Today in our Doejo Workshop session, we talked about how to blog simply and effectively for our team of developers and designers who may not write or blog regularly. You’ll see below how our most popular past posts written by developers have been. From there, we discussed how to come up with ideas for the blog and went over some quick solutions to a few common grammatical mistakes.
(Listed here were the top five blog posts by our developers with the most traffic over the past year.)
Coming up with post ideas:
Throughout your work in development, design or research, ask yourself:
• Is it beneficial to impart that knowledge or tip? Is there an easier way to do something that not everyone knows about? Would other dev’s or designers search for this on Google?
• Is it current, timely or something that just recently launched or got an update?
• Does it have a Chicago connection? Is a developer or designer doing something worth sharing?
• Is it trending or a new trend? Are you noticing an inclination towards something new or different? Why do you think it’s happening now?
• Are you working on a side project like Jeff’s Map of the Dead, or like Dan’s Instagram.me, or Tiff’s theater production, or Aaron’s Indiegogo project, for example? Because that is big deal news, but if you prefer, Sam or I can write it up for you.
Tips to make blog posts more dynamic:
• Add screenshots of your process or code: to break up text and to show what you are trying to implement – you can use Markup.io to add arrows, circles or even text boxes to any webpage.
• Add images whenever you can: Aside from screenshots this can be photos, book covers, logos of companies or products you’re mentioning (like the WordPress logo or Magento logo).
• Think of SEO strategy when coming up with a title for your post: What can you say succinctly that is both informative and suspenseful? It’s best to write the title last.
• Readers love lists!: You can make it a list, like “Top 5 Ways to Improve (Blank)“ or “8 Different Platforms to Use for (Blank),” or you can make bulleted lists in a step-by-step form to teach the reader about a shortcut, for example.
• Bolding important things: Sometimes in blog posts I know readers may only have time to skim an article, so I frequently bold the main points for this purpose.
• Adding links to strengthen your argument: Add links from other blogs, resources or studies, you can add links to supplement your tips, opinion or story without digressing off topic. (like Timur’s “Usability of password forms and security policies” piece, he referenced news events, a noted developer and published research work).
• Posting code: Instead of posting a screen grab of code, post the code itself, so it’s copyable for other developers (ideally with syntax highlighting).
• Quotes also add influence and break up text: It’s always good to have quotes from a reliable source in an article and if it is particularly noteworthy, put it in pull quotes.
• Other writing tips: Be conversational! This is a blog not a college dissertation. There’s no MLA style. And it’s totally OK to start sentences with “because” or “and” to break up thoughts. Also, if you get writer’s block just write anything in any order and then worry about editing it when you’re done.
• Through our blog’s CMS, you can preview a post before you “Publish” it after you click “Draft.” This way, if you do have images you can see how different it’ll look on the blog itself.
No big deal (but kind of big deal) common grammatical mistakes:
These mistakes are really common, so don’t beat yourself up for it.
• It’s and Its
Always say, “it is” to yourself when typing “it’s” (with an apostrophe). Does the sentence still make sense?
Example: “It’s going great” would read in your head as, “it is going great,” while “It needs its own blog post” would not be “it needs it is own blog post.”
• It, Its and Them, Theirs, They
First off, corporations and companies are singular and genderless. Think of them as having no emotion or sex. Google, this building, and your pen are referred to as “it,” or in possessive, “its.” Jeff, Timur and the people sitting across from you are referred to as “them” or “they” because they are multiple people.
Example: You wouldn’t say “Motorola Mobility will move into the Merchandise Mart because they merged with Google.” You would say ” Motorola Mobility will move into the Merchandise Mart because it merged with Google.” But you could say “The folks at Motorola Mobility will move into the Merchandise Mart because they merged with Google.” because “they” modifies “folks” now!
• Who and Whom
Use “who” when you are referring to the subject (person doing something) in your sentence and “whom” when you are referring to the object (having something done to it or them) of your sentence. A quick tip: “Who” relates to “He,” while “Whom” relates to “Him.”
Example: “To whom should I direct your call?” or “Who am I to say you’re wrong?”
• That and Which
Use “that” before a part of a sentence that you can’t do without and “which” before everything else. And if you use “which” you have to put the clause in between commas.
Example: The new iPhone design that leaked has the largest screen since the iPhone 5. Some say the iPhone 6, which may be released in early 2014, will have wireless charging.
• Affect and Effect
Usually when you use affect with an “a” it’s as a verb and effect with an “e” as a noun. Affect means to influence. Effect is a result. (However, effect can be a verb meaning to bring about an effect. But this is rare.)
Example: How does this affect you? The effect has users thinking differently.
• Punctuation and Quotes
Punctuation always goes inside quotes when it is part of the quotation itself.
Example: iPhone6rumors.org says the new iPhone 6 may be a complete design change, citing Apple’s patent design for “a wraparound AMOLED display.”
Also, you should use quotations so as not to plagiarize a source you are citing, while also linking to the writer’s original work.
• And and &
Do not use ampersands in body copy. I love them too, but just, don’t. It is OK, however in titles, proper names and headlines but make sure you use them consistently throughout design.
Example: The doughnut company, “Glazed and Infused” uses the word “and” in design and copy, so you would never write “Glazed & Infused” with an ampersand. An inconsistency could hurt its SEO and name recognition branding.