2.18.2009

Got Style?

Wikis, multi-author blogs, shared documents, and other collaborative tools are an effective means of creating content; however, problems can arise when collaborators have differing opinions concerning presentation.  Should a tutorial contain flowing paragraphs of complete sentences or a hierarchal outline of phrases?  Which level headings, fonts, colors, etc. should be used?  A great solution to this problem is to create a style guide, designating how content is to be presented; if all contributors follow the same style, not only will the users will be rewarded with a consistent interface, but it will prevent time-wasting & relationship-straining arguments. An excellent example of a style guide for electronic content is the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library Digital Branch style guide, available via David Lee; it is a very comprehensive and well-written guide.

Templates are another great solution to ensure consistency in style, and many online tools offer options for using templates or themes.  PBwiki, for example, has several premade templates available and users can create their own. Offline, Microsoft Office allows users to save modified templates for future use or for sharing with others. Formatting Microsoft Word documents using styles is also a very effect tool; in addition to ensuring consistency, styles enable you to format every instance of an element at once, e.g. changing the font & size of every section header without having to individually select each one.  Using styles in Word has enabled me to spend more time writing content and less time formatting.

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