Putting the “Strategy” in Content Strategy

Creating Shareworthy Content

Social media – visuals matter! Great photographs can be turned into videos, and in general, pictures and videos share more than text alone. Also, think of ways to integrate both print and digital content. We thought that digital would complete displace print materials, but it turns out that that’s not the case. Using a combination of both shows greater returns. You are likely to address a bigger audience this way. Perhaps young adults are glued to their laptops and smartphones, but the more mature generations would find it more enjoyable to pick up a magazine and browse through that.

In today’s digital age, the length of your content matters greatly. Brevity is key, and it’s important to choose your words carefully. While not every piece needs to be brief, every word counts.

Stuck on a problem? Crowd-sourcing is the new great way to engage the public and ask your audience what they think. Gather ideas and solutions from the public, the very people you are trying to address!

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Content Strategy – Coursera MOOC

I recently enrolled in a Content Strategy MOOC course with other members of my new team NerdWallet. (I got this new gig 2 months ago!) While content strategy doesn’t quite jump-start my thinking engines, I thought to myself, I work with so many writers and editors on a daily basis; I should be able to chime in every once in a while and give knowledgeable feedback or input. A large number of my team is enrolling in the certificate program, and I did so, too.

I aim to take notes from the lecture videos and discussions we have and include them here on my WordPress. Perhaps this will help some of you out there who are managing your own online content and would like some tips on best practices.

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Chapter 10: HTML Forms

HTML forms are the primary way in which online commerce occurs. Without forms for customer input (mailing address, credit card information, etc.), there will not be such a bustling online industry. The HTML form is the interface in which readers enter data, but this is only the input. The data needs to be processed on the web server using applications or in the Common Gateway Interface (CGI). The CGI is the “communication bridge” between the web server and the internet. The CGI collects data sent by the user through HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol, the web browser, basically), using computer programs called scripts. It then transfers the data to a variety of data-processing programs that are running on the server. It can work on the data and then send back confirmation (or any other type of information) to the CGI that in turns sends it to the original sender.

JavaScript is a client-side scripting language, which means it runs on the user’s computer and not the server. JavaScript can enhance your site’s usability with beneficial programming functions, such as checking to ensure all entries are accurate before submitting. This language is the most commonly used scripting language for HTML forms.

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Chapter 8: Graphics and Color

Find a good balance between images and colors so that you do not overwhelm your visitors with the visuals and/or make them wait for your image to load while they are casually browsing. Use a good color combination (color palette) that can communicate to your readers, give them the kind of emotional response you want, and guide them throughout your site. Test your colors on a variety of browsers and test your download speeds so that you know your images do not discourage your readers.

Understanding Graphic File Formats

GIF: Graphics Interchange Format – designed for online graphics. It uses a “lossless” comprehension technique and will not lose your colors when the image is compressed. GIFs use no more than 256 colors, and the less color you have, the more the image can be compressed. Because of this, a GIF is a good format to use for simple graphics and line art. It is not a good choice for photographs. One special property for GIFs (and one I’m sure I’ll be using frequently) is the GIF transparency. You can choose one color in the GIF to be transparent, for instance, the white color background bordering an image. A second special GIF property is its capacity to store multiple still images and display them in succession – GIF animation. When you create the animation, you can determine the time it takes between shots and how many times to replay it.

JPG or JPEG: Joint Photographic Experts Group – Who in the world names this?? I’m glad we can just call this the j-peg format. This format was designed for photos. It stores 24-bit information, allowing millions of different colors. Unlike the GIF, though, any compression to your file will result in the loss of color on the image. This is a “lossy” compression routine. JPEGs have relatively quick download times, so at least there is that to make up for the color loss. In Adobe Photoshop, when you choose to save as a JPEG, it will show you the approximate download time based on the file size.

A word of advice: remember to save your GIF and JPEG files as a renamed file or a duplicate of the original. These formats compress the original image, and once you save it as a GIF or JPEG, you cannot return to the original quality.

PNG: Portable Networks Graphics – specially designed for the web. It is a lossless 8-bit format and is also able to compress images to sizes smaller than the GIF. PNG supports transparencies and interlacing (the gradual display of a graphic in a series of passes as it comes to your browser) but it does not support animations.

SVG: Scalable Vector Graphics – this format is a language for describing two-dimensional graphics using XML. SVGs sound like they are used commonly in HTML, XML, JavaScrip and CSS. It saves lines and curves, images, text, animation and interactive events. The key point about SVGs is that they are scalable and fit for web browsing. SVG graphics can be viewed bigger or smaller than their originals, making them responsive and cross-platform compatible.

Vector graphics display images as geometric formulas while raster graphics display images pixel by pixel. Most computer displays are of the raster type. There are also interlacing and progressive displays. Interlacing and progressive formats go through different passes as the graphic is displayed on your screen. As more data is gathered from the server, the clearer your graphic image will become.

Using the Image <img> Element

The image element <img> is by definition a replacement element. The browser replaces the element with an image in its place. The browser will treat the image as it treats a character; the normal image placement is the same alignment as the rest of your text and is at the baseline. In addition to the mandatory source attribute (src), it is good practice to also include a title and alternative text in the <img> element. The title is the text that shows up when your cursor is hovered over the image. The alternative text is what shows up if the browser cannot load the image for some reason. Your site should still be navigable even if the images are not showing. Here is an example:

<img src=”image.jpeg” width=”258” height=”130” alt=”Company Logo Graphic” title=”Click the logo to view the company home page”>

When you create image and convert to a hypertext image, that is, the image is now clickable and will redirect your page to a new location, the browser will default to displaying a blue border around the Image. After you click the image and return to the original page, there will be a purple border around it. Most of the time, we’ll go, “Why is there such an unnecessary feature?” The border will not match our design and we can figure out that the image is clickable when we hover over it. To get rid of the border, simply add this to your html code where the <img> shows up: <style=”border: none;”>

Chapter 7: Page Layouts

By default, your browser will display elements one page after another, from top to bottom and left to right. Element positioning can be affected by margins and padding. This chapter will focus on using boxes, something we learned in chapter 6, to position elements that will result in a page design we like.

A flow element actually makes creating layouts fairly easy and simple. With your header set in place, if you wanted to divide your main page body into, say, 3 columns, simply create two of those columns as float elements. Imagine that your basic website will have columns in the following order: navigation bar, article, and a miscellaneous sidebar. The navigation bar should float to the left and the sidebar should float to the right. The middle segment, the article, can be set with a larger margin (taking into consideration how large the navigation bar will be) or it can also be set to float left. Sometimes an element will not be floating correctly in the position where you want it. In these cases, ‘clearing’ the box of left, right, or both items can put it to the proper row. This will also force the wrapper (the big box that contains every element) to also encompass elements that are floating a little below the rest.

Building A Flexible Layout

Flexible layouts adapt to the size of your browser or viewing medium. Your elements will probably be sized using percentages. A flexible layout is great to adapt to different monitor sizes, but there is probably a limit to how much you want your content to stretch. If your browser is very, very wide, you don’t want your lines of text to stretch to only 1 line wide, which is possible for short paragraphs. Instead, you will probably want to specify a maximum width (max-width) and/or a minimum width (min-width) so that your layout is not stretched too thin. The optimal width for a 800 x 600 monitor screen is 750 pixels. The optimal width for a 1280 x 1024 display is 1220 pixels. Create a wrapper to contain your style:

div.wrapper {

width: 100%;

max-width: 1220px;

min-width: 780px;

}

You then would only need to create a div element that will enclose all other elements in your page layout. Apply your wrapper like this:

<div id=”wrapper”> <!-opens wrapper–>

<div id=”header”> header contents </div>

<div id =”navig”> navigation content </div>

<div id=”article”> article content </div>

</div>

As I was working on the Individual Case Project for this module, I had the hardest time figuring out the left/right margins for the divisions. Most of my things (header, article, footer) were placed in the center, but there is no ‘center’ float, which is annoying. I tried out using “margin: 0px auto 0px;” in a few places so that the left/right could be centered, but nope, it doesn’t always work. (It did for the header and footer, but not so much for the other things.) Why was this? Also, another problem I had was if I created <div> columns (3 of them) and wanted to float things inside it, say “float: right;” why wouldn’t my image float to the right (or right-align)? It is actually floating on the left right now, and I don’t know how to fix it or what is wrong with my code.