update November 2021
note: the workarounds in this post are no longer necessary thanks to the AR dev team making the needed corrections!! The "clear formatting" point below is not a bug however and is still a good consideration for you to take a look at.
How's it going there bloggers? If you feel like the appearance of your blog posts with the recent updates has taken a turn for the worse, then you are not alone! Watching the Q&A in the recent weeks it seems like some developer updates may have moved some things "one step forward and two steps back." First of all, it really is a good thing that this site now has a team of devs assigned to move it forward. Growing pains come as part of the package deal. You are here reading this post, so you obviously feel the site has enough merit to see beyond the "blooper reel". Correct?
Ok - So you still want to blog here in spite of the "current issues". Let me provide you a checklist and some suggestions that can make your blog posts look better than how they might look otherwise!
What Are the Issues?
Here are some of the blog post issues that I see at the current moment, (and this could change at any point) if you do not change the font size, it is (my opinion) now too small by default. Secondly, the spacing after paragraphs is pretty much non-existent so one paragraph runs into the next. Thirdly, if you compose your text elsewhere (e.g. google docs and paste here), you will end up with a non-standard AR font. Also, we used to be able to style subheadings in our posts to break up the sections of text (e.g. h2 subheadings). If you have posts that are a longer format, subheadings will help break up the text so it is more readable and searchable.
I'm using this blog post also to illustrate that you can successfully workaround the above issues. Yes, it is possible to have better sized text, using the correct font, have spacing after your paragraphs, and also use subheadings on longer posts. And you don't need to manually edit a single bit of HTML code!
So What Can You Do Right Now?
What can you do right now to make your blog posts look better? Notice my checklist below. After the list, I'll give a little more detailed instructions in case you need further clarification.
- In my opinion, the post text box is too short. The first thing I recommend is to drag the lower corner of the box downward for a taller edit area.
- (If you are pasting from any other source, e.g. Google Docs... after pasting to AR, select all (Ctrl+A/Command-A) and click "clear formatting" button)
- (With all text selected) Change all paragraphs font size to 12pt
- Do an extra RETURN after each paragraph (blank line for spacing)
- If you did the copy+paste+clear formatting step, now is your chance to go in and find phrases or words that should be bold and make those updates.
- Ignore how the formatting looks (e.g. line spacing) while in the text editor mode. It is NOT the same as how it will look when published. Use the "preview" button to get a look at how it will really look.
- If you need a subheading, type one, then select the line and make it 20pt and bold. (It won't be an h2, which would be more ideal, but at least visibly it will be good)
Give Yourself a Taller Editing Area
The text box where you compose your blog post is too short ("vertically challenged?") It is really nice to be able to see more of your text when you are composing a post. The good news is that it is adjustable. In the lower right corner of the box you'll see a couple diagonal lines. This indicates that if you click and drag from there and go downward, you can make the edit box taller to your liking!
Clear Inherited Formatting
In the current round of ActiveRain updates, one of the goals was to have blog posts from all authors have the same font appearance. This will make the site overall have a more professional look to it (and I agree with this decision). However, the implementation is not fully there yet. You'll notice that you can no longer make your blog posts in Comic Sans and pink font (those tools have been removed from the editor now). A good standard font has now been selected. It is called "Montserrat." However, if you compose your post in another location (e.g. Google Docs or MS Word) and paste it here, the fonts you used there will be inherited here. After you paste in your text, you should immediately "Select All" (Ctrl+A shortcut, Command-A on mac) and then click the "clear formatting" button on the toolbar. This will remove all the non-standard formatting and make your text appear as our site standard.
Don't Use the Default Text Size
Choosing a good font size is a very subjective thing. It has been noted though, that there are a good percentage of "older eyeballs" reading the pages of this site and it can be a little frustrating when the font is too small. Right now, it arguably is still a little too small (at 15px if you don't change it.) So if you use the "select all" shortcut noted above, choose the 12pt font size for all your text. We are only given 3 choices at the moment (12, 20, and 26pt). The latter two are pretty humongous for main text, so 12 pt is the best available choice at the moment (short of manually editing the HTML code).
I'm going to clear any font size adjustments just to this one paragraph so you can see how small it is. The paragraph above is 12pt and this paragraph is the default 15px. Can you see the size above is better? It would be nice if were even bigger than 12pt,
but jumping up to the next choice 20 pt (like this) is too big. Do you agree?
Add Space After Each Paragraph
One of the hiccups right now in the site styling, is that there is no margin (whitespace) after our paragraphs. All the text just runs together and this makes quickly turn into an undesirable "wall of words." For now, just press an extra return after each paragraph and you'll get the whitespace separation that you need. (The caveat to this is that the paragraph styling will probably be fixed soon [hopefully!] and then what you had added the extra returns to will have too much space, but better that then running all our words together)
Make Your Main Points Pop
If you "clear formatting" from pasting in your text from another place where you compose, you fix the font and size issues, but any formatting you had like bold and italics will be lost also. You should really not do those types of edits elsewhere but save them until you get your text over here. Selecting key words and phrases in your text and then making them bold will help your main points stand out. It also helps people skim through your text and take away the main points quickly.
The Real Look is Found in "Preview"
In the post editing area, you may see some strange things happen as far as font sizes and spacing. However, the real appearance of the post will likely be quite a bit different. The best thing to do as you compose it hit the "save" button near the top of the page and then click the "preview" button. Then you'll get the "real look" of how your post is going to appear.
Add Subheadings in Longer Posts
Sometimes blog posts can be a little longer (like this one is, right?). But do you see how I've been using subheadings to help navigate your way through it without it being too hard to follow? Ideally, in web pages, subheadings will be tagged as h2 headings (h3, h4, etc as needed, but generally h1 and h2 are sufficient!) However, we don't have the ability to do h2 headings at the moment. The next best thing is to type your subheading, select it, make it bold and 20 pt size. As you've seen in this post. That makes those headings pop out nicely.
Hopefully these tips can be helpful to you as you continue your forward momentum in your blogging journey. In the next weekly ActiveRain Zoom meeting (Tuesday Aug 24), we are scheduled to get our next development update from Ben Kinney and his team. They listen to our feedback on what has been done so far and can adjust accordingly as the need arises. If they aren't already aware of some of our latest struggles, they are sure to get an earful on the next round LOL. Will we see you there?