html for bloggers

Finally, my friend asked:

What would you recommend/include in a list of top 5-10 things a blogger needs to know about html? I have plenty of people around me at work that know html well but I’d like to be able to deal with style (like the list question you answered before) and other issues on my own…you know, be somewhat self-sufficient without getting too deep into html.

I think bloggers should understand the basic rules of opening a tag and closing it. A closing tag looks similar to its opener but with a slash in front of the tag: e.g. </strong>. There are some basic tags that I think bloggers should be familiar with: bold (<strong>), italics (<em>), images (<img>) and links (<a>). There are other handy tags like <blockquote> and <ol>, <ul> and <li> that are good to know.

<blockquote> does exactly as it says — creates a blockquote. (Remember to close it with </blockquote>.)

<ol>, <ul> and <li> are all used in creating bulleted lists. <ol> opens an ordered list — one where each item is numbered. <ul> opens an unordered list — one where items are bulleted. And <li> opens a list item. Remember to close all these tags. You open a list, then open a list item, close the list item and then close the list. Like so:

<li> list item</li>
<li> list item</li>
<li> list item</li>

There’s also a kind of meta knowledge that bloggers need and that is: hacky code is bad for everyone. Some things are best left to a designer. So rather than search and search for some way to make something behave correctly in one blog post, the blogger should ask the designer for a solution in the site’s style or structure.

Before asking me the questions that I’ve answered this week, my friend had asked me about getting images to line up correctly in a post. All her images were floating into one another. I replied that the best solution would be to have her designer create a rule in the style sheet for all images in a blog post. That rule could standardize the alignment, margins and padding for all images in that area.

That’s why this is such a good question: because it opens up the type of discussion that I think more professional bloggers should be having. That is: a discussion with their designers about their blog. I think designers and professional bloggers should be working hand-in-hand to make their blog look and read great. Content and design are dependent upon each other. Design fails when content isn’t easily understood. And vice versa.

Before answering the question at the top of this post, I asked my friend:

Do you have a dedicated web designer for your blog? How does your company handle design/tech issues? Does anyone ever use the words or terms user interface, UI, user experience or UX?

She replied:

We have an entire team (5) of people within the marketing department that are dedicated web designers for our main customer site. They are the “customer experience” people. For my blog page I am responsible for making the small design changes though of course right now I have to ask my boss and others to help me while I learn. We mostly say customer experience rather than user experience. We also have a separate tech department…I have to say all design/tech issues are a collaboration of some kind between departments.

The part of her answer that I don’t like is where she says she is responsible for making small design changes. If I had my druthers, she’d have a designer who was dedicated to the User Experience of the blog. Someone who could say, “You know the typography in this default Typepad template sucks wind.” Someone with whom she could consult about presenting her content in the best way.

I hope that answers the question and doesn’t ramble too much.