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Writing for the Web #3: Composing a good block in Drupal

This is the third post in my series on Writing for the Web. In this post, I will outline some options for how to write a great, readable block.

Anatomy of a block

Drupal blocks are small, reusable chunks of information that can be added to the pages of your site. Blocks can appear in sidebars or before or after the main content of your pages. In many cases, blocks are placed on special landing pages or in the sidebars of multiple pages.  They are very handy when you want to call out a specific piece of content.

Block Fields

By default, Drupal blocks have a title field and text area. With additional configuration of the Bean Module, blocks can include other fields as well, such as an image field or more link. Stanford Sites Jumpstart websites include special block types for content and banners.

Brevity is next to godliness

When writing blocks, it's essential to keep your content short. No more than a few sentences and a handful of links, otherwise it will become ungainly.

Visually, I think a block shouldn't be longer than twice its width. Meaning a block with a width of X is never taller than 2X. Along the same lines, super short blocks can feel awkward. If you only have one link to display, consider adding a short sentence that contextualizes that link.

Block titles

Blocks don't always need to have titles, but it often is nice to frame the contents of a block with a title to help people scan your pages.

If you are creating a title, try to keep it succinct, but still include enough information that it has meaning. Often 2-3 words is all you need. And try to avoid wrapping titles onto multiple lines, as it can look messy. You can read more in my blog post on titles and headings.

Variations on a block

How you compose your block will depend on the goal you have for that block. I've listed a handful of common blocks and created some examples for you at the end of the post. Remember, this list isn't by any means exhaustive, you can use a block in all sorts of ways!

Branding block

GOAL: Help your user quickly understand the context of the page or section they are visiting EXAMPLE: About PWR RULE OF THUMB: Use acronyms in titles, but spell out full names in the block text.

  • Title
  • 1-2 Sentences
  • Optional link to read more

Branding block with image

GOAL: Help your user quickly understand the context of the page or section they are visiting EXAMPLE: About PWR Courses RULE OF THUMB: Use acronyms in titles, but spell out full names in the block text.

  • Title
  • Relevant Image
  • 1-2 Sentences
  • Optional more link

Call to action block

GOAL: Encourage a user to take a particular action EXAMPLE: Apply now

Call to action block with image

GOAL: Encourage a user to take a particular action EXAMPLE: Apply now

Featured content block

GOAL: Pop out particular exciting content EXAMPLE: Featured course RULES OF THUMB: Always link to more information so you can stay brief, but include critical information like dates

  • Optional Title
  • Optional Image
  • Featured Content Title
  • Date or relevant details
  • One sentence desciption
  • More link

Resource list block

GOAL: Point users to related content either within your site or somewhere else EXAMPLE: Language libraries across campus RULE OF THUMB: If you are linking to a PDF download, include (PDF) after the link text

  • Title
  • Optional framing sentence
  • Multiple Links in bulleted list (max 6)

Blocks in action

Advising in the arts

<OPTIONAL IMAGE HERE>

Learn more about undergraduate student advising in the arts.

Visit undergrad.stanford.edu

Apply for a research grant

Want to get started on your grant application to jumpstart your graduate research? 

Apply Now

Featured Event

<OPTIONAL IMAGE HERE>

Special Seminar on Cognitive Biases

Sept 23, 2014

Come see renowned professors X, Y, and Z present their findings on congitive biases and how such biases impact writing for the web.

See the full event details

About the Agriculture Program

<OPTINAL IMAGE HERE>

The Stanford Biology department's Agriculture Program allows undergraduates and graduates to get experiential knowledge of botany from the greenhouse to industrial agriculture.

Read our full mission

Resources for prospective students

Thinking about a major in Political Science? Check out these resources for more information:

Need Help? Contact Us

Contact our team of advisors to get help with your academic plan.

advising@academics.stanford.edu phone: 723-1234

See our full staff

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