One of the great ways you can use the blog system is for your newsletter. If you're writing a newsletter, you're already in the habit of communicating regularly with your clientele. You can convert that discipline into blogging.
You can write a blog posting more regularly than you might put an entire newsletter together, enabling you to be in contact with your readers on a more regular basis.
Another benefit of using the blog for your newsletter is the Tag List. If you're not familiar with tags - I think they're one of the most powerful features of the blog system.
You have the option to add tags at the end of each post. You'll see all of my tags to the left of the blog.
Let's say you've developed an interest in Search Engine Optimization. If you click on that tag in the Tag List you'll see all of my posts with that tag.
It's easy to see how useful this feature can be.
Let's say you're a table grape grower in Fresno County and you receive Steve Vasquez's newsletter. And let's say that Steve has a blog version of his newsletter that is tagged. Imagine you've got a mealybug infestation (not so hard to imagine). If Steve has tagged all of his posts about mealybugs, one click will display the entire archive of his newsletters that discuss mealybugs.
You can still e-mail a newsletter to your clients, but archive the contents in a blog.
But what if you haven't been blogging all along and you want this feature. It's really easy to convert your newsletter archive to a blog.
Many people have their newsletters archived in PDF format on their Web sites. Simply copy and paste the content of your newsletter from the PDF into a blog posting. One post for each issue. Add the relevant tags. And here's a little known feature of the blog system - you can change the date of your post.
Your post will have the date it was entered by default. Go into the Administration section and click on Moderate Posts.
You'll get a list of all of your posts. Click on the date of the post you want to change:
Change the date and save.
If one of the characteristics of a Web-friendly PDF is that it be short, what do you do with a large PDF that you want to post on the Web?
There are a few considerations, so let's look at a couple of examples:
Lassen-Plumas-Sierra counties have jointly developed a great guide to home vegetable gardening that considers the challenges of their short growing season and high altitude.
As a general rule, you should notify people of the page count and the file size of a larger PDF. This is especially important if the audience contains a number of visitors using dial-up connections.
With our speedy, University-provided connections, we sometimes forget how frustrating it can be to download a large file at a slow connection speed. And we know that in many of the more rural areas that we serve, dial-up is still prevalent.
Here it would be easy enough to change this copy, not only to give the visitor a head's up about the file size, but to make it more inviting as well:
"This 19-page guide to home vegetable gardening was developed especially for the challenges faced by gardeners at our altitude and with our short growing season."
Then add the file size in parenthesis underneath the link.
Lassen County does a pretty good job of alerting visitors on a PDF of a Groundwater Management Plan:
Here's another example:
In Orange County they've posted a really useful PDF of "A Guide to the Water Needs of Landscape Plants."
Here they're using a direct link to the PDF file from the left navigation bar in Site Builder.
As a visitor, I find it a little startling to be suddenly down-loading the file; I'm accustomed to the left navigation bar taking me to a page. And I have no clue that this document is 96 pages.
There are a couple of better options. One is to create a page that contains some information about the document - who it's for, the length, some snappy copy about why it's so great - you get the picture. Another way is to create a link to the file within the static copy of the Environmental Horitculture program page. At 96 pages, this is truly a large PDF and either of these options would allow you to easily convey information about the file size and page count.
Another tip for a large PDF is to consider your audience. If your PDF is an academic study and the readership is likely to be policy makers and your peers in science, a large file like this could be fine. Keep in mind that opinions on this point differ.
But if the information is for the general public - you should consider breaking up the PDF into more manageable bites. You risk a negative reaction from people who don't want to read a large file on-line. You can still post the document in its entirety, but also post it in "bites."
It's not necessary to re-do the layout. First, post the table of contents if there is one. This serves as a preview. Then look for logical points for breaks in the document and post it in sections. List them in the order they appear in the full document along with the appropriate page count.
Orange County's water needs guide actually gives us a road map of how we can break up this large PDF.
Sections could be Getting Started, Vegetation Types, Standard Conditions, and so on. Now your visitors have the option to download the entire document, or just the section(s) they need. Just make sure the name accurately describes the content - remember your visitor may not be seeing the entire document, so "Appendix 2" will be meaningless, whereas "Glossary" is easily understood.
It's OK if the page breaks are a little messy. Here, a logical break occurs in the middle of the page, between Appendix 1 and Appendix 2. You can still make a break here - just make this the last page of one "bite" as well as the first page of the subsequent "bite."
There won't be a tip next week - I'll be on the road with the Writing Right for the Web workshops at Davis, Kearney, and Ontario. See you there!
ANR Web sites are full of PDF files - and there are some best practices for using PDF files effectively on the Web.
It's not enough to simply convert a document to PDF format and upload it to your Web site. To make a PDF work for you, rather than work your readers, you need to do a little tweeking.
I've been talking a lot about what not to do in these posts - I thought it was time to talk about something we're doing well.
When Bob Johnson presented our Web site review, he cited ANR Reports as one of the best examples of the effective use of a PDF.
Why does it work well?
It contains a table of contents with live links to the articles.
It contains live links to relevant Web sites and e-mail addresses that contain the "mailto" command which opens the users mail program when clicking on the e-mail address.
Keep in mind, "mailto" only works if your reader has integrated mail software. This isn't a reason not to use "mailto" - just be aware.
It opens in a size that is readable on a monitor:
Without the proper settings, you risk getting something like this:
It's easy to avoid this. In Acrobat, under the File Menu, choose "Properties." When the Properties window opens, select "Initial View." Set the view to either "Fit Width" or "Fit Page" and Save.
Don't rely on your readers to figure out that they can re-set the size in the Reader. Even if you intend for the PDF to be printed, rather than read online, your readers should be able to see the first page easily on screen so they know they have received the correct file.
More on PDF's in the next post.