Blogging Best Practices
Guidelines for WordPress Sites at Royal Roads University
Design first, build second
The first decisions regarding your WebSpace page relate to designing and building your site. Ideally, you would think about and make many of these decisions before you even start building and adding any content. A little planning will save you time and frustration down the track! Use this checklist to guide your design:
- Think about your needs: Why are you creating this site? What do I need it to do for me? The answers to these questions will inform the rest of the decisions that you make along the way.
- Learn a little bit about web design. See the section on design principles on the page Building your ePortfolio as a starting place. For an external resource, see a 10 Top Principles of Effective Web Design.
- Think about the configuration of your front page. Do you want a static front page, where the content never changes, or a dynamic front page that displays your recent blog posts? A static front page provides a consistent “landing page” for your viewers and might include a brief welcome to your page and a menu that visitors that use to navigate to specific pages. A dynamic front page is more common for a blog, where the first thing that visitors see is the most recent post.
- Choose your theme based on your needs and the content you intend to share. Some themes are great for sharing lots of pictures, whereas other themes are more appropriate for text. Some examples are provided below:
- Photo themes: Boardwalk, Cubic, Fable, Iwata, Origin
- Text based: DailyNotes, Feather, Flexible, Libre, Minnow, Notebook
- Somewhere in the middle: Baskerville, Davis, Sela, Twenty Fifteen
- Something different: Extra, Spun
- Think about your navigation layout. Most WordPress themes include a primary navigation area, but also allow for a secondary navigation pane where you can place additional links, widgets, a feed of recent posts, contact information, etc.
Categories & Tags
The next decision to make relates to categories and tags. Both help you to keep your writing organized and help people find stuff when they visit your site. For example, if you need to send someone a link to everything you ever wrote about a topic, a category or tag will allow you to send a specific URL.
Categories are akin to taxonomy (an official classification system), and refer to the general subject of your post. When you get your WebSpace page, you may find there are already several categories in place; these will correspond to the courses you are enrolled in at RRU. These categories allow you to view and link to posts and pages you create for different courses that you are using your WebSpace page for. Categories should be determined in the planning stages of WordPress design, though they can be refined and extended over the life of your site. Categories are often used to group posts in a menu.
Tags, on the other hand, are more akin to a folksonomy (a classification system by users), and act like keywords that can be used to filter and sort posts. Tags are particularly helpful because they show up in search engine results. Unlike categories, you create and add tags as you go along. This means the number of tags that you have will increase as you create more content. You can think of tags as the keywords used to describe a journal article, and you can add as many as you think are relevant before publishing a new post.
Another decision that you will need to make relates to comments to pages and posts on your site. First, are you going to allow comments at all? Since your WebSpace page is likely being developed for learning purposes, you will probably want to allow comments in order to invite feedback and dialogue from your colleagues and instructor. There are four settings you can configure to guide how comments are handled by your site:
- Comment author must fill out name and e-mail: You can require the comment author to supply their name and email address (only their name appears publicly). This lets you see who is commenting but won’t prevent much spam – the bots can fill out these fields.
- Users must be registered and logged in to comment: You can require that any commenter must be logged in. In your WebSpace site this means any student or instructor at Royal Roads can log into the system and then comment on your posts.
- An administrator must approve the comment: You can require that all comments be manually approved. This means you will need to decide to keep or trash each comment as it is posted. You can get notification of comments by email but this can be overwhelming.
- Comment author must have a previously approved comment: You can require that any comment author must have a previous comment approved by you. This means that you will have to moderate comments sometimes, but once someone’s comment has been approved, you won’t have to moderate their comments again
Creative Commons is a set of freely available licenses that you can use to give others the ability to use your work without having to directly seek your permission. By using a Creative Commons license you retain copyright in your work but allow others to make copies subject to possible limitations. For example, you may want to prevent copies of your work being used commercially, or you may not want others to alter your work. In any case, the Creative Commons license ensures that you are always attributed as the original creator.
You can learn more about Creative Commons licensing and how to apply this license to your materials in the ‘Share your work’ section of the Creative Commons website. A three-minute video at the bottom of the page explains the Creative Commons license and the ‘Choose a license’ section helps you determine which version of the Creative Commons license is suitable for you. It even offers simple embed code to add the appropriate license to your website.
Copyright is an important consideration for anyone involved in writing and creation. The information in this section addresses a few of the main issues/considerations related to copyright that you will need to consider when creating and maintaining your WebSpace site. However, the information provided below is by no means exhaustive. For more detailed information and answers to your questions about copyright, you can explore the resources available through the RRU Library Copyright Guide and the Copyright Office, or contact the Email Copyright Team.
- What is copyright? Copyright is the exclusive legal right to produce, reproduce, publish, or perform an original literary, artistic, dramatic or musical work. The creator is usually the copyright owner. You can read more about Canadian copyright in the RRU Library Copyright Guide, or in the Canadian Copyright Act itself.
- Why is copyright important? Copyright is important because it legally protects a creator’s works. Moreover, institutions such as Royal Roads University are liable to a high level of scrutiny with regard to the use of ‘third-party’ works and could be severely impacted by findings of copyright infringement.
- What does copyright have to do with publishing on the web? When an individual reproduces part or all of another person’s work, the rights of the copyright owner come into play. Examples of this include sharing images and files. Specific guidelines on sharing images and files are listed below.
Using images and other media on your WebSpace site
You will likely include images on your WebSpace site. The key points to remember here are:
- If permission to share the picture hasn’t been obviously given, you shouldn’t use it.
- Unless the image belongs to you (i.e. it was created by you), you must give attribution. Giving attribution means clearly telling visitors to your site who created the image and ideally, linking to where it came from.
When you upload an image to your WebSpace media library you will be able to add a caption, description, and alternate text. This will allow you to attribute an original creator, but linking to the original source will still have to be done separately. You can also either manually create a caption underneath the picture, or include a list of all image attributes at the bottom of your page. Generally speaking, the attribution includes the name of the creator and links to the original source on the web. An example is shown below:
You can find shareable licensed and public domain media, along with an attribution generator, at the ‘Shareable and Creative Commons Media’ page in on the RRU WebSpace site.
Sharing videos on your WebSpace page
The best way to share a video on your WebSpace site is to embed the video directly onto your page or post. This means that visitors to your site will see an embedded player ready to display your video, complete with common controls. Users can watch the video without navigating away from your site. Generally speaking, embedding a video is safe from a copyright perspective. However, you must do your due diligence when sharing videos. If you embed a video that is obviously a copyright infringement (i.e. an episode of Friends uploaded by ‘Steve’), there is a moral/ethical issue to consider and you should not share this video.
Note: WordPress will recognize a YouTube link and automatically embed it into your WebSpace page or post without further action required by you. In other words, you can simply copy-paste the URL into a text editor and WordPress will create the thumbnail on your page. This only works if you copy-paste the URL onto a separate line from other text.
Sharing web links on your WebSpace page
It is very common to link to other web pages when blogging or creating on the web. Some things to consider when sharing a link to an external page:
- If you are talking about or quoting someone else’s ideas, news article, blog, etc., it is courteous to link to the source material on the web.
- If you refer to a technical term, you can link to a page (e.g. Wikipedia) that provides a definition, rather than you writing out the full definition or explanation.
- Think about your reader when linking. If you think they might not be familiar with a topic you mention, or you think they might be interested in reading more, it can be a good idea to link to somewhere they can go for further reading, if they choose.
- Like many things in life, balance is needed here. You don’t want to crowd your page with links, so only link when you think it is necessary or helpful to you reader.
- It is a best practice to have links open in a new window/tab when they are taking users outside of your website.
When creating links, always create clickable words, rather than pasting in the complete URL. There are two main reasons for this. First (and most importantly), the full URL is challenging for people who are using screen readers, and second, URLs clutter the page. An example of each is shown below:
|Full URL (not recommended)||Clickable text (recommended)|
|This article has really informed my understanding of what can be achieved with a blog:
https://pcdnetwork.org/resources/guide-to-blogging-for-peace-and-social-change/Tags are the modern folksonomy
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folksonomy) of the internet.
|The article, Guide to Blogging for Social Change and Impact, has really informed my understanding of what can be achieved with a blog.
Tags are the modern folksonomy of the internet.
Notice in the recommended example above that the linked text is the title of the article. Ideally, you should link the text that identifies the name of page you are linking to, rather than linking words like “here” (e.g. The article can be found here) or “click here” (e.g. Click here to access the article).
As always, be sure to model correct copyright behavior when linking to a web page: if the website you are linking to appears itself to be an infringement of copyright, do not link to it.
Sharing articles & readings on your WebSpace page
If you are sharing articles and readings on your WebSpace page, use a link to the location of the resource on the internet. DO NOT share PDFs or other documents, unless the files belong to you or you have prior approval from the Copyright Office. Sharing files can have copyright implications: if you accessed and saved the PDF via the RRU Library website, there may be specific licensing and copyright agreements in place. Instead, link to a legitimate source on the web, for example the database or journal page where the article lives. Keep in mind that some visitors to your WebSpace page might not be able to access links to library database journal articles.
Technical Support for WordPress at Royal Roads University
There are a number of resources available to support you in your use of WebSpace at RRU. These have been gathered together and found in the WebSpace chapter of the IT Knowledgebase.
Read more about blogging
Many people have written about blogging best practices. Your blog or WebSpace page will likely be a little different, since it is probably geared more towards specific learning activities and/or an ePortfolio. Nevertheless, it’s sometimes nice to know what best practices look like for this form of communication. Below you will find a list of links to external pages that may serve as a starting place for further independent reading about blogging. Remember always to follow the instructions given by your instructor first.