The Perfect Post: Fact or Fiction?

Back when I started my first blog, in 2008, the “weblog” or blog, as it is more commonly known had already been around for at least a decade. Although in the early phases of the world wide web, websites and blogs were a lot less common and simpler in design, the idea of keeping and sharing observations and insights about a specific topic, or even a personal diary, for anyone to see had already started making the rounds. Over time this idea evolved. As they continued to develop in those early years technology evolved and blogs gained the ability to host more sophisticated design elements and they continued to grow in popularity.

From personal to political to brand development it seems like pretty much everyone has a blog now.  There is currently a lot of information out there about “how to blog”  “how to monetize your blog” and “how to create a perfect blog post” that seems like its putting the car before the horse, if you don’t have the basics down.   Since I talk a lot of people through this struggle I thought I would talk you through a few of the basics:

What makes a blog post perfect?

If was standing in front of you in a class about multimedia storytelling we would probably spend a lot of time talking about what makes one post good and another, not so good.  What it all boils down to is that regardless of what type of post it is, the perfect blog post is both informative and enticing.  That means it needs to be both well developed and well designed.  Knowing when something is well developed and well designed is something you can learn, and practice.  Getting a post to that point, particularly for people who are either new to blogging or aren’t used to working in a medium that incorporates multimedia elements, can be difficult and intimidating but it is something you can absolutely learn to do.

Where do I begin?

The only place you can start is at the beginning.  Decide what you’re going to post about. When I’m trying to come up with ideas I don’t usually worry about what format it will end up as. I let that decision happen as it needs to.  Sometimes it’s obvious sometimes it’s not, I would say trust your instincts.

What kinds of Blog Posts are there?

There are four basic categories; written, video, photo and audio posts. There are subcategories within each group, but those are the big four. The best blogs I’ve seen usually tend to favor one format over others but they aren’t afraid mix it up on a regular basis to keep it fresh.  Start with what you know.   You will feel a lot more confident starting out with a written post if you are writer.  Remember this is a cumulative process.  Everyone doesn’t know everything at the same time.  It’s ok if you aren’t a natural video editor, or a photographer you don’t need to be.  But if one day you decide to learn about it go for it, that’s another element you add to your blog.  But if you aren’t ready to do that, don’t worry about.

Does everything need to be a traditional blog post?

If by “traditional” you mean written then, No.  Although there are definitely storytelling structures you can apply to the creation of a blog posts, aka multimedia story, they do not have to be strictly written content.

How do I know if I’m using the right blogging platform?

Normally I would say if you’re designing a blog post, you should have already figured out which blogging platform your going to use.  But, there is a tool for every project and with the introduction of microblogging sites like Instagram, Storify, Twitter, Vine, Soundcloud, Periscope etc… we gain the ability to explore stories in different ways be it on a separate blogging platform or as a micro blog that is part of the larger story we are creating.  This could definitely be argued and expanded on, but microblogging sites are being used to tell stories and reach audiences in a way that more “traditional blogging” can’t, so I think it’s important to bring them up.

How much should I write?

The best posts tend to have both text and visuals of some sort, even if it’s just a one sentence introduction to a video or photo gallery, there needs to be something there.  One of my biggest pet peeves is when sites post videos, audio or photo galleries with no description at all.  With that said if you’re writing, start small.  The idea of writing 1000 words about something to someone who isn’t a writer is enough to stop some people dead in their tracks. So, instead of trying to write a 500 page novel on day one, try to get a good 200 word paragraph down instead. As you continue blogging you will eventually start to write more, and probably not even realize you are doing it.

How do I layout a blog post?

I know i’ve talked ad nauseum about the importance of layout in user experience, so I’m not going to say too much more about that right now.  In my opinion there are no hard rules for blog post layout.   The big thing to keep it simple and remember is that you’re not just telling a story, you’re designing it.  If you’re not sure how you want it to look like, go old school and try drawing what you think it will look like on a piece of paper.    I have my design students start all their projects this way and it really helps them work out some of the kinks in their process before they start putting down text.

You want your post to look good and be easy for people to read.   Visual pacing is really important with a good blog post.   I always include an image, or images, of some sort.  If I have a lot of text I like to use images or graphics to break it up and give people a visual breath mid post, but you can also use things like block quotes to break up chunks of text if you don’t have a lot of pictures.

Blog posts have an anatomy? 

Yes.  Simply put these are the specific elements that need to be in every blog post and which you need to understand in order to effectively use them.  There is definitely a lot of talk now about how things should be done to optimize traffic for your site, but a lot of that is ancillary to the content, in my opinion, and a lot of the necessary elements are added automatically anyways if you are using a template (which is one of the reasons why I recommend using a template if you’re a first time blogger).  Remember, good content is the most important element on any blog or website and is what will keep people coming back for more.

Is there such thing as a perfect post,  or is it a mythical creature like the unicorn? 

What you have to realize is that when it comes to blogging in particular “perfect” is a relative word.  This is because a post might not be perfect but it can still be successful in many different ways.  For some a post is successful because it generates views,  income or conversation.   For others what makes a post successful could be more personal.   For me a perfect post is as I described, a balance between quality content and a quality layout.   Are any of my posts “perfect” I don’t know.   I think even after all this time I still have a lot to learn and creating a blog post can still get dicey at times, and that’s o.k with me, that’s how I learn.   All I can do is try to make my posts as good as I can.  This an ongoing quest, and it is one which I started years ago and will continue to unfold as I continue to learn new tools and tricks for multimedia storytelling in the years to come.