Should your blog have an hCard?

BlogHer Original Post

What's an hCard, you ask? It's a digital version of a business card. You put it on your blog or website and it provides your name, your contact information and other information you want people to know. Because it's digital, it can be exported from your web page to an address book and synched to a mobile phone. Google and Yahoo! both index information in hCards, so it gives you some search engine clout as well as providing portable contact information to your blog's users.

You can provide only your name in an hCard, or you can give a physical address and phone number. If you are running a brick and mortar business, letting your customers have your phone number and address on their mobile phones might be a smart move. If you aren't selling something at a physical location, you might just want to include your name, perhaps your URLs or an email contact.

Before you learn how to make an hCard, look at some in action. hCards are a particular type of HTML code called a microformat. A Blog Not Limited is the home of the queen of microformats, Emily Lewis. Scroll to the bottom of her page and look at that material where is says, "The Coolest Person I Know." That information, which includes Emily's name, email, and location is wrapped up in HTML behind the scenes that makes it an hCard. The hCard can be exported from her web page and saved as a contact. Emily wrote a book about microformats—Microformats Made Simple—and numerous blog posts on the topic. Here's her post describing everything you'd ever need to know about hCard.

Here's another blog with an hCard: New England Living. This blog uses the hCard in the footer of each post, and identifies only the post author's full name as Alyson (New England Living). This isn't the only blog I've seen with an hCard microformat in the post footers. It makes sense in each post footer if the blog has more than one author. If your blog has a single author, I think it would be much better placed on the page's footer for each page of the blog. I have an hCard in the footer of my blog that simply provides my real name and a link to my sadly neglected site at vdebolt.com

Look at New Parent's About Us page. Here is all the business information you would put in a full-blown hCard, but it isn't in one. This is a place where an hCard would be very valuable. Or here, at the Austin Real Estate News and Advice Blog. The realtor's name and phone number is given right there in the blog's header, but there's no downloadable hCard with the info that can be synched with a mobile phone. A realtor's blog is a perfect spot for an hCard.

Ready to make one? The easiest way is to go to Microformats.org hCard Creator and fill in the form. As you add your information to the form fields, the HTML is generated beside it. Only fill in the fields for the information you want to share. Copy and paste the HTML into your blog in an appropriate place. An appropriate place might be the page footer or an About page. (Feel free to leave out that last line about the hCard Creator when you use the code.)

When you examine the code, you see that most of the magic is done by using various classes to define your data. You don't really need to know why the microformat class is called "vcard" instead of "hcard," but if you are interested in the reason, the article I mentioned by Emily Lewis tells you all about it. If you are geeky enough to make your own hCard by hand instead of using the hCard Creator, Emily's article is the place to learn all the details.

How do you find and download hCards that are on web pages? The easiest way is to use the Operator Add-on in Firefox. When an hCard (or several other types of microformats) are on a web page, the Operator toolbar lets you know and has a menu option to view or export the information.

If you visit this page at A Blog Not Limited with the Operator Toolbar working in Firefox, you see three contacts.

export contacts menu

One or all of the contacts can be exported to your address book and synched to your mobile phone.

The Operator toolbar also shows other microformats on the page. The image above shows: Events(2). hEvents can be exported, too, and added to your calendar. Microformats have many handy uses besides contact information via hCards.

If you are running a business with your blog, I think you need an hCard. If you are using your blog for other reasons, you need to decide for yourself how important having your contact information in an hCard format is to you.

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