Before I begin, let me be clear. This post is a lay person’s perspective on some of the technical challenges a novice with no coding, programming or otherwise technical experience may face when starting a blog or in the beginning stages of doing so, especially if self-hosting. This is truly, as the title plainly states, blogging technical tips from a novice’s point of view.
As I’ve only used the WordPress platform, all of my trials and errors are informed by this experience. So sorry, there isn’t much advice I can offer in the way of Blogger or other platforms. I’m providing a very brief overview of HTML, CSS and SEO in this post, subjects that I think every blogger should know a little bit about. For greater detail, Google searches will return a plethora of explanations and examples.
What is HTML and why do you need to know?
HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language and is the standard markup language used to create web pages. Every web page is a HTML file. HTML is written in tags, enclosed in angle brackets (<text goes here>) and tell the browser how content should be structured and displayed. With some exceptions, HTML tags usually have an opening (<open>) and close (</close> – which is characterized by the inclusion of forward-slash ( “/”). So for example, if want text to be displayed in bold, this is what it might look like:
<strong>My text is Bold</strong>
Most platforms do the formatting for you. However, if you are self-hosting and, therefore, doing most of the blog set up yourself, having a working knowledge of HTML is very beneficial. One of the first things you’ll do when creating your blog is select a theme, followed shortly by implementing plugins to achieve certain functions you may wish you site to have. But there maybe times where you may wish to make adjustments to the themes, plugins or to fix bugs in your text. Knowing a little bit about HTML will greatly assist you in this regard. And no worries, you can find tons of online references for common HTML tags and attributes, such as this one.
What about CSS?
CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets and is a style language that defines the layout of HTML documents (fonts, colours, margins, lines, height, width, background images etc). The difference between CSS and HTML is a subtle but significant one. CSS was created to allow for increasingly sophisticated layouts and to separate the presentation style of documents from the content of documents. So, instead of changing things individually in each HTML document – you can apply a style to the entire webpage. Practically, this also makes site maintenance more seamless.
Unless your’re a web designer, or plan to really build your own themes – then having intimate knowledge of CSS isn’t really necessary. However, a basic knowledge maybe useful if you want to try your hand at making simple stylistic adjustments to, for example, pre-made themes. For example, let’s say the background color for a pre-made theme that you selected is white (hexadecimal notation #FFFFFF). The code might look something like:
But you want to change the background to blue (hexadecimal notation #0000FF). If you have access to the editor and identify the style sheet, you can change the color yourself:
Pretty useful stuff. It doesn’t take much to learn a little code and the difference it may make to your ability to create the blog you’ve always wanted is priceless.
And what’s this I hear about the importance of SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and just means methods for making your website more visible to search engines. There are entire websites and books dedicated to the subject, plus I know many bloggers who’ve discussed the subject (Anoushka Loves and Jasmine Charlotte), so I won’t go into too much detail. But if you want to ensure that your content is displayed when people are searching for information about a subject that you write about (driving more traffic to your site), then SEO is very important. Basically, make sure you use words and terms in your post that are relevant to the subject. If you’re writing a review of something, think about what you’d type into the Google search box if you were looking for information about that item. And name your images! I cannot stress the importance of this last one. Ensuring that the title and name of your image (the actually file name) corresponds to your subject matter is extremely important if you want to increase the chances of having your images displayed in search results.
Where to look for Technical Resources?
Platform Forums: Whatever platform you’re using, there is sure to be a Community Forum where users can post technical questions. For example, I find the WordPress support forum to be very useful. Join and take advantage.
Theme and Plugin Forums: Most of the time, theme and plugin developers will also maintain forums where user can post their questions. Don’t underestimate this resource.
Facebook Community Groups: There are Facebook Groups for almost everything, including for blogging technical tips and advice. Request membership and don’t be afraid to post your questions.
And if all else fails, Google it! 🙂
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