Think of style guides as a rulebook.
Not to limit, but to keep things consistent – when to bold, italicise, or have headers break up text etc.
It’s important because we look for patterns.
Break the pattern and we get jarred, like going over a pothole. Also, consistency creates signposts that demarcate new sections, place names, even hyperlinks!
What goes inside a style guide depends on what it’s for: brand identity, video, magazine or website? It might cover editorial-type styles – from grammar to how to write a post – or it might cover colours and dimensions.
The contents might change, but remember: a style guide is for consistency.
How to Create a Style Guide
It consists of three steps:
- Define audience
- Describe style and tone
- Describe key conventions
Taking TechTicks as an example (I’m still experimenting with it so my style guide isn’t quite fixed yet):
My audience are people who create content (be it articles videos, podcasts or whatever) for their clients. They are generally tech- and online-savvy, and want to understand how content can be used to promote products, services or causes.
Add as much detail as possible. If you can, create a reader persona (like old pen & paper role-playing game characters) to give life to your audience.
My style is informal and simple. I must be informative. I’ll illustrate my points with concrete examples. If I don’t know, I’ll say “I don’t know”. Do not be too snarky.
The style should always fit your audience.
My key conventions are
Do a line break before the header. Do not line break if the header is just below post break
Credits should look like:
Credits: Featured image from …
Always have a featured image of size 640 x 392px …
Be as precise as you can. Go deep down into the details. I usually include relevant information about the channel into my style guide such as blog dimensions and layouts.
Style Guides for Brands & Other Things
As mentioned earlier, a style guide isn’t just limited to editorial stuff. You can create style guides for anything.
Smashing Magazine has a how to design style guidelines for brands and websites. It’s really extensive and full of good information for anyone who’s developing a style guide.
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Credits: Featured image from Popoever