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Do You Need a Style Guide? Answer: Yes

It’s a simple question: Do you need a style guide? And it has a simple answer: Yes. Any brand, company, blog or webpage that wants to create and maintain consistency and a professional feel should have a style guide.

Style guides are a must for any publisher with multiple employees. This is especially important if more than one person will work on any brand elements (from the website to printed materials), and to ensure that transitions between employees are seamless in the eyes of users. Today, we take a look at well-documented style guide from MailChimp, and highlight things you can take away in creating your own document for the first time.

What Is a Style Guide?

 mailchimp-release

A style guide is the ultimate resource for visual and writing tone for your brand. The guidebook is not intended to be read cover to cover (and should not be written that way), and should be organized as a simple resource manual.

Style guides cover two big areas: visuals and writing. For website or app development, a style guide may contain a third area, defining how the user interface should work or coding specifics.

A style guide is a fluid document and once written should be updated regularly. When creating this document, consider how it will look and be used during the process. Your style guide should follow the styles defined. Use your brand’s color palette and the same writing style that you would like to be associated with the brand.

MailChimp’s “Voice and Tone” style guide follows this concept. The tone is simple and the guide looks and feels like the website. In addition, MailChimp also has a “Brand Assets” guide for how visual elements are used.

Getting Started

mailchimp-logo

Creating a style guide from scratch is not a task that you can complete in an hour. It will take some planning and time. But once the document is created and if updated regularly, it can be a time-saver in the long run. Before you write the first word of instruction, gather (or create) this list of materials to make compiling your guide that much easier.

Branding definitions, styles and logotypes: This includes examples of how logos can and can’t be used, as well as fonts, sizes and color swatches.

Font palette: List all the typefaces, sizes and colors that are acceptable. Include specs for how each is used from styles for body type, headers, quotes, labels, captions, navigation elements and so on.

Images, icons and buttons: Define style, color, size and placement of each.

Styles for forms or calls to action: Define what type of information can be collected and how data collection works. Write and include disclaimer information.

Basic layout: What is the basic template for your design? Include a few examples for how your letterhead, printed materials or web pages should look.

Visual Style

 

mailchimp-mascot

mailchimp-color

The visuals section of the style guide includes several key parts: acceptable fonts and use, including normal, bold, italic and special styles; color and size for typefaces; settings for bullets or lists; color palette; and image guidelines, such as size, border specs and uses such as text wrap or image and text combinations.

These styles should be written in simple and clear language and include technical specs, such as complete font names, color mix swatches (in RGB, CMYK or Pantone) and usage guidelines for web and print (if applicable). Some brands have both a print and web style guide; other brands opt for one document that covers both.

mailchimp-type

MailChimp’s style for typography is direct and shows each font and usage. The style guide should include HTML specs as well for website styles. What elements use an H1 versus H2 versus H3 tag. (We’ll go into more detail about web specifics in the HMTL section.)

In addition, visual style guidelines should include a full description of when, how and where branding and logos can be used. This includes how the logo looks, if colors or fonts can be altered (typically not) and in what instances use is acceptable.

Writing Style

mailchimp-voice

Just as important as your visual style is the tone of the writing. It can be jarring for users to come see your brand material and it read light and silly in one instance and cold and sterile in another. How the words come together can help clients or users associated with your products, making a writing style vital.

Key parts of written style include tone; spelling and language; reader level or jargon; voice; structure; use of symbols, numbers and lists; branding or trademark usage; and overriding style guide of choice.

There are a handful of generally accepted written style guides for English-language publications. Most company style guides direct you to use one of these for questions on matters of usage and style.

AP Style: The Associated Press Stylebook is used by journalism and writing professionals in print and online. The style focuses on consistency and brevity and is common because of these attributes.

Chicago Style: The Chicago Manual of Style is used by academics and for scholarly works, businesses and includes the basics for a more formal style of writing.

MLA Style: The Modern languages Association style guide is most commonly used in academics, liberal arts and humanities.

MailChimp’s writing style guide includes great examples of press releases and how the site should read as well as how the brand interacts with customers on social media, the blog and how the company’s trademark jokes should be handled.

User Interface and HTML

PRL

If you are creating content for the web, you need rules for digital publication as well. While text, color and tone guidelines will be outlined in other guides, you should also note how the website and user interface should work. (The PRL guide is an excellent resource.)

Text: Explain HTML markup rules. What type of headers are used and how? What’s the difference in usage between an H2 or H3? In addition to usage, what markup does your site use? This is the part of the guide that details every usage.

Images: The rules for image use should be just as clear as for text. Do you have a specified width or height for every image? Is there a standard text wrap or border size? How should alt tags be used. Make sure to answer each of these questions clearly.

Naming and saving files: In addition to how things should look, consider a little web housekeeping. How should files be named and saved in the CMS? Set clear guidelines so that your file maintenance is clean and files are saved at manageable sizes and are easy to find.

Coding practices: Determine and set forth coding standards for HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Include examples.

User Interface: If you did not include a visual guide for user interface elements and workings, include it here. What types of inputs are used and how are they labeled? (Do you use words like “Continue,” “Submit,” or “OK?”) Include a “kit” of your site’s user interface elements and usage.

In Conclusion

 

The best way to get started with creating a must have style guide is to contact:

brand research and development

Go ahead. Request a free evaluation!

Original Author / Carrie Cousins
Original Source / Design Shack

 

 

 

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Good Content Is Too Valuable To Die | Smashing Magazine

Good Content Is Too Valuable To Die

By   September 19th, 2013

When I started developing websites back in the day, I was lucky to have hundreds of valuable, practical articles that would help me become better at what I did. I could learn day and night, and whenever I discovered a new tool or technique, I would bookmark it on Delicious for future reference. I knew the value of each article and of each bookmark, and I kept revisiting and carefully tagging them for months and months  — almost every day.

Years have passed. The landscape has changed. Blogs have emerged and new publications have appeared. Some magazines were discontinued yet remained fully available online (Pingmag and good ol’ Digital-Web, for example). At that point, maintaining a backup of online articles obviously didn’t even cross my mind. For a year or so, I even stopped bookmarking articles since I could always find them via Google, of course. I was naive and stupid.

As the time was progressing, every now and again I kept revisiting my bookmarks just to realize that all this fantastic, valuable content was slowly fading away from me, leaving nothing but a breath of disappointment and sadness every time I wanted to quickly look something up and had to consult the fantastic Web.archive.org first to drag the living parts of the article from the incomplete cached version.

Good Content Is Too Valuable To Die

Yesterday over 9,500 articles published throughout the years on .net magazine disappeared over night. Sadly, only the top 500 articles were moved to a new home while others just vanished from the Web within a couple of seconds. And so, another portion of my bookmarks died silently and abruptly.

Good Content Is Too Valuable To Die

Over 9,500 .net mag articles disappeared over night; users are  redirected to the “Welcome”-post on Creative Bloq.

I loved how detailed and practical articles published on .net magazine used to be. I loved Dan Oliver’s and Oliver Lindberg’s fantastic editorial work on hundreds of articles I’ve bookmarked over the years — many of them now gone due to the simple fact that they didn’t get enough attention over the years. Those articles were good, very good in fact; valuable, helpful, worth reading and rereading, worth tweeting and sharing, worth keeping as PDFs in a special local folder.

The remainders of those articles still exist out there, in Google Cache or Web Archive cache. They are accessible and can be found if you know what you are looking for and know where to look for them. But what if you don’t? A couple of months from now, they will disappear from the Google index for good. The content that was thoroughly edited and skillfully prepared over years will not be there anymore. If I started developing websites today, I wouldn’t be able to find them anymore. That’s bad — very, very bad.

We know it because we’ve been there: Good content is time-consuming. It’s expensive, requires patience and damn hard work. Good content is very difficult to produce and hard to maintain, and it’s way too valuable to die like this. One thought keeps crossing my mind and that is: “This should not be happening.”

.net magazine has been working on fixing bugs in regard to their server move, and while they’ve been very responsive on Twitter, it looks like those articles aren’t going to be published again soon:

tweet

Unfortunately, Smashing Magazine has experienced this, too. We recently had to move thousands of articles to a new install and know how expensive and time consuming this challenge can be. I sincerely applaud .net magazine‘s developers for moving 500 articles to the new site, but why was removing the articles from the Web necessary in the first place? Why not provide an online backup with advertising and everything necessary to keep these articles online?

Today I can’t help but wonder what would have happened to me if I had started off in the Web design industry a couple of years later and those fantastic articles spread across CSS blogs and online magazines just didn’t exist any longer.

Today is the day when I start keeping PDF backups of valuable online articles because at the end of the day, the Web does forget. And way too often what it forgets is the quality content that is so difficult to create in the first place.

I hope from the very bottom of my heart that .net magazine articles will be brought back to life and will be available online; perhaps with pop-ups, numerous ads and blinking GIFs. That content is just too valuable to die. It should stay online.

Good Content Is Too Valuable To Die | Smashing Magazine.


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“Creating Meaningful Images”

grocery-shoppingWe all have our favorite frozen dessert treat. As you’re hunting through the grocery store freezer aisle, you scan the rows for that familiar package that you know will bring more happiness to your life. Have you ever thought about what initially draws you to products? Do you know why you have a tendency to be drawn to certain brands? A brand is created to trigger human emotions through powerful and meaningful images that capture our attention. Our purchasing behaviors may be heavily influenced by images that either appeal or repel. For Fat Boy, we tested 4 different styles of photographic imaging to show off the Fat Boy ice cream line. One style rose above the rest. That design received tremendous acceptance and a high like-ability rating from the emotional taste buds of the buyer. As a merchandiser trying to reach potential customers, you must see your package as a single overall image. Does it read off the shelf or through the freezer glass? What about the packaging communication points? Are they answering the buyer’s questions in the right order? Without research, design is just decoration. Using research, RED created a design for Fat Boy that connected with buyers, raising sales by over 30%.

 Are you creating Meaningful Imaging?

FatBoy ice cream