No more writing for the web?
Below is a transcript of an exchange between myself and Per Axbom on the Beantin Facebook page earlier this week.
The conversation is in response to this blog post: Why it might be time to stop writing for the web by Tamsin Hemingray at iCrosing.
Interesting post, and I agree with aspects of it – but ultimately I disagree. Yes you should write for your target audience, but when writing for digital channels you have to understand as a writer that your target audience includes the machines that process, index & re-use your carefully written content.
I see your point, and there is a fair bit to say about needed education to understand how to write, or rather: incorporate links, headers, keywords, images , etceteras in a way that optimises the content for the web medium and for the ease of being found using search engines – and of course being easily read on a screen.
She touches briefly on this in the article in the sense that she expects her staff to already possess many of these skills; they are so to say, self-evident. This I do not agree with, this is something that few writers are aware of and the need to be more so.
The part I do agree with the most is that we are focusing too little on the humans we are writing for, in comparison with how many web writing classes there are to just sort out all the technical stuff. There is too little focus also on how the web article fits into the grand scheme of things that the company publishes and distributes and communicates to customers and stakeholders. There is a lot of let’s just push it out, but not much let’s push it out because _this_ is what we want to accomplish.
But ultimately, should writers, historically an artistic breed of humanity, need to adapt to technology and figure all this out in every piece of content they write or should technology in fact adapt to humans?
So we don’t really disagree on this one Per… Yes, she does put a whole load of skills in the “we wouldn’t have hired them if they couldn’t do this already” list – but reality is there are a lot of talented writers out there who are used to the relative freedom “print” gives them compared to digital channels.
Many of the one-day “writing for the web” courses that she is complaining about, probably should be thrown out of the window as they don’t really help writers (and companies) produce content that better meets their goals.
The human/technology relationship is a symbiotic relationship. Both have triggered the evolution of the other. The reality is, that although technology is getting better at dealing with us awkward humans, us humans have to still give a little bit of a helping hand along the way.
Just as language has grammar, the internet has standards (formal and informal). If we follow both, then we end up with a much better user experience – and a higher chance of achieving what we set out to achieve.