Keeping a consistent appearance across all the pages of your website or blog allows your readers to immediately recognise your site when they land on it. There is a good chance this familiarity will result on them staying on your site should they arrive unintentionally, after following a link or clicking on a search engine result. That is assuming they enjoyed your site the last time they visited it.
Thankfully platforms like WordPress and its many themes, as well as regular websites that make use of templates, allow you to easily maintain consistency in terms of design and layout, throughout your site. However, if you run a multi author blog, it can be hard to maintain consistency and impose expected standards throughout your site. This can also be an issue for those who write for a number of different sites and have multiple guidelines to remember and follow.
Creating a consistent user experience across all the content on your site can go a long way towards creating that all important brand recognition factor. This can be instrumental in helping your blog stand out from the countless other websites that cover the same topics as your site.
To make your life easier, and that of your contributors, as well as helping you foster that strong brand identify that will make you readers feel at home on your site, these blogging tips and WordPress plugins can help you keep your content layout, appearance and formatting consistent across your whole site, no matter who is writing it.
Devise a Style Guide
Style guides or style manuals are used by many of the big websites and offline publications that publish professional content on a regular basis. However, no matter how small your blog is, it is still worthwhile to define a style guide.
Style guides for writers cover many of the decisions that a blogger is presented with when composing an article. These can include things like which variations on spellings to use, how to punctate and the correct use of paragraphs, to name but a few.
Bloggers and those writing for the web also have other factors to take into consideration when posting their copy, such as how to handle links, which image dimensions and formats to choose, how to select WordPress tags and categories and which HTML and CSS formatting and styles to apply.
Thankfully you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and there many established style guides out there already, including the highly recommended Yahoo! Style Guide for writing for the web. While most of the styling and formatting you use might come naturally to you, other writers will have wildly different approaches to online publishing and blogging, so it’s best to be clear of what your preferred formatting choices are.
If you run a multi-author blog, then the amount of detail you go into will depend on how much of a control freak you are, versus how much free reign you give your writers. Most of the sites I write for provide some brief guidelines on use of heading tags and the size of images. However, the more guidelines and direction you can give your writers, the easier their life will be and the happier you will be with their contributions.
What to Include in a Style Guide
When defining a style guide for a website, some key items to include are:
- Word count (rough figure)
- When to use H2 and H3 header styles
- Dimensions of images to insert into posts and for featured images
- Link properties and tags for images
- Tips on creating and using tags and categories
- Link properties such as open in new window or not
- Guidelines on filling out SEO fields
- Requirements on interlinking articles
- Preferred amount of outbound external links
- Paragraphs or headings to use when writing specific types of articles such as reviews
While going overboard and being too prescriptive can put off bloggers and eliminate the creativity from their job, providing some general guidelines can make the posts on your site look consistent across different authors. You can also ensure that images aren’t breaking post constraints and that your writers are doing all they can to optimise your content for the search engines by making use of certain features such as headers and image tags.
WordPress Plugins to Help Authors
These free plugins add some extra functionality to your WordPress admin dashboard and pages, which allows you to communicate with your co-authors, as well as place reminders for yourself, in order to encourage consistency across your posts and pages.
This free plugin allows you to leave notes for your co-authors and other logged in users. The notes are displayed on the admin dashboard and their visibility, as well as who can edit them can be controlled using the WordPress user roles.
This is a great way to make announcements to your team on a one off basis, as well as post up things such as writing guidelines and style guides. You could also use it to post a list of tasks for your staff such as which plugins to install, where to promote new articles and details on how to contact you.
It’s worth noting that users can bypass the admin dashboard when logging in, and go straight to a specific page, so it is possible for users to miss the notes that are displayed there, making this a not totally fool proof solution..
However, it’s a pretty basic but effective plugin that gets the job done and makes it easy to encourage consistency across your blog’s content.
This plugin allows you to display a custom checklist on the add/edit post screen. Even if you are the only person writing for your blog it can still come in handy to have a set of reminders for things to include in your posts. It could include items such as reminders to select a category and tags, how many images to include in a post, and what dimensions they should be.
Good Writer Checkify
This is another free plugin which allows you to write checklists for yourself and your authors. It’s pretty self-explanatory but it does a good job of what it set out do to and is well worth using.
These tips should allow you to manage a blog that is consistent in terms of appearance and style. While it might seem a bit restrictive, clearly defining styles and expectations can help create a professional website that is easy to write for and use as a visitor while also helping to develop your brand identify.
Do you work with multiple authors or write for multiple blogs? If so, what are your thoughts and experiences of this?