Learn Web Basics to be a Better Blogger

BlogHer Original Post

You don't need to know anything technical to have a blog beyond how to get around on a website and follow instructions. It's no more complicated than setting up an account on Amazon and ordering a book. But you could be a better and more effective blogger if you did take the time to learn some of the basics of how your website works.

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Blogger by veesees via Flickr

Why would you be better and more effective, you ask? Here are a few reasons.

  • You would have more control over your website
  • You would be able to customize your website
  • Your website would work better in all devices
  • You would be better able to handle the inevitable technical issues that would arise
  • When you wanted to try something new, you would understand how to do it
  • You could avoid newbie mistakes

It's worth a moment to explain the newbie mistakes item, and how it relates to the item about your website working better in all devices. The cleaner and simpler your HTML is, the better it's going to work in all devices – from big old computer monitors to tiny smart phones. The biggest newbie mistake is forgetting that not everyone is looking at your website on your monitor, at your resolution, under your circumstances. Using those lovely tools above your text entry box on your blog dashboard to center text or images, to change the colors of text, to use several different fonts and text sizes, to add extra lines of space – all those things add complexity to your HTML. Adding complexity to something that works best when its simple and basic means that things may not work so well for someone who is not looking at your website on your monitor, at your resolution, under your circumstances.

If you want to start learning more about what goes on behind the scenes on your blog, here are the steps to take.

  1. Learn some HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). HTML is very simple, but it's the foundation of everything else on the web. Using it right makes everything on your web page work better in every browser and in every device.
  2. Learn something about CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Styles are what make your correctly marked up text look beautiful on a page.
  3. Learn a little about programming languages such as JavaScript and PHP. You don't have to be able to write a program, but you should have a glimmer as to what's going on when you try to customize things.

What I want to share with you in this post are pointers to places where you can get started with the basics of HTML, CSS, and programming. Just knowing the basics will be enough to make your blog more your own and more what you really want it to be.

Where to Learn the Basics of HTML

HTML is used to format text. Text is marked as a paragraph or a heading or a link or a list. When the text stops being a paragraph or a heading or whatever, the formatting is turned off. This works with tags that open and close the formatting – or you might think of it as turning on and off a section of formatting. Here are a few places to learn some HTML:

Where to Learn the Basics of CSS

CSS is used to control the appearance of everything you formatted in your HTML. It can set backgrounds, colors, fonts, positioning, whitespace, line height, widths and heights, how lists look, and much more. CSS doesn't use tags, but it selects tags using a system of selectors. Once something is selected, a rule for how it will appear is written – and bingo bango, the way the selected item appears on your page is changed. CSS is more complicated than HTML, but you can start slowly with it until you get the hang of what you're doing. Here are a few places to learn some CSS:

Where to Learn the Basics of Programming

Programming languages abound, but the most common ones bloggers run up against are JavaScript and PHP. The programming behind your website does the heavy lifting of making in interactive, making it possible to receive comments, and sending in mail from your contact form. Programming is the most complicated thing you need to learn about in understanding how the web works. Get a grip on the HTML and CSS first, before you start learning about programming. Here are a few places to learn something about programming:

What are you waiting for? Go get started on being a better blog owner.

Virginia DeBolt, BlogHer Section Editor for Tech
virginia.debolt@blogher.com
Virginia blogs at Web Teacher and First 50 Words.

Recent Posts by Virginia DeBolt

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