How to create and structure content

I have been creating and advising on online content for over forty years, first in writing files to drive daisy-wheel printers (the link is provided for our younger readers, who may marvel at what seems Jurassic technology), then in wordprocessing software, and now in applications such as WordPress. I was appalled to hear a “professional” trainer say to a class of “secretaries” of an early wordprocessor, “Don’t worry, dears, it’s just like using a typewriter”. We have been blighted by that lazy and unprofessional attitude ever since.

The first and most important principle in creating online content — here, we are looking at WordPress, but it applies throughout wordprocessing and other applications — is to forget about trying to engineer a look, and concentrate on the purpose of a piece of content. Oh yes, it’s easy to create a heading by changing the font size, boldfacing the text, and so on, but that does not make it a heading, it just looks a bit like one — like a cheap wig rather than a hairstyle.

There are block styles for headings (at different hierarchical levels), quotations, pull-quotes, poetry and so on, and that’s just for text. There are block styles for images, lists, media-with-text (as we use for our path listings), and so many more. At the next layer down, we create consistent content using re-usable blocks, as we must do to avoid serving chaos to the customer.

We must apply self-discipline to structure our content properly — by the why rather than by the how, if you like. Our own convenience has to stand a long way behind ease of use by the public. Indeed, the self-discipline extends to making it logical and smooth for each other. The logical (and described) hierarchy of our pages. The naming of re-usable blocks to create shadow hierarchies where WordPress does not provide for a proper hierarchical structure (this may be one of the most important acts of within-team self-discipline).

Just keep asking yourself the purpose of content, and the structure will look after the look. If you want to see failure of this in action, just go to the Scottish Citylink page.