This is a meta-Post. A Post about Posts. It is produced within the site editing environment which looks like this.

Wordpress editor

It works very much like any other word processing environment that you may be used to. You can style text with bold face or italics. It will even allow you to copy formatted text from other locations and paste it here.

You can also do lists. Lists are good because they break up a page and in many cases make it easier to read. Here are a few things you should know when writing a Post (in list form)

  • There is no need to put a heading at the top of your Post. The title serves that role. You should keep the Post title short and descriptive. Long titles don’t look good when they are displayed on the side navigator.
  • Keep your formatting simple. You should spend the majority of your time making sure the text you type is informative and compelling rather than how it looks on the page. Remember that they way the text is formatted on your screen isn’t necessarily how it looks to anyone else. Your readers may have different screen sizes, or they may be viewing on a small device like a tablet or phone. They might even be vision impaired and viewing in a special high contrast format. The point is, you don’t control a good portion of how your page looks.
  • Don’t play around too much with text size and fonts. The style dropdown in the toolbar should be used for all text formatting. The reason for this is that the formatting of the entire site is (more or less) consistent with the styles that are defined in that dropdown. Because of this, it is possible to reformat the entire site very quickly with a simple template change. If there are Posts that are not consistent with the rest of the site, they will stick out whenever a style change is made to the entire site.
  • Use the Headings styles for headings. The Post title will appear as Heading 1 so any headings you use should start at Heading 2 and go from there.
  • Use links! Linking to other sites and to other posts/pages on this site is a major feature of any web page. Use them liberally. Creating a link to a Post or Page on this site is extremely easy. Just click the chain button on the tool bar. It will bring up a small text box. You can just start typing a word from the page you want to link to. There is a pretty good search feature built in that will present options. You can select an option and it will insert the link. External links will require that you type or paste in the URL. One pet peeve of mine that you should avoid is this: don’t create a link with text that says “click here” or lists the URL. As this best practice article says:

The link text should always describe what the user will see when they click on it.

Placing your Post

The next most important thing about your Post after the content is how it is placed. It doesn’t matter how great your Post is if nobody is able to find it. Bear in mind that there is usually more than one route by which a person might find your post. It might be on the Front Page. It might be listed on a Page that groups other like content, or it might even be linked to via a social media site like Twitter or Facebook.

You should keep this in mind when you write a Post. Does it stand on its own? If not, does it provide links that readers can click on that provide more context? It is perfectly ok to link to other Posts or other Pages within your Post, even multiple times. It’s best to assume that your Post will be the only thing your reader will see. You need to either provide the full context in the text of the Post or link to another place that does.

That said, there are several other things that you should do with your Post to help it get placed properly. I will spell these out using headers instead of as a list.

Assign a Category

The Post editor screen has a “Categories” box on the right that contains a list of check boxes. We have defined a set of categories for the site that helps to place your Post. If you are writing a Post about an Education topic, you should assign the “Education” category to it. A Post can (and usually should) have multiple categories assigned to it. For example, the “FrontPage” category, when assigned to a Post will ensure that your Post shows up on the front page of the site. Get to know the category set and use it appropriately. If you have questions about how you should use a category or suggestions on new categories, please get in touch with the Website committee.

Write an Excerpt

Beneath the main editor text area there is another text area with a label that says “Excerpt.” It is usually a good idea to put a short 1 or 2 sentence summary of your Post in here. The reason is that the WordPress software has the ability to display Posts in a summarized list form. This alternate view allows readers to scan a number of Posts and click on the ones they want to read. This summary view usually shows the Post title and the Post excerpt. If you do not provide an excerpt in the Excerpt box it will use the first paragraph or two of your Post which is not always an appropriate summary.

You should think of the excerpt as your chance to convince someone that it is worth their time to click the Post and read the whole thing. A well-written excerpt can mean the difference between nobody seeing your Post and your Post going viral and getting you a guest spot on the Today Show. It’s worth spending some time on it.

Adding Media

A Post that just has text, even if it is broken into lists and headings can still be boring and tedious. A good way to add interest is to add Media (i.e. pictures, video, graphics, etc.). For example, I often do Posts like this that provide instructions. When doing this, you can provide written instructions, but it is often more instructive to just screen capture an image.

Say I want to describe how to publish your Post. It might be good to start with an image of the Publish box. Like this

Post Publish box

The Post publish box

Now I have a picture of something I can talk about. You can “Save Draft” or “Preview” or “Move to Trash” or “Publish” and various other options.

One thing you might guess from this is that it is pretty important to understand how to produce screen shots on your computer. Usually,¬†there is a keystroke combination that I can type that allows me to take a “picture” of some area of the screen. This saves the picture to my desktop or some other location.

To add an image file to a Post,¬† you need to click the “Add Media” button at the top of the page. When you do this it gives you the option of dragging a file to the screen or selecting it from a traditional file picker dialog box. It is also possible to select an image or document that has already been uploaded perhaps by somebody else.

Once you have the image uploaded (and there is a limit on the size of file allowed so try to keep things small) you will see an “Insert Media into Post” button. Before you click this you should usually make sure that the image has a caption and alternate text. Once the Media item is uploaded it goes into a “Media Library” and is available for any other author to link in their Posts.

When you click on an image in your Post you get options to edit it or to change its justification settings. It is also possible to drag the image around to place it though it is often difficult to get it to exactly the place you want it to go. If you have difficulties remember that simple is usually best.

Conclusion

There is a lot more that we can talk about with regards to creating good Posts but I think this is a pretty good introduction. I think the best way to learn more is to create example Posts and play around. Your Post will never appear on the public site unless you hit the “Publish” button. You can save the Post as a draft and come back to it later. Of course, you should always feel free to ask questions if you have them.

One nice feature of the site software is that it allows interaction from readers via comments. If you are logged in you can type in a comment below and submit it. The author of your Post will be informed of the comment and can reply. Since in most cases a question that you have is also a question that others have, leaving your question as a comment (as opposed to sending a private email) allows other people to see that someone else has the same question and allows everyone to see the answer. Feel free to leave comments below.