For those of you who love planning, creating, and managing web content, but may not know much about code, it’s always a great idea to catch up on the latest in development tools. Not that I’m a herald of new things HTML, but semantically, this stuff is getting easier to understand as the latest spec, HTML5, gets richer and more people-friendly. The better we understand the code behind our web content, the more effective we can plan for the resources needed to create remarkable content.

It sucks when you can't use content properly.

I cook a lot of stuff nowadays, but I wasn’t always allowed to mess around in the kitchen as a kid. My parents were pretty strict about keeping us out of there as kids. Whenever I did get a chance to sneak in some cooking time, I’d end up lost in pantries and cupboards because all of the foodstuffs weren’t labeled.

I couldn’t ask for help, because that would indicate that I’d been messing around in the kitchen.

Fast forward years later– I just made some fantastic seafood basil pasta in my kitchen. I have cupboards lined with goodies in a particular order, in containers that clearly display what each item is. I’m master of my culinary domain.

Oh, and this kitchen is way more fun. The food is quite delicious.

Isn’t this true of great content? Organized resources are much more fun to use because everything just works the way it should, catering to the user. It sucks when you run into a roadblock of poorly planned and managed content. It’s more frustrating when there’s no one or nothing around to help you.

With a little bit of studying, we can stop plenty of web content fails.

Or, at least be on track to prevent some because we can effectively join in conversation with developers and be their stakeholder liaisons.

It’s not that content creators and managers intend of their stuff to suck. Sometimes they just don’t fully understand the tools that they use. It’s also often that there just aren’t any people assigned to these tools, or that there’s just a reliance on some kind of plugin or automated script to get the job done.

I believe that if you’re going to work with web content in any way shape or form, there’s got to be a little due diligence done to understand the tools at hand. You don’t have to become a master in every web language, but I think we should do our best to at least know what our colleagues are working with and what they’re trying to create for the users we’re all trying to impress and delight.

The best way to learn anything is from a group of people who are trying to learn just as much as you are. Mix in some people who are really good at what you’re trying to learn and who are happy to teach and that’s a great time. Speaking of which, I recently went to PDX Web & Designs Hardcore HTML. What a valuable session.

If you work with developers, but don't necessarily do a lot of developing, you should put a little effort into being somewhat familiar with code.

  1. It keeps you in sync with the development of your content.
  2. Knowing the lingo and concepts, even on a surface level, breaks the ice if you're trying to get a developer to see things your way and align them to the greater goal of your project and overall content strategy.
  3. You can better understand the amount of work that can go into create a web project and better advocate for the budget and means to make remarkable content happen.

If you haven’t touched HTML in a while, it’s a great time to hop in. There’s a huge emphasis on improving semantic meaning with more emphasis on document hierarchy. What? In other words, things are much more friendlier for both developers and their colleagues to create standards-based, user-loving content.

Google often takes cues from the HTML5 spec (the massive 900-page HTML5 user manual/encyclopedia) as to how to better retrieve content that serves curious search-engine using audience. It steadily begins favoring more markup that makes sense, rather than clunkier code. This is another reason to be up to date about how HTML5 plays a role in your CMS and content development if you’re relying on searchable content.

What's the best way to catch up?

Like I said, find other people who are in the same shoes as you. What are they doing? Here in Portland, we’re lucky to have an immensely friendly tech community. It’s often open arms, hot coffee, pizza by the slice, frosty beers, and good times. Everyone’s around to learn, to meet, to teach, to grow together. There are lots of other resources too, like HTML5 Boilerplate, where you can dip your toes, or straight-up skinny dip, into the all mighty web language. A tangible favorite of mine is Jeremy Keith’s HTML5 for Web Designers, which you can find at A Book Apart.

As a content strategist, I care just as much for the architecture of the content as I do its planning and substance. Investing time in catching up with the speedy HTML5 is worth it in my opinion.