I’ve already written about why WYSIWYG editors are a bad idea. Separation of content from style is vital on the web.
It’s your web designer’s job to take your content and design and build the best website to convey its message to your visitors. You shouldn’t have to give this a second thought. He or she will anticipate as many variations of content type (paragraphs, headings, images, lists, quotes, etc.), content length (how long are the paragraphs? How many bullet points?), and so on, at lots of screen widths on multiple devices as possible. If there is something they haven’t anticipated it’s usually just a case of writing some more code to cater for it.
So you need to concentrate on writing great content and allow the website to take care of how it looks in situ. Not least because the look and feel of your website is likely to change and evolve over time. Getting bogged down with how something looks is often waste of time because the staling that dictates how it will look now as often completely different in six months time. You’re awesome content may not change or need to change for years.
Separate editing environment
I don’t know about you, but I really don’t enjoy writing directly into that text box on by CMS Control Panel. It’s fine for Facebook or Twitter, where I’m only going to be writing a sentence or two, but for a whole blog post there are some things that could be better:
- It’s a bit small and constrictive
- There are too many visual distractions around the text box that draw my eye whilst writing
- I like to start writing on one device and continue on any other
- I don’t want to have to open my web browser, log in to my CMS control panel and find the post continue writing
- I prefer not to clutter my list of posts in my CMS control panel with ideas for posts and half-written drafts
- One false click and you risk losing everything you’ve typed
I use an app called Byword to write my blog posts. It’s a full-screen (point 1 solved!), distraction free (point 2) editing environment. I’ve got Byword on all of my devices and it syncs automatically via iCloud or Dropbox (point 3) and when I open the app it takes me straight to the post I was last editing (point 4). Whenever I come up with a new post I just hit the
+ button to create a new post and a new file is added that I can come back to at any point (point 5).
Point 6 warrants a bit more explanation. How often have you been writing something in a text box on a website, for example filling out the feedback form, only to press the wrong key and submit the form. Or—worse—you’re automatically logged out half way through a post or upon submitting the post. The entire post is gone and you’ve lost the post you worked so hard on. Some web browsers (like Safari) will do their best to auto-save the contents of the text box, so that you can go back to the page without losing that much, but more often than not I find I go back to the page and there’s a blank text area staring back at me… Not much fun.
Writing posts in a dedicated app like Byword means your work is automatically saved as you write it.
But what about formatting?
Maybe you already edit your posts in a separate app. A lot of people do this in Microsoft Word or Apple’s Pages. Makes sure you don’t use the default formatting though – most word processing apps like these support Markdown to a greater or lesser extent, so make sure you’re writing in Markdown. That way, when you copy and paste the contents of your post to the text box in your CMS and hit ‘save’ it will all be output to the site properly.
A happy side effect of writing your posts in one place and publishing them in another is that you have two copies of every article you’ve written on your hard drive. Even better, they’ll also live in your Dropbox account or iCloud Drive. And they’ll probably have synced to your other devices. Backups everywhere!
That means if your server was to have problems, your content is available elsewhere for republishing.
So many advantages
Writing your blog posts off-line means:
- you can concentrate on writing great content; not on how it will look
- you have backups of your content
- there’s an easy way to organise your ideas and drafts posts
- your editing environment is optimal
- you have the ability to edit on your laptop, tablet, phone or anywhere else you have access to your files
- you can open an app and start writing straight away