I recently had the opportunity to take a beginners’ coding course at Wix, where I work as a content writer. The ultimate goal of the course was to help improve how non-technical employees communicate with developers, but I was lucky to learn a lot more along the way. I was especially surprised to discover that, while it may seem like our jobs are completely different, there are important and surprising similarities between developers and writers.
And it’s not just that we’re both geeks. Sure, both writers and coders find themselves typing furiously at 3 am as they binge on Cheetos and watch The Matrix for the 15th time. (In fact, we’ve even blogged about that.) But there’s lots more that programmers and writers can agree on.
After this coding course, I thought more about what those threads are that bind us — and I’ve boiled them down into 5 truths that guide both of our work, whether we spend our days writing pages of words or lines of code.
Both writers and developers write all day long and while we may use different languages, we both need to get our message across in a way that’s easy to understand. As professional writers, we need to consider who we’re writing for to choose our style and tone. Moreover, we want to make each word count in order to simplify and sharpen our message.
Similarly, programmers need to write code that logical machines can understand and interpret. Like content writing, coding itself is a form of communication; it must accurately tell a computer, website or application precisely what it needs to do.
When writing at a large company like Wix, where many writers may be working on the same project or features, effective communication is crucial. We need to collaborate with other writers, designers and product managers while working on our assignments.
During the coding course, I gained some insight into how developers communicate with each other. (No, they don’t use ESP and they don’t just ping each other lines of code.) Programmers need to use clear, well-written language to explain their work and their process, both in their documentation and directly in the code itself. This is fundamental to their work, because other programmers interacting with their code may eventually have to debug or make updates.
When writing, we want to choose just the right words — the ones that come together to make great sentences and strong paragraphs that ultimately affect our readers. It’s also really important to be consistent — in tone, in voice and in style. Done well, our writing ensures that users feel good about our brand and have a smooth experience with our products.
Programmers also have to make sure their code works on every single line, and that those lines work together. Moreover, like writers, they have to be consistent in how they write their code throughout an app or website.
Clean and consistent writing guides users through a smooth experience. Likewise, when programmers write something new, their work should follow a clear, consistent pattern for anyone who might need to interact with the code. To ensure that their work is relevant and easy to maintain in the long-run, developers must write code that is readable and accompanied by clear documentation.
At Wix, we never want to compromise on quality. Through my greater exposure to Wix programmers, I learned that every line of code is thoroughly tested before being released. This ensures that our users benefit from great features and high performing websites. Similarly, the content we write here at Wix goes through extensive A/B testing to check that we’re getting our message across in the best way possible.
As professional writers, we scan blogs, competitor websites and the text on the sites and apps that we use each day. Similarly, programmers spend their time online solving problems, sharing snippets of code and finding inspiration for their own work. Writers read to become better at their craft just as coders browse the web and read their way into becoming better coders.
But writers don’t only consume and read. We also contribute content to the Web. (You know, like our own Words Matter blog.) Programmers, too, share their work and open-source projects on popular developer sites like StackOverflow or GitHub.
From our communication habits to our focus on usability and community, there are a lot of similarities in how writers and coders approach our work. During the course, I learned valuable skills, but more importantly, I learned to appreciate how similar we really are. I gained perspective on the kind of work done by a full 1/3 of my company and with it, the understanding of how to better communicate with them.
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