All you HTML experts out there, my apologies. This is for the newbies. If you like to share your opinion on the importance of HTML for bloggers please leave a comment.
Apparently I’m in a minority and I didn’t even realize it. Every time I head to a conference like BlogHer or Blissdom I meet all these phenomenal bloggers who have absolutely no background in web development or design. They don’t have a technology degree. They don’t know HTML or CSS. Some of them don’t even know what a "tag" is.
This consistently surprises me. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s AWESOME. I mean blogs have really made the word wide web accessible to anybody who wants to have a voice and share online. People are no longer just readers they are participants. Even if all they do is comment on blogs they are contributing to the conversation. Which is SO COOL!
But I think those who don’t have the techie background are at a bit of a disadvantage. Those who never look at the code view of their blogs are left to the mercy of the WYSIWYG editors to mark up their posts.
Ahhh see, I might have just used a word you didn’t know, WYSIWYG (pronounced whizzywig – yes I failed phonics) Let’s get to the heart of this post.
Introduction to Blogging HTML
WYSIWYG stands for What You See Is What You Get. Meaning you, the author of a web page (or blog post) don’t have to worry about HTML or tags or marking anything up. You just write and let the software handle it. In WordPress the WYSIWYG editor is called the "visual" tab. In blogger (blogspot) it’s called the "Compose" tab.
Don’t know what HTML is? Ok… then we need to really take a step back. HTML is Hyper Text Markup Language. It is the basic tags that get wrapped around your content to tell the browser what the text is. For example… Is it a paragraph? A header? a link? Maybe it’s a list item? or a quote? There are different tags for each of these things.
So now you are asking, "So if the WYSIWYG thingamajig takes care of all that HTML stuff then why should care?"
Well you see, generally the WYSIWYGS aren’t as smart as you. The don’t know your content the way you do. They aren’t even as efficient as you! I’m serious. Generally WYSIWYG editors make everything just paragraphs with a few lists mixed it. They don’t use headers. They don’t give you the ability to add CSS classes (will cover in a future post). I’m saying generally, as some have this functionality but many bloggers don’t know how to take advantage of it mostly because they don’t know HTML. It’s quite a chicken/egg problem.
I think it may be time for an example, as this ex-teacher knows I’ll only hold your attention but so long without a pretty picture. :)
Here’s a sample post.
The Best Blog Post EVER!
This is my best post ever. Let me tell you why.
Reasons Why This post is awesome!
It’s to the point.
It’s an example.
As you can see this really was the best post ever!
Here I have written the best blog post ever. Now I’m ready to past it into my blog’s Visual Editor…
Notice "Path" in the bottom left. This is probably something you never paid attention to but it’s telling you the HTML tag or element the selected content is. In this case p stands for paragraph. Watch what happens when I turn it into a list by highlighting and clicking the unordered list button.
When you clicked the button the WYSIWYG editor wrapped HTML tags around that content to mark it up as a list. Don’t believe me? Let’s check out the HTML view…
Those things found in brackets wrapped around your list are HTML tags.
<ul> stands for Unordered List and
<li> stands for List Item. Now the browser knows to display that content as such.
Again why is all this important? You’ve been having no problems just cutting and pasting, you say? Well when your blog posts are marked up correctly in HTML they give more information to Search Engines about the content. Tags give the content context. Everything is not just a paragraph with a few bolds or strongs mixed in for display purposes. By doing so your posts have structure. There are headings and lists and quotes. Generally posts that are marked up correctly are easier to read. The are displayed nicer in browsers and translate better to portable devices, naturally.
Want to know more?
Sorry didn’t mean to leave you hanging… Stay tuned for Part 2 of HTML all Bloggers Should Know. I’ll be going over the basic HTML building blocks and how to use the visual editor to add them to your posts.
Please feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments!