Digital Guyana

Archive for the ‘The course’ Category

To round off the course and consolidate the learning of the previous weeks, we ended the course with a quiz. 38 points were up for grabs and we were pleasantly surprised by how much all the groups got into it. There were some pretty high scorers too, so they must’ve all been paying attention.

Here are the questions:

HTML

1. Which tags open and close an HTML page?

2. What are the tags for?

a) Paragraph
b) Bold
c) Italics

(3 marks)

3. What does HTML stand for?

4. Name a web browser.

5. <img src=”pictures/photo.jpg”></img>

Is the above an image, link or table?

CSS

6. what does CSS stand for?

7. Here is some sample code for linking a .CCS document to a web page:
<link href=”….css” rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” media=”all”></link>

Which of the following tags does it belong between?

a) <title></title>

b) <head></head>

c) <body></body>

8. Here is a style attribute:

background-colour: blue;

However, there is something wrong with it, what is this?

9. List two more style attributes. (2 marks)

10. What will the following styles do to a web page:

body {
background-color: black;
}

h1 {
font-size: 18pt;
color: yellow
font-family: verdana;

p {
font-family: arial;
font-size: 9pt;
color: white
}

(3 marks)

Social networking

11. What does ‘open source’ mean when referring to software?

12. Name three social networks.
(3 marks)

13. What is the name of the free, user-created Internet encyclopedia?

Blogging

14. What’s the difference between a ‘post’ and a ‘blog’?

15. What is a ‘blogroll’?

16. Name an online service for finding blog posts written by others.

17. What does ‘SEO’ stand for?

18. Why are links important in blogging? Give one example.

19. Why should you avoid using ‘click here’ as anchor text in links?

20. How many bloggers had signed up with WordPress.com as of Sunday evening, 9 August 09?
153,000, 207,000 or 378,000

Good content

21. Scannability refers to the tendency for peoples’ eyes to skim around web pages more than they would with a printed article. Related to this is the 10 second rule. What is the 10 second rule?

22. Which type of fonts work better online than print, Serif or Sans Serif?

23. Why is it a bad idea to use blue writing on a purple background?

24. Why is it useful for websites to use taglines with their titles?

25. Why is it a bad idea to use really long paragraphs?

26. Name one way you could you check for spelling mistakes?

27. How much slower do people read on the computer screen than print? 25%, 50% or 5%?

GIMP

28. What does the crop tool look like in Gimp?

29. Name two ways to resize an image in Gimp?
(2 marks)

30. What is the keyboard shortcut for undo?

(Maximum 38 marks)

Tags:

The first part of this specialism on good content focused on writing skills. I came up with four exercises which were designed to get the participants thinking about best practice in terms of writing for the web.

Exercise 1. Titles and taglines.

I split the group up into pairs and gave them three website scenarios (see below). I then asked the pairs to come up with titles and taglines for the websites. As previously explained in my workshop on content skills, a website’s title should be relevant and descriptive – and hopefully memorable too – and a tagline is important because it helps further explain what your website is all about. So the purpose of this exercise was to hammer home these points while getting the participants to think creatively about websites.

1. A friend of yours is starting a blog on nightlife and music in Georgetown. Can you help him come up with a title and tagline for his new site?

2. Adventure junkies, a new Guyanese tour company offering treks to Kaieteur Falls and more has just launched. It aims to attract a younger clientele with the promise of adventure and bargain prices. Can you come up with a catchy tagline for its new website?

3. The ministry of education wants to develop a new website which will help foster web development skills among young people in Guyana. The site will offer free tutorials on HTML, blogging, content skills, picture editing and plenty of links to free open source software. Can you help them come up with a name and tagline for the website?

The pairs then reported back to the group and me and together we critiqued their titles and taglines.

Exercise 2. Shortening paragraphs.

Because it’s physically harder to read online and people scan web pages more quickly than they would printed material (scannability), in general shorter paragraphs work better online. So to get the participants more used to the process of editing down and cutting out words I asked them to shorten these opening paragraphs from the following news stories by five to ten words:

Bald penguin given wetsuit to prevent sunburn
When Ralph the penguin lost his feathers it looked like he wouldn’t be able to swim with his friends at Marwell Wildlife – until he was fitted for a mini wetsuit to stop him getting sunburn.

Chinese women confuse immigration officers after cosmetic surgery
A group of Chinese women who travelled to South Korea for cosmetic surgery baffled immigration officers on their return home when their new looks did not match their passport photos.

Michael Jackson fans flock to see Egyptian model ‘lookalike’
Michael Jackson fans are flocking to a Chicago museum to see a 3,000 year old Egyptian model which looks remarkably like the late king of pop.

Exercise 3. Headline writing.

I then asked the participants to come up with headlines for these news stories. I stressed the importance of brevity, descriptiveness and relevance – clever and cryptic headlines don’t work so well online due to search engine optimisation and scannability.

I asked the participants to show me the headlines they came up with and we had a quick chat about them. I then revealed what the actual headlines were and explained why they were worked well as online headlines.

Exercise 4. Splitting up paragraphs.

Because readers are put off by long paragraphs – even more so online due to scannability and the fact that it’s harder to read on a computer screen – I came up with an exercise that would get the participants thinking about splitting up paragraphs.

I provided them with a travel feature on Guyana which I had removed all the paragraph breaks from and asked the participants to insert thir own paragraph breaks. We then went through the feature together discussing why the writer had put paragraph breaks in at certain points and seeing if they coaleasced with where they had put their paragraph breaks in.

Day 3 Morning – Beginning the Assignment

The project set comprised of making a short animation in which a character walks up to a car, enters, and drives off. I thought this was an apt choice of project as not only did it cover all the skills that the students had been learning (with the exception of lip-synching, which they had all mastered very well) but it also encouraged creative application of the skills they had learned. For example the car, in order to be animated more realistically, would need spinning tires – a use of the MovieClip symbol that I had not taught them, but could be figured out from what I had. The same goed for animating the character opening the door and getting in the car.

Most of the morning session comprised of me answering and questions the students had and assisting them with any problems they encountered.

Day 3 Afternoon – Further Reading Plus Inspiration and Group Assessment

In the afternoon session, whilst the students finished up their work, I introduced them to the popular website Newgrounds.com. Newgrounds is a web-based animation forum for animation mostly made in the flash environment. It is a completely user-generated content website, and so finding high quality animation can sometimes be difficult. However it is a great resource for seeing what the flash environment is capable of. Whilst the students worked I played a series of my personal favourite animations which showed various different styles and complexities of approach to animation.

I set a deadline for the projects to be completed, exported to Quick Time and on a memory stick for about 3:00pm. At this time I uploaded all the files onto the computer I had been using (which was hooked up to a data projector) and played the animations back for everybody to see. There were some impressive, creative responses to the project and I am very proud of the work the students did. Of course they are not quite professional quality yet, but for a week long project they did incredibly well. In addition they now have almost all the skills they need to, with enough passion for it, push the finesse of their animations toward professional quality.

I would like to take this opportunity to pass on my hearty congratulations to all the students who took part and to thank them for the opportunity to share my knowledge with them. It has been an absolute pleasure and I hope that got as much out of it (or even more) than I did.

I will include a list of resources and a few of the animations I showed my students in a further post at some point in the near future.

Day 3 Morning – MovieClips and Tweens

The first part of the morning was spent showing the class the two major tweens used in flash before CS4: Motion and shape. Tweens are a kind of shortcut for animation in flash. You put the object you want to animate in a position at the first and last frames you want to animate and flash does the rest of the work.

The students learned that a shape tween can only be applied to the area between two keyframes on a layer without symbols in them. Similarly, they learned that motion tweens can only occur between two keyframes on a layer that have only one instance of the same symbol in that frame.

The second part of the morning introduced the students to MovieClips. MovieClips are a type of symbol that instead of being a static graphic can be a looping animation. I showed the students how to put their lip-synched animations into a MovieClip and then animate that MovieClip using a tween.

Day 3 afternoon – Walk Cycles, Motion Guides and exporting to Quick Time

After instroducing looped animation using MovieClips I continued to show the class what a walk cycle was. A walk cycle is a looped animation showing a character walking. Making a walk cycle and then animation the movieclip with a motion tween is a great shortcut to get characters moving quickly and effectively.

We started off with a very simple walk cycle for a stick man – each arm and leg was a symbol, then each one was put on a seperate layer and animated using tweens in order to give the feel of a walk (even if it was very stiff and stilted). After they each had a simple walk cycle I got the students to break the arm and leg symbols up into forearm, arm, thigh and shin, so that the character would have working knees and elbows. I then got them to analyze somebody walking in order to find the best way to make the walk look realistic.

A lot of students at this point took the opportunity to use their lip-synched face animation as the head for their stick man. I commend their creativity.

Once everyone had a walk cycle completed, I showed the students motion guides. Motion guides are a line that can be paired with a layer in order to manipulate the path a tween follows – so that you can create a more diverse movement than just a straight line.

Finally, I taught the students the procedure for exporting an animation to the Quick Time .mov file format for use in video

The final part of the afternoon session was setting a quick one-day project for the students to consolidate the skills that they had picked up. Details to be posted in the day four post.

Day four will be posted up shortly.

This was a half-day session aiming to build on the blogging lessons from the main course. The idea being to build on the students’ basic knowledge and introduce them to

Tools of the trade

We used WordPress.com in the lessons, but there are other blogging platforms, each with slightly different features.

There are comparisons of the various services at Online Journalism Review and TopTenReviews.

Other useful services that we discussed include:

  • Facebook – a social network
  • Twitter – a flexible micro-blogging tool
  • Delicious – a ‘social bookmarking’ website
  • Google Reader – useful for reading blogs via their RSS feeds
  • Firefox and Firefox plugins – a web browser that is preferable to Internet Explorer in many ways and allows for customisation via easy-to-use plugins.

Blog promotion

Four key concepts:

  • Write good content
  • Post regularly
  • Link generously
  • Comment on other blogs

We also looked at the concept of using other social media profiles as outposts.

It’s worth bearing in mind the basics of SEO – incoming links, keywords in tags and titles, relevant anchor text and regular content are all good.

Also, while online interaction is great, you can’t beat meeting people face-to-face for making longer lasting connections and building relationships.

We also looked at more traditional ways to promote a blog – by telling people about it, adding the URL to email signatures/flyers/posters, etc.

Other tips

The following is a random selection of hints and tips aimed at improving your blogging.

Develop an editorial calendar that will allow you to plan blog posts over the year (including any lead-in/previews).

Consider guest posts:

  • Writing on other people’s blogs will introduce you to a new audience
  • Having others write on your blog will provide your readers with a fresh perspective, a new writing style and it’ll help spread the load of writing new content.

Group blogs are blogs with several contributors. Each contributor may have different topics, days of the week to post on. A group blog spreads the amount of effort required from each person, as well as providing a place for structure and support.

Involve your audience – blogs and social media allow audience engagement in ways that broadcast media do not. By interacting with your audience you can strengthen your relationship with them and learn what content they prefer.

While asking your audience and listenting to them is important, you should be wary of pandering to the vocal minority, whose views may not be representative of all your readers.

Statistics – your can use Feedburner and Google Analytics to discover what your readers (including the silent majority) respond to.

Mix up your blog posts – use video, audio, text and photos to provide a rich and varied experience for your readers.

Write like a person – blogs work well as a conversational medium. It’s much easier to converse with a person than a press release.

Know your target audience – build up an impression of who your readers are, what they like, how they get their information and so on. This will help you write for them. Getting out and meeting your readers face to face (ie at events) will help with this.

Comments guidelines – if you have a lot of people commenting on your posts and moderation becomes necessary, it can be useful to have comment guidelines in place. This will explain to people what behaviour is not tolerated and what action (editing/deleting posts and banning commenters) may be taken if they are breached.

Finally, the best way to learn is to look at other successful bloggers and their blogs and see what they do.

This morning workshop was split into two parts. The first part looked at finding and downloading images; the second editing and improving the images with the open source image editing programme GIMP.

We started with a quick exercise using a Google Image search to illustrate how easy it is to search and download all kinds of images from the web. I then explained that it’s not really sensible to take images from other people’s websites willy nilly. This is still a bit of a legal grey area but it is technically a civil infringement to take someone’s images from their website without asking their permission. (Useful links on the subject: http://forums.digitalpoint.com and http://answers.yahoo.com)

So, the only way to be sure you’re not being naughty is to A) use your own images or B) downloads images from a free image library – of which there are many. I then asked the students to search and download an image of their choice from one of these libraries.

In the second part of the workshop we looked at image editing. Photoshop is the obvious brand leader in this field but because we wanted to foster skill sharing in the most sustainable way possible we choose to go for a free alternative to Photoshop, of which there are many. We chose GIMP because it has a similar interface to Photoshop, is quick and easy to download and is relatively easy to use.

To save time we had already downloaded it but shared the link for downloading GIMP in case our groups wanted to download it onto their own computers. We also directed their attention to the GIMP user manual, explaining that, although it is very long, it contains simple instructions to all aspects of the programme.

After opening up the programme we demonstrated the two main windows: the toolbox and the image window. We then opened an image up in GIMP and demonstrated tools including the move tool, crop tool, scale image and zoom.

We then underlined the importance of Undo (Ctrl+Z) in using such a programme and explained how pixels work before getting our groups to resize their images to a specific size using two methods. The first method used the crop tool (remembering to adjust the ratio of the crop by clicking on fixed aspect ratio and entering the required pixel dimensions). The second way saw us creating a new window of the required pixel size and copying and pasting the image into it before resizing it with the scale tool, not forgetting to select ‘Keep aspect’ – or hold ctrl – to keep the dimensions of the image.

We then asked our groups to insert their resized images into their HTML CVs and their WordPress blogs as a new picture post.

After demonstrating how to flip and rotate images we looked at enhacing pictures using the Colour Tools.

WordPress Pumpkin

We asked the students to log in to their WordPress.com accounts and go back to the blogs they had set up the previous week.

In the HTML part of the course we looked at how to make static pages and link them together to form a coherent website. We explained that WordPress allows you to create static pages too and looked at the pre-existing ‘About’ page.

We edited this page to display information that was more appropriate.

We then created a second page called ‘Links’ and compiled a list of links to the other students’ blogs.

As well as being an exercise in creating pages and working with links, this gave an opportunity to look at how anchor text works and the difference between:

The first two being fine, if a little functional. The third being a good example of descriptive anchor text and the fourth being an example to avoid copying if at all possible.

This point was related to the idea of accessibility – allowing content to be accessed by as many people as possible. We also mentioned other examples such as using ‘alt tags’ to describe images.

We also the idea of transparency and being a good ‘Internet citizen’. For example, by being upfront about any reasons for bias (including potential or perceived), not representing yourself as someone else and crediting sources.

Next we ran through a list of recommended changes to a WordPress.com blog. The blog provided by WordPress.com is good but is generally considered to need certain initial tweaks, including:

  • Deleting the ‘links’
  • Updating profile information
  • Freeing up commenting
  • Adding social bookmarking buttons to posts
  • Changing the theme and sidebar widgets

Going through these changes with the students allowed us to provide a walking tour of the dashboard and the functionality WordPress offers.

Finally, we looked at ways of finding blogs and blog posts on any subject using Google Blog Search, Technorati and Ice Rocket.

(Pic is WordPress Pumpkin by Eric M Martin)

WordCamp 2009

In the first of the two sessions on blogging we introduced the students to WordPress, explaining that it’s a very popular, free blogging service that comes with several useful features including:

  • A visual editor similar to Microsoft Word (with WordPress handling much of the HTML required)
  • A professional look
  • Flexibility to add static pages as well as blog posts
  • RSS feeds

We also explained some of the basics of search engine optimisation, showing why blogs are effect tools for making content more easily discoverable via search engines.

We introduced the students to various bits of blog-related jargon, including:

  • blog – a type of website where the most recent content typically appears at the top of the page
  • post – the name given to an individual article/piece of content on a blog
  • embedding – taking content hosted on another website and displaying it on your own
  • link – an element on a website (often a bit of text or an image) that, when clicked upon, will send the reader to another website
  • permalink – whereas the blog itself will have a domain name, each individual post will have it’s own unique URL, allowing people to link directly to that post, rather than sending people to a page that will change as soon as new content is published
  • ping – a notification, sent to various directories, that a new blog post has been published
  • comments – on most blogs, after each post, readers are able to leave feedback via the comments box
  • trackback – an automated comment that will appear if someone links to an individual blog post from their own blog post
  • sidebar – the strip down the side of the blog which may contain
  • blogroll – a list of links to related and/or relevant websites/blogs that is often found in the sidebar
  • RSS – a clever bit of technology that puts blog posts in a machine-readable format. Allows people to subscribe to the blog so they receive new updates without needing to return to the blog itself
  • uploading – adding a piece of content (photo, audio, video or document to a website from your computer

After signing up to WordPress.com, the students logged into their new blogs’ dashboard and clicked on ‘Visit site’ to see the website that had been created.

We then talked the students through the process of deleting the ‘Hello world’ post and then writing their own first blog post. These were published so that the student could see them on their blogs.

In the next exercise we asked the students to write another blog post, this time including links to other websites (in some classes they linked to each others’ blogs in order to demonstrate trackbacks).

For the students’ third blog posts the students included an image, taken from Flickr.

In some classes, where time allowed, we introduced the students to the various themes available, letting them pick one they preferred.

Having several students all logging in to WordPress at the same time put a certain strain on the internet connection, meaning that these steps took slightly longer than they would if someone was following on their own at home (for example).

(Pic is WordCamp 09 by seanosh)

In this session we gave a brief overview of online marketing and selling, finishing with an exercise where the students presented a quickly-devised online marketing plan.

Ecommerce flip chart

There are many ways in which the Internet can be used for selling goods and services. We looked at some basic online marketing techniques and then examined ways to sell directly to customers online.

Getting leads

It is possible to use the Internet to increase sales of goods and services in ‘real life’ without selling anything directly via the Internet. For instance, by publishing your location and the products you have for sale you can encourage people to contact you or visit your shop.

Establishing reputation

Businesses that sell services may not be able to sell them over the internet. However, when purchasing services (especially tradespeople – electricians, plumbers, handy-men, etc) reputation is important. By writing online about their experience, recent work and successes, people can find out whether the person is likely to do a good job for them.

Advertising

If you are writing regular content about a certain topic then it may be possible to serve adverts next to that content. Google Adsense is one method for doing this, whereby you will be paid a small amount each time someone clicks an advert on your website.

Affiliate sales

Via the Internet you can make money helping to sell other peoples’ products. An affiliate scheme is one where, if you link to a product in an online store and you send website traffic to it, you will be paid a percentage of any profits.

Amazon Associates is the affiliate scheme for online store Amazon.

Auction sites (ie eBay)

The first step to selling online may be to use an auction site. eBay doubles up as a pre-existing marketplace – people know they can go to eBay’s websites and browse through many different sorts of products.

Marketplaces and 3rd party shops (ie Etsy and Big Cartel)

Etsy is a marketplace in the same way that eBay is – people go there to browse items of all sorts. Rather than having to establish a shop elsewhere, you can take advantage of the fact that people know and trust the Etsy brand and will visit the website.

Big Cartel will give you an online store that you can customise and sell items through. You may pay a commission on any items sold. They are very simple to set up and

Direct sales (ie Yahoo Merchant Solutions)

When you reach a certain size it may be worth considering owning your own store. This may be more expensive but you will save money on paying commission and will have more control over the look and feel of the website and aspects such as SEO.

Subscriptions

Some businesses provide regular content in return for a regular payment. For example, magazines and online courses. Threadless is a T-shirt website with a subscription service.

User Generated Content

Websites and services like Lulu (self-publishing books) and Cafepress (branded cups, bags, t-shirts, etc) allow you to upload words or a design to be turned into a product and sold remotely. You will receive a commission on any sales.

SEO

We gave a brief overview of the basics of SEO including:

  • On-site – header and meta tags, well-written code and navigation
  • Off-site – incoming links

Taking payment

People may be wary of sending money, especially overseas. However, services like PayPal, Google Checkout and WorldPay have an established reputation and will operate like an effective middleman.

Consider also

Online business directories and review websites (ie TripAdvisor)

Mini marketing plan

After the presentation, we split the group into three teams and gave them fictitious businesses to promote via the Internet.

We asked the teams to decide:

  • What they would be selling
  • Who their target audience will be
  • Where they will find their customers
  • What methods they’ll use to take payment

Team 1 – Sweet Nothing/After Dark, a nightclub in Georgetown

The club would sell products at the venue and use the Internet for marketing. They would publicise the website using offline tools (billboards, posters and flyers).

They would also use Facebook and GT Vibes to publicise the club as young people use those websites. The website would link to other similar services, with a view to building a relationship and links to other communities.

Team 2 – Spanish Jumpstart, a company selling Spanish lessons

The service would target students, adults and travellers. They would start a blog to demonstrate their expertise in Spansih lessons and advertise via directories and adverts on social networks.

The business would sell online courses, translation, seminars and video conferencing, taking payment online via PayPal.

This is a good example of taking a core product (Spanish lessons) and repurposing them for selling online.

Team 3 – Magic Touch Craft Shop

The shop would sell jewellery, footwear, belts and accessories.

They would give customers the URL of the website as welll as collecting email addresses and other contact details to keep customers updated with new products.

Potential customers would be contacted via social networks as well as having a shop on eBay.

After teaching the groups how to make websites using HTML and the blogging platform WordPress.com we focused on best practice in terms of design and content in the afternoon session of week three.

I chatted about various aspects of good design and content under several headings and demonstrated some good and bad examples. We then asked the groups to write a blog post on their WordPress sites which mentioned three of the points I raised.

(Before starting I stressed that the following were not ‘rules’ per say, more ‘things to bear in mind’ when setting up and adding content to a website).

Thanks to Adrienne Grubb for the use of a few slides from a previous PowerPoint presentation to illustrate the fold, page hot spots and the Poynter Institute stat on images.

Part 1. Good design

Keep it simple

  • It’s no coincidence that many of the most popular websites, Google, Facebook, Wikipedia etc, are really easy to navigate.
  • On the other hand, if a web user is confused by your site they will just click away.
  • Good: WWF / Bad: The five worst website designs in the world

The Fold

  • A similar concept to a newspaper’s fold, the fold on a web page is the bottom of your web browser when the home page has loaded.
  • But some say the fold is dead. And it will be different in different browsers depending on screen resolutions.
  • However, it’s useful to bear in mind. So it should obviously be clear what your website’s purpose is from what is above the fold.
  • Good: The Guardian / Bad (this website is just bad for a whole lot of reasons): www.belladesoto.us

Page hot spots

  • Various bits of worryingly detailed research into where people look first on web pages has shown slightly different things… rocketface.com / textgoeshere.org.uk / blog.eyetools.net
  • …but all agree that the top left is key.
  • Like the fold, it’s something to bear in mind, so it makes sense to have the title of the website and links to important pages near the top left.
  • Good: Most blogs, including this one, not to blow our own trumpet…

Scannability

  • People scan web pages much more than they would a newspaper or magazine because they can click away in an instant. Useful resource on the topic.
  • This is linked to the 10-second rule. Web users often spend as little as 10 seconds scanning a web page to see if it has anything of interest for them.
  • But you can slow down web users eyes or increase your website’s ‘scannability’ through bold tags, headings, links, bullet points, images.
  • Good: Zopa

Images

  • Images are obviously very important to help you break up text.
  • More scientific proof: a Poynter Institute study in 2004 found that 78% of users will look first at the words on your page first but 22% of users look at the pictures or graphics first. So, you need to cater for both kinds of people.
  • Human faces are good. They gives a site warmth, people can identify with them, they’re instantly recognizable.
  • But images need to be good, eye-catching and complementary to what you’re writing about. A rubbish image will make your website look, er, rubbish.
  • Good: Action Aid/ Bad: A boring web page

Typography

  • The difference between Serif and Sans Serif fonts.
  • It’s generally easier to read Sans Serif (Arial/ Helvetica etc) online than Serif (Times New Roman) – and vice versa for print.
  • Sans Serif fonts include Helvetica, Arial, Tahoma and Verdana.
  • Useful bit of info, including advice on font size.
  • Good: BBC / Bad: New York Times
  • Also, the colour of text should be easily readable. Don’t use yellow text on white, for example, or blue on purple – you won’t be able to see clicked on links.
  • Also avoid using loads of uppercase / exclamation marks. IT’S LIKE SHOUTING!!!

Part 2. Good content

Title and tagline

  • If you want your site to be found it needs to be something relevant to what your site is about.
  • You might also want to try for something catchy and original to mark yourself out from the crowd.
  • Think about using a tagline. A great way to explain what your website is all about.
  • Good (tagline): Save The Children / Bad: Great blog but unless you’re familiar with the phrase you wouldn’t immediately know it was about cool stuff happening in Birmingham.
  • And watch out for.

Headings

  • In newspapers headlines can be clever and cryptic, but online they need to be more relevant and descriptive due to scannability (so users know what your post is about) and Search Engine Optimisation (so your website can be found).
  • Also see.
  • Good: The Guardian/ Bad: Blog post on great tabloid headlines (because they don’t won’t work so well online).

Paragraphs

  • Unless you’re doing a thoughtful blog post you really need to make your point in your first paragraph. Otherwise, users will get bored or confused and click away.
  • People are put off by long paragraphs so try to break up them up into shorter ones.

Links

  • Follow web conventions (different colours, change colour when clicked), otherwise you’ll confuse people.
  • Don’t put click here – this looks bad and doesn’t help Search Engine Optimisation.
  • Links in text are good but don’t overdo it.
  • Many external links will increase traffic to your site due to trackbacks and pingbacks. They will also enhance the credibility of a site.
  • But they need to be relevant – and hopefully good. Otherwise they’ll make you look a bit foolish.
  • Good: Pontus’s blog/ Bad (but because they overdo it): teacherxpress.com

Importance of spelling and grammar

  • If your site has spelling errors and grammatical mistakes it will look very unprofessional and people will click away.
  • It doesn’t take long to check over your work. If you can it’s worth printing to check for mistakes – you’ll spot more errors than on screen. Or get someone else to check your work – a fresh pair of eyes spots more mistakes.
  • Use a spelling and grammar check in Word / Open Office. But make sure you don’t paste straight into a blogging / Content Management System software – put in in Notepad first.

Informal

  • Writing for the web is in general more informal and often more fun than many newspapers, magazines and books. Even on sites focusing on more serious issues.
  • People use the web for entertainment as well as information. And the best sites and blogs are entertaining as well as informative.

Shorter is better

  • Remember scannability and that it’s actually harder to read on a computer screen. People read around 25% slower online compared to books, magazines and newspapers.
  • So shorter is better.

Engage

  • It’s well worth thinking about how users can interact with your site. This will give them more ownership of the site and give them more reasons to come back.
  • Blogs are great at this because they allow people to comment. And if you link to other blogs they will get trackbacks – and vice versa – so more traffic.
  • Other ways you could do this include creating a mailing list or a forum or getting visitors to vote on something using a poll.

More useful links:


Bringing web skills to Guyana

A volunteer project from CYEC (Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council)

Guyana on Flickr