!” Even though I like “We can’t wait to see what you’ll create with it” best out of the options, I feel like something more directed at the user would be better. It would be pretty awesome if the folks at WordPress are fans of my sites, but I’m pretty sure they won’t be going out of their way to visit. 🙂

Guess I like my prompts basic…Re: 404 – Better idea is to have a couple slots to edit the 404 message by the site owner. Many times we seek opportunities to enhance the visitor experience with a 404 custom page that offers alternatives and links within the site.The Page not found question is badly written. The only option that includes a 404 also has the most formal tone. There needs to be an option that includes the 404 error but has a more casual tone as well. I would choose “Sorry, no content found at this address (HTTP error 404). Please check the address…”.

Being helpful and providing clear instructions is far more important than being clever and witty.

About me

I use WordPress…

Multiple times per day48
Every day or almost every day6
Several times per week10
Once or less per week4
Total68

I mainly use WordPress as a…

Blog or site owner: small business or individual18
Blog or site owner: large business or corporate3
Web designer or web developer31
Technical expert (coder, core contributor, plugin author, etc.)12
Other4
Total68

Level of WordPress experience

Beginner4
Intermediate20
Advanced31
Expert13
Total68

Language background

Native English speaker, North America39
Native English speaker, outside North America14
English as a second language speaker14
Total67

I primarily use…

The American English-language version of WordPress64
A translated version of WordPress4
Total68

Respondent comments on section

I understand the need for basic answers, but this section should have been far more elaborate
Most people who read the “I primarily use …” section will probably assume that refers to the USA English version rather than the actual English version. It would pay to change the wording of that accordingly. Also, I primarily use translated versionS of WordPress. But the most common version I use is American English, so I chose that. I was unsure exactly what the question referred to.

Additional respondent comments

As negligible as this whole topic may sound, it’s actually quite important. So thank WPShout for bringing it up, and for conducting this survey – very interested to see what the results will be.
The focus on Tone and Voice is fine, but focus first on being helpful. Cutesy messages are just annoying when you don’t know what to do next.

Analysis

“Current experience” section

Most users’ experience of WordPress is probably not severely hampered by its text content.

A slim majority (57%) of respondents said that the tone of WordPress is right for them. This number might be higher in the WordPress community as a whole (if dissatisfied people were more likely to take the survey). Less than half (38%) believed that changes to WordPress text content could significantly improve their user experience. Overall, most users’ experience of WordPress is probably not severely hampered by its text content.

More than one-third of respondents believed that their experience of WordPress could be significantly improved by changes to its text content.

However, many users did not feel WordPress’s tone was right for them, and a large minority of respondents (more than one-third) believed that their experience of WordPress could be significantly improved by changes to its text content. This number is probably still significant even accounting for survey biases and a limited sample size.

Participants were split as to whether WordPress content speaks with a single, well-defined voice; less than half agreed.

“Current tone” section

A slim majority of respondents found WordPress content “friendly” and “helpful.”

A slim majority of respondents found WordPress content “friendly” and “helpful.” Although less than half of users reported finding content “respectful,” many answered “neutral,” likely meaning “no answer.”

Less than half of users found WordPress content “consistent.”

One descriptor that seems obviously desirable is “consistent”; less than half of users found WordPress content “consistent.” Comments (in this section and elsewhere) reinforce this impression.

“Ideal tone” section

A substantial majority of users wished WordPress text content were more “helpful”; most wished it were more “consistent”; and a large minority wished it were more “professional.”

Because this section was written with the prompt “I wish WordPress’s written content were more…”, most answers have few “Disagree” responses. (We phrased the questions this way in an effort to draw out desired changes in WordPress as it is now, not just to find respondents’ “favorite qualities.”)

A substantial majority (75%) of users wished WordPress text content were more “helpful”; most (56%) wished it were more “consistent”; and a large minority (47%) wished it were more “professional.”

“Specific content” section

For each of the prompts in this section, I wrote sample content from four main “voices”:

  1. Irreverent and “jokey”
  2. Friendly and informal
  3. Somewhat friendly but more formal
  4. Dry and technical

The most highly endorsed options tended to be as helpful and descriptive as possible. Of the four voices, only the irreverent, “jokey” voice was never the most highly endorsed option.

Each prompt contained a piece of real WordPress content, put in the voice that it seemed to match (voices 1 through 3 at different times).

Respondents favored different voices at different times. The most highly endorsed options tended to be as helpful and descriptive as possible, and tended to be more “dry” or literal: for example, “Begin writing post draft” rather than “What’s on your mind?”

Of the four voices, only the first voice (irreverent and “jokey”) was never the most highly endorsed option, regardless of whether it was the existing WordPress text or not.

“About me” section

Most respondents were WordPress developers. A large minority did not speak North American idiomatic English, and many were nonnative English speakers.

Most respondents were WordPress developers, with a significant number of both small site owners and technical experts but few large site owners. Most respondents were intermediate to advanced WordPress users, and a large minority were WordPress experts. Very few (6%) were WordPress beginners.

Many (21%) were nonnative English speakers; however, very few (6%) used translated versions of WordPress. A large minority (42%) did not speak North American idiomatic English.

Overall impressions

First, the survey has some clear limitations, including a small sample size and the possibility of bias in the people who responded. We tried to collect as many responses, from as many kinds of users, as possible.

Regardless of their level of current satisfaction with WordPress’s text content, most respondents wish that it were more helpful, and more consistent.

Respondents report mixed feelings about WordPress’s text content. A slim majority of respondents say WordPress’s overall tone is right for them. However, improvements to WordPress’s written tone could improve the experience of a substantial minority of users. Regardless of their level of current satisfaction with WordPress’s text content, most respondents wish that it were more helpful, and more consistent.

WordPress could improve by speaking with a clear, well-defined voice, and making sure text content is as clear as possible in its technical details.

Based on survey results and respondent comments, the main thing WordPress could probably improve about its text content is simply to speak with a clear, well-defined voice. Most users also appear to prefer text content that is as clear as possible in its technical details, and they have an evident preference for clarity over—although not necessarily instead of—humor. At least in terms of this survey, irreverent and goofy humor is rarely users’ preferred way to receive WordPress messages.

Lastly, a significant concern is that WordPress text content is often strange, off-putting, or difficult to translate for both nonnative English speakers and native speakers outside North America.

In conclusion…

Thank you for reading! I hope readers will understand this survey as a good-faith effort to learn what kind of text content will best serve the WordPress community.

What do you think about the results? Please leave a comment below!

Lastly, thank you so much to everyone who took the survey!

Image credit: surfstyle


5 Responses

Comments

  • Maybe this is a little outside the context, but I am curious about your comment box, if I can make me with you.
    I like the avatar that is displayed using a circular
    Thank you for your answer

Pingbacks