Does helpification ruin your website?

Amber Simmons' bemoans good writing in a thoughtful piece that will appeal to any instructional designer who considers herself more of a writer than a technologist. Personally, much to the chagrin of Simmons I'm sure, I found myself skimming the article and wishing it were shorter and more punchy. Then, after I caught myself and laughed at the irony, I carefully read it again and really enjoyed it.

I'm reminded of the concept of "pornification," a term which some academics have applied to elements of pornographic style that they say have spilled over into mainstream culture. What brought this to mind is Simmons' description of web writing as "lifeless, insipid, and calorie-free" -- which comes close to describing most instructional material and onscreen Help.

I wonder if the influence of technical writers at website companies, either by actual presence or just by virtue of having written the materials that the engineers read most, haven't helped bring the cold, mechanical voice to the web. When you encounter a non-instructional piece that emulates task-based style, layout, and voice, perhaps it could be described as "helpified" writing. For those technical writers who worry over their influence and lack of prestige, this might be their ultimate, albeit unintended, contribution to writing.

Posted: August 1, 2007 link to this item, Tweet this item, respond to this item