Blogging / Et Al / Technical Writing

You Don't Have to be a Programmer to Hand-Code Your Blog

Last week, in a fit of motivation, I submitted five continuing education class proposals to the local community college; three of the five proposals were for blogging classes. I haven’t heard a yea or nay on my classes yet, but when I looked at my tentative class outlines once more, I realized that I better get my butt in gear and actually think through some of my micro units, which is the impetus of today’s post.

Today I want to talk about XHTML, also known as eXtensible Hyper Text Markup Language. Long before I started seriously blogging, I learned XHTML and CSS (cascading style sheets) in a graduate technical writing/web development class. Now, when I say learned I mean that I learned how to hand-code an entire website without leaning on Dreamweaver or any other web development software. I’ve heard nightmares from web development teachers whose students say they want to learn how to code when they really want to learn how to use Dreamweaver. Not in the class I took. We hand-coded everything. And I loved it!

I can hear you asking, “Sarah, what does this have to do with blogging?” Well, let me ask you, Have you ever wanted to change something–anything–about your blog’s appearance or functionality but you were afraid you’d mess up your template? Here’s the thing: Knowing how to hand-code XHTML can give you greater control over your entire blog template and your individual blog posts, building your confidence as a blogger and as a web developer.

Let’s be clear: I’m not advocating building an entire blog template from scratch. I mean, you can if you want, but there are so many free templates to choose from, why not pick one that’s close and tweak it until it’s exactly what you want? Want that elusive third column? Need to increase the height of your header? Hoping your images will line up on the first try? Hand-code, people!

Hand-coding your XHTML has other benefits, too. When you use a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor in Blogger, Dreamweaver, etc., you’re likely to get “extra” code that is automatically generated. This code can slow down your blog, hinder site performance, and invalidate your blog with the W3C. By hand-coding your blog, your blog will more than likely load fast, perform better, and be search engine friendlier. And who doesn’t want those things?

If you’re ready to learn how to hand-code XHTML, so you can have tighter control over your blog’s appearance and functionality, check out the list of resources below to get you started:

Even with these resources, you’re not going to be whipping out mind-blowing site designs immediately; however, learning XHTML, its tags, and its rules is pretty simple. Concentrate on it during a long Saturday or with a series of evenings at a coffee house, and you’ll be a hand-coding expert! Happy coding!