Some bloggers, especially new bloggers, don’t want to learn how to code html. I can understand that feeling.
There is so much to learn when we are first starting blogging it can feel a bit like taking a foreign language for some. From the very term Blog on down there are tons of new terms we bloggers use. Trackbacks, blogroll, pings, feeds, RSS, comment box, pages, blog post, categories, plugins, widgets, tags, seo – the list goes on and on.
And that doesn’t even get into the sometimes strange names of the different services and web sites that are useful to bloggers. WordPress, TypePad, Blogger, FeedBurner, Technorati, MyBlogLog, StatCounter, and Hit Tail are just a few that a blogger might run across.
It can feel overwhelming for sure. And the idea of having to learn HTML on top of all that other learning is keeping some folks from getting started unnecessarily.
If you are new to blogging, or are considering getting started I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Most of us didn’t know anything about HTML when we started either. We picked up along the way after we got started.
One of the things I love about blogging is that most of the blog publishing platforms make it so easy for the beginner to have a professional looking web site without them having to know any HTML to start.
So you can get started and pick up some basic coding skills along the way like I did because I am going to share two tricks that will help you begin to understand HTML as you blog.
The WYSIWYG Editor
If you aren’t comfortable working with HTML you are probably going to want to use a WYSIWYG editor. WYSIWYG stands for What You See Is What You Get.
The idea with WYSIWYG is what you enter will pretty much look like what you will get on the screen when you publish to your blog. The editor has buttons to make the basic HTML functions that look much like the familiar buttons on most word processing platforms.
That way you can highlight some text, click the B button and the proper code is inserted to make your text bold. Same thing for inserting hyperlinks, etc.
Now here is the trick.
With most WYSIWYG editors there is a button that will let you see the raw HTML code that is running in the background. The idea is to allow you to make tweaks to the code that aren’t covered by the editor.
You want to learn how to code that bold text? Click the raw code button.
There you will see the editor added one of two codes to your text. It either looks like <b>Bold Text</b> or <strong>Bold Text</strong> (HTML will make either of them into bold text, just to keep it interesting.)
Either one will produce Bold Text.
By switching back and forth between the WYSIWYG editor and the raw code editor you will quickly learn some of the basic HTML code.
I actually turn the WYSIWYG editor off completely and prefer to work in the raw code all the time. I do that partly because sometimes the editors can occasionally do funky things that I don’t want with the formatting. But partly it is a hold over from earlier versions of WordPress where it wasn’t so easy to switch between the two and see the raw code.
To turn your WYSIWYG editor off in WordPress, go to “Users–>Your Profile” and de-select the check box near the top that says “Use the visual editor when writing”. Don’t forget to hit the “Update Profile” button to save the change.
Then you will be working in the raw code mode all the time. The good news is that the editing buttons are still there for bold, italics, links and such. So you can either use them to enter your code or just type it in yourself.
As a note, if you are pulling your hair out because something just won’t format the way you think it should, take a look at the raw code. You will probably find there is a whole lot of extra stuff in there that shouldn’t be there.
This is especially likely to happen if you used a word processor to type up your blog post. Microsoft Word is notorious for adding strange formatting commands to the text that don’t work well in HTML.
To prevent that from happening, open up a text only editor such as Notepad, copy your text from Word into Notepad. Then copy it out of Notepad into your blog. Then you won’t add a bunch of random code in there.
You might think the extra step is a pain. But it is a whole lot less painful than trying to weed out all that extra code after it is in your blog. Trust me.
Look at HTML Source Code
Another trick to learning HTML code quickly is to take a look at the source code on various web sites.
I remember when I first started thinking, “It be cool if I could see how they did that” when I came across some good looking web site. I wanted to try to do that in my blog, but couldn’t figure out how.
Well that’s because I didn’t know how to view the source code.
Most web browsers will let you do that easily.
With FireFox, go to the tool bar at the top and find View–>Page Source. With Internet Explorer, go to View–>Source.
Either way it will open up a separate window for you with the raw HTML code in there.
It will probably look like complete gibberish at first. But as you compare the raw code to the way the web site looks in the other window, you can find the different sections that make up the different parts of the web page.
The trick is to find the part of the code which corresponds to the neat thing you want to do. I usually use the text I see on the screen as my landmarks to navigate through the raw code to find the piece of code that I’m interested in learning about.
There are some sites that hide their source code one way or another. That’s OK. Just skip that one and go on.
And over time you will start to learn basic HTML. I’m guessing it will happen more quickly than you might think!